Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: McDonald School

  • Posted 9/10/2013
  • Essay 10558

This People's History of F. A. McDonald 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.

F. A. McDonald School

The Seattle School Board had already decided the new school between Green Lake and Latona would be named the Bryant School. However, when the board's president, Judge F. A. McDonald, died in July 1913 while the school was under construction, the members chose to name it after him. McDonald was elected to the board in 1910 and was a member of the committee that selected the site. Four of McDonald's grandchildren would attend the school.

McDonald School opened with three classes midway through the 1914-15 school year. The next fall it expanded to five classes for grades 1-4. Emma D. Larrabee was named principal in 1916 and remained in that position until her death in 1940.

School enrollment expanded and as many as 17 portables were utilized. In 1920-21, when it became a K-8 school, McDonald housed 673 students in 20 classes. In 1923, a new addition opened with 12 classrooms. Peak enrollment was in 1926-27 with 902 students. The following January the 7th and 8th grades moved to Hamilton Intermediate School.

Enrollment dropped to 453 in 1945-46. It rose again to 750 in 1958-59, but fell once more with the construction of Interstate 5 to the east, which eliminated much of McDonald's service area. Enrollment dropped and stabilized for a while at around 600. Enrollment then dropped again to 363 in 1973-74. McDonald became a K-5 school when 6th graders were moved to Hamilton Middle School. Part of the resulting extra classroom space was used for four classes of neurologically- impaired students.

In its final year as a regular elementary school, 1980-81, McDonald had an enrollment of only 166 in grades K, 3-5. That February it was put on the district's "nonessential" list, meaning that it was available for long-term lease or purchase. The building was leased to the Institute for Intercultural Learning and a school for naturopathic medicine.

McDonald was once again called into service as a school building in fall 1998 when students in the TOPS alternative program moved in while awaiting the renovation of their home at Seward. Stevens students moved into McDonald in fall 1999 during the reconstruction of their school building. Stevens will be reopened in September 2001. McDonald will continue to be used as an interim site for the foreseeable future.


Name: F. A. McDonald School
Location: 144 N 54th Street
Building: 9-room brick
Architect: Edgar Blair
Site: 2.16 acres
1913: Named Bryant School on February 20; renamed F.A. McDonald School on October 1
1914: Opened on January 26 as annex to Green Lake
1916: Became independent school in September
1922: Site expanded to 2.23 acres
1923: Addition
1981: Closed in June
1981-97: Leased
1998: Reopened as interim site

Use of  F. A. McDonald School site in 2000
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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