Echo Glen School opens near Preston on January 4, 1967.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 12/29/2002
  • Essay 4101
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On January 4, 1967, Echo Glen School opens near Preston. The school, designed to rehabilitate the state’s youngest juvenile offenders, replaces Seattle’s Luther Burbank School for boys and Martha Washington School for girls, both of which had become decrepit and outdated.

Beginning in 1904, second-offender juveniles were sent to the Parental School on Mercer Island, under the auspices of the Seattle School District. Started by Major Cicero Newell on property once owned by East Seattle developer C. C. Calkins, the school is best known for its farm and horticultural program instituted in the 1910s by supervisor Willis Rand.

In 1928, the girls were transferred to Martha Washington School near Seattle’s Seward Park. Three years later, the Mercer Island school underwent a name change to Luther Burbank School as an inspiration for the students and to honor the famous botanist.

Bigger and Better

After Rand’s retirement in 1942, the school fell into disrepair. In 1957, a change in state law mandated that the State of Washington operate all parental schools. The Seattle School District leased the property to the state, but continued day-to-day operations. The farm program was discontinued, at a time when the number of students began to sharply increase.

In 1963, Senator Albert Thompson of Bellevue promoted legislation that authorized a new school to be built in Preston, located in central King County. The $4.5 million Echo Glen School was built, and opened on January 4, 1967, to 83 juveniles from both Luther Burbank and Martha Washington Schools.

The 160-acre campus was built on 690 acres of state-owned land. Family-style living was accomplished in 13 separate cottages. The campus also featured a school, a multi-purpose building, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a barber shop, a beauty shop, and a nondenominational chapel.

Home in the Hills

At the school’s opening, superintendent Dale Swenson explained that they wanted everything to be as homelike as possible as part of the rehabilitation plan. One young offender looked around his new surroundings and stated, “I think this is keen.”

A typical weekday schedule at the new facility was as follows: Rise at 7 a.m., breakfast 7:30, clean rooms and report to class, lunch at noon, school from 1:30 to 3:00, home for snacks, quiet period and craft work before dinner, recreation after the evening meal, bedtime at 9:30 -- except Friday and Saturdays at 10:30 p.m.

The Echo Glen property also boasted a 62-acre reservoir, which also served as built-in fire protection.


Judy Gellatly, Mercer Island Heritage (Mercer Island: Mercer Island Historical Society, 1989), pp. 18-19, 81-85; “83 Juveniles Bid Happy Farewell to Burbank and Martha Washington,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer January 5, 1967, p. 22; “Burbank School is Shame of State,” Ibid., May 19, 1969, pp. 1, 10.

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