Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Nathan Hale High School

  • Posted 11/29/2013
  • Essay 10518

This People's History of Nathan Hale 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.

Nathan Hale High School

The area northeast of Seattle, was part of the Shoreline School District until 1954. For a number of years that area had only one secondary school, Jane Addams. Steady population growth during the 1950s meant a new high school would soon be needed. In the planning stage, the school was given the temporary name of Northeast High School. This was later changed to Meadowbrook High School.

The site for the new school, originally part of the Fisher Dairy, had most recently been the Meadowbrook Golf Course. While the school was under construction, new guidelines and procedures for the naming of schools were adopted. As a result, the name Meadowbrook was replaced by Nathan Hale. Once built, the school building and parking lot were positioned on either side of Thornton Creek, which runs west to east through the property. The site is directly across the street from Jane Addams.

Nathan Hale High School was one of several schools for which the Seattle Parks Department paid a portion of the building construction in exchange for title to adjacent land to be used for recreational facilities. The first principal, Claude Turner, helped design the school.

In its first year, Hale opened to sophomores and juniors only, with just 1,206 students. Two years later, it had a student body of 2,002. By the late 1960s, Hale's enrollment had reached 2,400, and 24 portables were in use.

Named after the American Revolutionary War hero, who proclaimed, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," Nathan Hale assumed independence as a school-wide theme. Its colors are red, white, and blue, and its student body is at liberty to pursue diverse fields of study. The likeness of a 1776 Minuteman on its distinctive smokestack was painted in the dark of night, presumably by a student or students. The hallways are painted red, white and blue.

A new learning resource center opened in fall 1972, nearly doubling the size of the school's original library. The community chose to use bond money for the learning resource center, rather than for an auditorium, so the high school continued to use the Addams auditorium for its dramatic productions.

From 1964 through the mid-1970s, Nathan Hale was a sports powerhouse, winning the Metro championships in several sports three out of four years in a row. The music department also excelled, with the stage band capturing numerous regional awards.

The district's 1978 desegregation plan cut the number of schools feeding Hale from ten to four. Some of these feeder schools were closed, drastically cutting into Hale's enrollment, despite the addition of 9th graders in September 1979. Some students who would have attended Hale were sent to south end schools.

Hale is unique for its radio station, the only one operating at a Seattle public school. Broadcasting at 89.5FM, KNHC went on the air in January 1971 as a 10-watt station under the direction of teacher Lawrence Adams. Threatened by budget cuts in 1980-81, the station was saved by allowing Seattle Central Community College students to use the station as a laboratory 28 hours per week in exchange for help supporting the station. In January 1982, the station adopted a new full-time soul, rap, rhythm and blues format, which included a 4-hour jazz show.

The Seattle School District pays 65 percent of the station's annual budget, with the rest covered by fundraising. Each year about 90 students enroll in Hale's radio classes. By 1990, it was upgraded to 30 kilowatts. The format at KNHC (better known as C-89) has changed over the years. Today it is known for "Seattle's Hottest Music." Rolling Stone Magazine sang the station's praises: "It's the largest and most influential of the roughly 50 high school radio stations licensed in the country. . . . the station has become a national trendsetter."

Hale's Vocational Horticulture Program is also the only one of its kind in the Seattle School District. It teaches students how to grow and maintain flowers and plants. Greenhouses were built to state-of-the-art technology in 1973. In 1982-83, a solar greenhouse was constructed by students from the school's vocational carpentry class.

The greenhouses and portable classrooms are located at the old Lake City sewer plant one block east of campus, just off NE 110th and south of 36th Avenue NE. A retail store, staffed by advanced horticulture students, sells products to customers who are mostly nearby residents. Sales average $2,000 a year. Students and parents can also sign up for individual 20-foot garden plots located on a small parcel of land nearby.

As Hale celebrated its 30th anniversary in 1994, staff members reflected on the strength of its programs that have helped to attract growing numbers of students. In addition to the radio station and horticulture programs, the school also houses the district's Graphic Arts Center. A strong instructional program has grown around that facility.

In 1996, Patricia Cygan, Washington State Teacher of the Year was one of five finalists for National Teacher of the Year.

Current curriculum includes project-based instruction in all grades. A unique program for 9th graders connects English, history, science, and math into two "academies" with a 20:1 student/teacher ratio. A student-produced magazine, The Stand, won first place with special merit from the National Scholastic Press Association in 1999. Other school highlights include the performance by the vocal jazz choir, directed by Rich Sumstad, at Carnegie Hall in February 2000.

The sports fields at Nathan Hale and Addams are currently undergoing renovation and expansion. The new Hale/Addams athletic complex will be ready for the opening of school in September 2000 and will allow Hale to host home football games.


Name: Nathan Hale High School
Location: 10750 30th Avenue NE
Building: 55-station brick
Architect: Mallis & DeHart
Site: 18.32 acres
1962: Named on November 28
1963: Opened in September
1972: Addition (DeHart, Lands and Hall)

Nathan Hale High School in 2000
Enrollment: 1,074
Address: 10750 30th Avenue NE
Nickname: Raiders
Configuration: 9-12
Colors: Red, white, and blue
Newspaper: The Sentinel
Yearbook: The Heritage


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

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