Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Queen Anne High School

  • Posted 9/11/2013
  • Essay 10576
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This People's History of Queen Anne High School is taken from Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 by Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr. That book, published in 2002 by Seattle Public Schools, compiled profiles of all the public school buildings that had been used by the school district since its formation around 1862. The profiles from the book are being made available as People's Histories on courtesy of Seattle Public Schools. It should be noted that these essays are from 2000. Some of the buildings profiled are historic, some of recent vintage, and many no longer exist (new names and buildings not included in these profiles from 2000 have been added), but each plays or has played an important role in the education of Seattle's youth.

Queen Anne High School

Seattle experienced rapid population growth during the years following the Alaska Gold Rush. Between 1902 and 1910, Seattle's total high school enrollment leaped from approximately 700 to around 4,500. Several new elementary schools were constructed atop Queen Anne Hill, and it was evident that a new high school would be needed to accommodate these students as they moved on to 9th grade.

When discussing the location for the new school, some argued for a Denny Regrade site closer to downtown but, in the end, Queen Anne Hill won and a site was purchased there in 1906. Construction began in 1908 and the following autumn classes began with 613 students and 33 teachers. Originally the school was named Jefferson High School but the local community protested to the Seattle School Board, and the school was renamed Queen Anne High School.

School board President John Schram remarked that students would receive a "higher sense of self respect if the building and its surroundings and equipment command their admiration." To this end, the new high school was designed in a classic style reminiscent of English late-Renaissance palaces (complete with terra cotta ornamentation), intentionally celebrating education by creating a grand and imposing environment. Visitors at the dedication in February 1910 were greatly impressed with the facility, which included laboratories and rooms for manual training and domestic science. "Surely there is no school in the United States that has such a breathtaking setting…The marvelous building on top of the hill became an architectural landmark visible throughout the city."

The first principal to head Queen Anne was Otto Luther, a 28- year-old history teacher from Broadway High School. "The high school is the peoples' college," Luther stated, and he set high academic standards for the students. In addition to students from Queen Anne and Magnolia, young people from as far away as Port Orchard flocked to attend the new school as its reputation grew, especially in athletics, debate, and drama. From 1909 to 1911, the school also contained an 8th grade center.

Early high school teaching staff included: Winona Bailey, noted mountaineer and Latin expert; Samuel E. Fleming, history instructor and later Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools; J. Harlan Bretz, science instructor and geologist; and Benno J. Uhl, a popular German teacher who wrote the first school song.

The school paper, the Kuay (after the school's initials, QA), began as a monthly in November 1909. An end-of-the-year commencement issue evolved into the school annual. The paper became a bimonthly publication in 1918 and then a weekly in 1921.

One botany teacher in the late 1920s was regarded as a real character. According to a student, "They built a greenhouse for him at school and he would go get specimens from swamps for us in his Model-T Ford."

In 1928, construction was launched to expand the facility with 10 additional classrooms, a boys' gymnasium, a botany laboratory and greenhouse, and an auditorium. The addition carried on the structure and ornamentation of the original building. The new auditorium was considered the finest in Seattle's schools.

A popular student hangout, the Grizzly Inn (214 Galer Street), stood across from the school and was a center of social activity at lunchtime and after school. The owner charged a nominal rate for having a name placed on the fireplace bricks. "Most of the fireplace bricks from about three feet above the floor to the ceiling had student's names painted on them." In the late 1920s, "[a]t lunchtime, the Grizzly Inn would have plenty of hamburgers in gravy for the mob." The restaurant hosted an annual celebration dinner for the football team. Inspired by the inn's name, the student body selected the grizzly bear as their school logo in 1930 and, in 1932, the Kuay yearbook was renamed The Grizzly.

The carved wooden grizzly bear that stood on the Inn's roof became a favorite target for pranksters, including students from rival schools. "It was always being stolen or was missing," according to a student from that era. An annual talent show known as Kuay Kapers also became a tradition about this time. The school colors were maroon and orange.

During World War II, "[t]here was a whole group taking extra classes so we could graduate early and join the service," a graduate explained. Queen Anne's enrollment dropped from 1,872 in 1942-43 to 1,426 the following year. To take advantage of the extra space, in September 1943 an 8th grade center was established there to relieve overcrowding in Lawton and Magnolia schools.

Otto Luther retired in 1951 after serving as principal of Queen Anne for 42 years, a tenure, at the time, said to have been the longest in Seattle Public School history. George S. Farmer, who had been vice principal since 1942, succeeded Luther and served as principal until 1967.

The 8th grade center was replaced on the site by Queen Anne Junior High (for grades 8-9) in 1952. The junior high expanded to include 7th graders in 1955.

A second major addition, in 1955, added an Industrial Arts Building on the west, connected to the 1929 addition by a breezeway, and provided a freestanding cafeteria and music building on the east. Also in this year, a pipe organ from an old theater in Everett was installed in the auditorium, using funds raised for student activities. In 1958, a new athletic field named after Otto L. Luther was built across the street to the north, taking the place of the old Grizzly Inn, which closed in 1954.

In 1961, a new 2,200-seat gymnasium was constructed across Second Avenue N, on the site of the old Beanery, which had formerly provided students with penny candy, Popsicles, pencils, paper, and hamburgers. "In order to meet the building code the playfield ... was supposed to be able to park 220 cars. But locks were placed on the gates so that no vehicles would enter and damage the track or playing surface."

The literary magazine Paw Prints was launched in 1960, publishing creative works by student authors. Also at this time, the Kuay had the distinction of being the only eight-column, weekly, self-supporting school paper in the United States. Ernest Charland, who guided budding journalists as advisor of the Kuay beginning in 1946, retired in 1971. He noted, "At one time I had five of my former students working on the P-I."

Beginning in the early 1960s, the school was known as Queen Anne Junior-Senior High School, and enrollment reached 2,850 in grades 7-12. Younger students left the school with the opening of nearby McClure Junior High in September 1964.

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed considerable social change, which was reflected in activities at the high school. Students formed a sometimes controversial Queen Anne Student Union to examine issues of concern to students and faculty. Queen Anne established a unique student-run traffic court where offenders apprehended for traffic violations were sentenced by elected peers.

In fall 1972, an alternative program called the Counterbalance began for students in grades 10-12 from the Queen Anne High School service area. The program, with an enrollment of 150 during 1974-75, offered more flexibility in course selection and class attendance requirements. According to students, it had "a college atmosphere." The Counterbalance was run out of Room 409, however, in that room "[t]here was [also] a lot of political activity and it was also a general meeting place."

With only 850 students in 1980-81, the decision was made to close the school at the end of the school year. Declining enrollment and the deteriorating condition of the building were reasons for the closure. Despite protests from some students and staff, the closure proceeded and the students were transferred to Franklin, along with the historic pipe organ.

In 1984, the Seattle School District in cooperation with Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority, chose a local development company to lease the site and convert it for residential use while preserving its historic character. Some 200,000 feet of classroom space was transformed into 139 apartments. Reminders of the buildings' origins are found in some apartments with tall windows and blackboards.

The former boiler room has been turned into a party room. The 1929 auditorium-gymnasium, in the center of the structure, was demolished to create a circular driveway and entrance.

Both the field and gymnasium were excluded from the lease. Luther Athletic Field became the site for the new John Hay, which opened there in 1989. The parks department schedules the 1961 gym for public use.


Name: Queen Anne High School
Location: 215 Galer Street
Building: 4-story reinforced concrete and brick
Architect: James Stephen
Site: 2.32 acres
1908: Named Jefferson High School on July 14; changed to Queen Anne High School on October 7
1909: Opened in September
1921: Site expanded to 2.98 acres
1928: Addition (Floyd A. Naramore)
1954-56: Site expanded to 6.15 acres
1955: Addition (Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johanson)
1961: New gymnasium building opened
1981: Closed in June
1984: Placed on the National Register of Historic Places; site leased for residential use
1985: Designated City of Seattle landmark on May 6

Use of Queen Anne High School site in 2000
The Queen Anne Apartments


Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr, Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 (Seattle: Seattle Public Schools, 2002).

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