In 1920, the Seattle school district opens East High School on the site of the future Garfield High School (400 23rd Avenue SE). The school opens in a 12-room wood building with an enrollment of 282 students, who have transferred from the aging Broadway High School. By 1922, the school has 27 portable buildings on the site. A new building is designed by Floyd Naramore (1879-1970) in the Jacobean style, renamed Garfield High School, and opens in September 1923.
Enrollment grew and in 1929, voters passed a bond issue to fund an addition designed by Floyd Naramore. Enrollment peaked in 1939 at 2,300.
During the 1960s the school experienced the plight and blight of the inner city school. A Central Area School Council was formed, and subsequently, a Central Region within the school district. High quality education was restored.
Eminent graduates of Garfield High School include Dr. Homer Harris, who held all-city records in three track and field events, the architect Minoru Yamasaki, who designed the New York Trade Center, the Seattle Science Center, and the Seattle IBM Building, musician and composer Quincy Jones, rock musician Jimi Hendrix (honorary diploma), and jazz musician Dave Holden.