Seattle School Board deplores school decrepitude in January 1882.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 4/27/2001
  • Essay 3245
In January 1882, the Seattle School Board holds a public meeting to lament deplorable and inadequate school facilities and to gain public support for funding new buildings. One teacher, speaking of crowded conditions in the South School (built in 1872 at S 12th Avenue and Lane Street) informs the board that if the classroom became more crowded she would find more space by "hanging the little fellows up on the hooks on the walls of the room" (Erigero).

Shanties for Schools

The Seattle Public schools consisted at this time of the Central School, a two story frame building in on 3rd Avenue between Madison and Spring streets, and two small satellites, the above mentioned South School, and North School, at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Pine Street.

All were termed "shanties" at the meeting, and compared with "beautiful and imposing edifices in San Jose, California, which make that little city famous all over the coast." In fact, the public minded citizens in attendance deemed Seattle's shanties-for-schools worse than the jail.

"For God's Sake!" thundered the chairman of the board, J. R. Lewis. "Let us have a school boom!" (Erigero).


The meeting was followed by school visitations by a delegation consisting of a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter, the school board members, and the school clerk. The reporter wrote of the Central School:

"The [second floor] room is a dingy, ill-ventilated apartment with from 85 to 90 children crowded together on low uncomfortable benches, three to a seat. ... Way up in the garret ... each pupil, when his or her turn has come to read, is sent over to stand by the window in order to get sufficient light to read" (Erigero).
Seattle had its school boom. The school district was voted the funds to erect two new school buildings.

Sources: Patricia C. Erigero, Seattle Public Schools: Historic Building Survey (Seattle: Seattle Public Schools and Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority, 1989), 1-4.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You