This People's History of Denny 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 HistoryLink.org 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.
In the late 1870s, the Bell Town community consisted of 20-25 homes near the waterfront north of downtown Seattle. In 1876, the Seattle School District purchased two lots from William Bell for what would be the first school north of Pine Street. The Bell Town School was occasionally referred to as the North School after the original North School at Third and Pine closed in 1883.
When the small school was outgrown, a new replacement school was built to the east. Denny School, renamed for David T. Denny (a founder of the city and member of the school board in the 1860s), was an architectural jewel. At the time, the superintendent claimed it was the finest schoolhouse on the West Coast.
Denny School opened for elementary students in 1884. A high school department was established at Denny in October 1886, but it was abandoned in January 1887. After the Central II fire in 1888, Seattle High School and a 1st grade class were temporarily housed at Denny. An 1891 addition expanded the school to 20 classrooms. In 1897, a terrific windstorm broke 17 of the school's windows. When Denny School filled to capacity, an annex was opened at 4th and Battery for first graders. Denny Annex, with four classrooms, operated from 1901-03.
Denny School became a victim of R.H. Thomson's vision of a more efficient landscape and was demolished when the hill on which it stood was leveled in the Denny Regrade (see Broadview-Thomson).
Name: Bell Town School
Location: NW corner of 3rd Avenue & Vine Street
Building: 2-room, 1-story wood
1876: Opened on September 24
1884: Site & building sold on May 13; closed in June
n.a.: Building remodeled for a residence
n.a.: Remodeled into an apartment/rooming house called Eleanor Rooms
n.a.: Demolished by Metropolitan Printing Co.
Name: Denny School
Location: Battery Street between 5th & 6th Avenues
Building: 2-story wood
Architect: Stephen J. Meany
Site: 1.34 acres
1884: Named on July 19; opened
1891: Addition (John Parkinson)
1906: Partial demolition due to Denny Regrade project
1928: Closed in spring and building demolished for completion of regrade; bell tower preserved in Denny Park; site sold