Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Greenwood Elementary School

  • Posted 9/07/2013
  • Essay 10517

This People's History of Greenwood Elementary 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.

Greenwood Elementary School

In 1891, Seattle city limits were extended past Green Lake to N 85th Street. By the early 1900s, the Greenwood neighborhood consisted of two or three stores and a few scattered houses surrounded by a marshy wetland. From the lumber camps to the north and west, logs were floated into Greenwood to be hauled to Green Lake on their way to sawmills.

The Seattle School District owned property west of Third Avenue, but this land was judged too swampy for construction and sold. Pioneer David T. Denny owned a 40-acre tract of land west of Greenwood Avenue, between 80th and 85th Streets. This property was laid out as a cemetery, as it included an old Indian cemetery, but that use was never fully developed. In January 1909, the Seattle School District purchased a portion of this land for a new school.

Construction of a Jacobean-style school began in 1909 with a design identical to Emerson and Hawthorne, which were also being constructed at that time. James Stephen, the district architect, declared this brick design more sanitary, better equipped, and more convenient than earlier wood frame buildings.

Greenwood School opened with 77 students in grades 1-7. Regrading of the streets in 1914-15 left the building and grounds considerably higher than the roadways, necessitating the construction of retaining walls on three sides of the grounds.

The school grew rapidly, and, by 1918-19, enrollment had soared to 655. Following passage of a bond issue in June 1919, Floyd Naramore, the new school architect, designed an addition for the building. A large rectangular wing running perpendicular to the axis of the original structure was built on the west side, adding much needed classroom space and an auditorium. In 1924, the east half of the present site was acquired, and a playfield was installed.

The PTA began in 1923 and, through the years, sponsored Camp Fire and Girl Scouts, initiated improvements to the playground, raised money to buy books and magazines for the school library, and established a health clinic for children about to enter school. On the last day of school in June 1924, the PTA supported the first Greenwood School picnic at Woodland Park.

Enrollment at the school continued to grow up to 1930-31, when it peaked at 917. After that, the number of students declined gradually. In 1941, 8th graders were transferred to a junior high school, either Alexander Hamilton or James Monroe. Starting in 1949-50, Greenwood served K through 6 grades, and its enrollment leveled off to around 600.

Greenwood pupils participated in a variety of programs in 1974, including an outdoor education program featuring study at Fort Flagler, career education, the district's American Indian Heritage Program, an independent learning center, swimming, and a ceramics class.

Greenwood remained K-6 under the district's mandatory desegregation plan (1978-1988) when many other elementary school grade configurations were changed. It was considered a "backup" to a pair relationship with Columbia and Olympic View.

There was much discussion of Greenwood's future during the 1990s because of the need for seismic upgrades of the old structure. It is the last building on the Building Excellence Program upgrade list because, when tested for earthquake safety, it was found to be within the "safe" category. In January 2000, the board approved a plan to preserve the 1909 section of the building and demolish the 1921 addition. Construction will begin in summer 2001, with completion scheduled for September 2002.


Name: Greenwood School
Location: 144 NW 80th Street
Building: 9-room, 3 story brick
Architect: James Stephen
Site: 1.31 acres
1909: Opened
1921: Addition (Floyd A. Naramore)
1924: Site expanded to 2.83 acres

Greenwood Elementary School In 2000
Enrollment: 275
Address: 144 NW 80th Street
Nickname: Stars
Configuration: K-5
Colors: Green and white


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

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