Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Hughes School

  • Posted 9/08/2013
  • Essay 10528

This People's History of E. C. Hughes 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.

E. C. Hughes School (former West Hill School)

The history of Hughes originates in a temporary school that opened in 1913. The original West Hill portable housed a split 1st-2nd grade class. It served the developing neighborhood of West Hill (later Olympic Heights), site of numerous inexpensive homes on view lots. The neighborhood boomed during World War I when many people found jobs at the West Seattle steel mill, lumber mill, and shipyards. By 1918, West Hill had two portables, the second housing a 2nd-3rd grade class.

In 1920, the site's drawbacks prevented further development, and the portables were moved to a larger location, the highest in the city at 450 feet above sea level. A third portable was added, along with a new play shed.

Enrollment at West Hill continued to grow. In 1920-21, the student body grew by one-third, and, in 1924-25, by almost one-half. The following year the school operated in six portables and for the first time included the 6th grade. Following a decision to build a permanent school, the name was changed to E. C. Hughes School, in honor of an attorney who was president of the Seattle School Board during the construction of Broadway, Lincoln, and Queen Anne high schools.

The 20th Century Georgian-style building, which opened in fall 1926, was nearly identical to the Dunlap School built two years earlier. The design allowed for the addition of new units to the south side as needed. During the first seven years, enrollment at Hughes grew from 206 to 452 pupils. In 1934, the school included four portables; in 1936, there were six. In 1938, the 7th and 8th grades were sent to James Madison Junior High.

Seven classrooms and a gymnasium were added in 1949 to the south end of the original building. Lafayette students, whose school was closed because of earthquake damage, occupied the freed portables.

Overcrowding at Hughes led to the construction of Roxhill School to the south in 1955. Even then, enrollment grew so that in 1958 there were 958 students packed into the main building and 12 portables.

In 1970, Hughes was the pilot elementary school for a Career Education Program, which was later adopted throughout the district. It incorporated career awareness into many facets of the students' daily activities and studies.

The school housed grades K, 3-5 in 1980. The following year it shifted to its final K, 4-6 configuration. Hughes and High Point were termed the only "walking pair" of schools in the district because their students were never bused out of West Seattle.

In 1983, the district announced that it would cost $2 million to reinforce and otherwise upgrade the Hughes structure. A new school, Hughes/High Point was proposed for the High Point site, which was the larger of the two. In 1986, the name was tentatively altered to the neutral Emerald City Elementary School, but that name did not stick.

A new High Point building was built and reopened in 1988, but Hughes carried on, without renovations, through June 1989; then it was held in surplus for several years until it was needed as an interim site. In January 1998, it became the temporary home for Highland Park students while their school was being replaced. The Highland Park students returned to their new school in September 1999, and students from Concord entered Hughes and stayed there until June 2000 prior to the opening of their new building.


Name: West Hill School
Location: NE corner of 35th Avenue SW & W Webster
Building: 1-room portable
1913: Opened as an annex to Gatewood
1918: Officially named on November 7
1920: Portables moved to permanent site

Name: West Hill School
Location: 34th Avenue SW & (S)W Holden Street
Building: 1-room portable
Site: 2.27 acres
1920: Opened as annex to Gatewood
1925: Renamed E. C. Hughes School on July 24; site expanded to 3.61 acres
1926: Closed in June

Name: E. C. Hughes School
Location: 7740 34th Avenue SW
Building: 9-room, 2-story concrete and brick
Architect: Floyd A. Naramore
Site: 3.61 acres
1926: Opened in September
1949: Addition (Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johanson)
1989: Closed in June; used for storage
1998: Opened as interim site in January

E. C. Hughes in 2000
Current Use: Interim Site


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

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