Back to School: A Look at Green Lake’s First Schools

September 4, 2014 6:30am
Students, Green Lake School, Seattle, ca. 1900 Courtesy Seattle Public Schools (Image No. 229-1)

Students, Green Lake School, Seattle, ca. 1900. Courtesy Seattle Public Schools (Image No. 229-1)

It’s Back to School Time!

With the first day of school now upon us, this is the perfect time to learn about Green Lake schools and their rich history.

Generations of Green Lake children commenced this same rite of passage, including those of the first homesteaders. Our first Green Lake school opened in 1890 and was a modest one-room building located at 5th Avenue and NE 72nd Street.

However, like Seattleites of today, early settlers were drawn to the tranquil beauty of our neighborhood. By the turn of the century, Green Lake was growing exponentially and so was its student population. Records from the City of Seattle’s Landmark Preservation Board show that this original one-room schoolhouse expanded several times to accommodate new students.

According to Seattle school historians Nile Thompson and Carolyn Marr, in 1902 a newer, and much larger, schoolhouse was constructed at the current site of today’s Green Lake Elementary School (2400 N. 65th Street). Dorothy Nordstrom, who was a student there in 1921, fondly describes her memories of this charming wood-frame building: “It was a handsome, two-story wooden building with 12 classrooms. An impressive entrance on Sunnyside Avenue boasted eight Greek columns supporting an upstairs balcony. We were taught this was called a ‘portico.’” In 1986, the school district demolished this building and replaced it with the building we now know as Green Lake Elementary School.

Green Lake School, Seattle, c. 1902 Courtesy Seattle Public Schools (Image No. 229-12)

Green Lake School, Seattle, c. 1902. Courtesy Seattle Public Schools (Image No. 229-12)

Due to increasing enrollment, the district expanded during the mid-1920s by building the John Marshall School, named after the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. This impressive red-brick structure, built in the Georgian style, originally accommodated Grades 7 through 8 and still stands at NE Ravenna.

In many ways, Green Lake School was always well-known for its high-quality education and cutting-edge technology!  Thompson and Marr provide us with some interesting, and perhaps little known, facts.  In 1901, Green Lake School became the first school in the city to initiate the platoon system. Now widely practiced, this system moves students out of their homerooms to attend classes in art, music, and other similar subjects.

Additionally, in 1912, Green Lake School was one of the first two schools west of Denver to show moving pictures in its one classroom. The very first film was the early silent version of Wizard of Oz. You can view this gem on YouTube: (www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWQ5-UBU22M).

With this brief glance back at days long gone, let’s welcome all Green Lake students back to school and wish them a happy first day in their classrooms!