Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Pacific School

  • Posted 9/11/2013
  • Essay 10574

This People's History of Pacific 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.

Pacific School

In 1892, the Seattle School Board decided to build a school in the Eastern Addition at the center of the South, Central, Minor, and Rainier attendance areas to relieve overcrowding in other schools. The new Pacific School had two gymnasiums in the basement, the first fully equipped gymnasiums in the district.

Enrollment at Pacific in 1901-02 was over 700 students in grades 1-8. During the next two years, the 8th graders attended Union Grammar School (see Broadway) but returned for the 1904-05 term. In 1912, an addition was built on the north side of the building, bringing the total number of classrooms to 19.

The school's population became one of the most diverse in the district, with more Asian-American and African-American students attending than at other schools. For many years, Pacific held at least two classes for non-English-speaking immigrant pupils from throughout the district.

In 1940, a Prevocational and Adjustment Center for Girls was moved to Pacific from Mercer School. Three rooms (lunchroom, cooking room, and sewing room) were added for this program. The K-2 portion of the regular grades remained in the building, while the upper grades moved to other nearby schools. In September 1946, the Boys' Prevocational program moved to Pacific from Day. Pacific Special and Prevocational then became the first coeducational secondary school for mentally handicapped youngsters in Seattle. To accommodate its new male students, a metal shop was installed in the basement and a wood shop in a portable.

The purpose of the prevocational program was to offer practical training in a variety of fields to adolescents unable to compete in a regular academic setting. Teachers encouraged individual students by giving them experience in an area for which they showed an interest. Half of each day was spent on fundamental academic studies. Additionally, girls learned cooking, baking, sewing, and nursing skills, while boys studied carpentry, metalwork, automotive repair, and care of livestock and poultry. Most of them graduated into jobs for which they were already trained. Some students went on to graduate from Garfield High School. In 1950, over 300 pupils and 20 teachers were housed in Pacific, and one-third of the population was non-white.

During summer 1954, a large new wing was added on the eastern portion of the property, providing an auditorium-lunchroom, a new gymnasium, shops, and teachers' rooms. Pacific Prevocational School had an enrollment of over 500 during the 1960s, with classes for pupils aged 13-18 years grouped according to age and ability. A fire in September 1966 burned the roof and third floor of the older section of the building. Eight portables were moved onto the playfield, and 100 students were transferred to Marshall Junior High as a result.

By 1974, Pacific housed approximately 330 students ages 12 to 21, ranging from mildly to severely handicapped. A number of students came from outside the Seattle School District because their own districts did not provide such a facility. One-third of the students had multiple handicaps, and some needed assistance with mastering the skills of daily living. The staff worked hard to educate and train these young people, as far as possible, on how to be responsible for their own welfare. Unfortunately, the aging facility presented hazards for the handicapped, with steep stairs, few and distant bathrooms, and portables that could only be reached by going outdoors. Some remodeling took place in 1973-74 but a bond issue designed to fund the construction of a new facility failed in November 1974.

In June 1975, Pacific was condemned and declared unsafe in the event of an earthquake. Costs of renovation were high so, during the following winter vacation, the program moved into the Washington building on a shared basis with Garfield. It remained at this location until the start of the 1978-79 school year, when it moved to Wilson, which had been closed as a middle school the previous spring.

The Pacific site was sold to the U.S. Postal Service in June 1976 for a proposed carrier annex. Shortly thereafter, Father William Sullivan, president of Seattle University, made a plea for the property, which lies within the university's campus area, and was allowed to purchase it. The Pacific School building was demolished in December 1977.


Name: Pacific School
Location: 1114 E Jefferson Street
Building: 12-room, 2-story brick
Architect: John Parkinson
Site: 1.76 acres
1893: Opened in March
1912: Addition (Edgar Blair)
1922: Site expanded to 2.86 acres
1940: Addition (n.a.) for Prevocational and Adjustment Center
1946: Became Pacific Special and Prevocational School
1954: Addition (George Wellington Stoddard)
1955: Site expanded to 3.26 acres
1975: Closed in December
1976: Sold and resold
1977: Building demolished in December

Use of Pacific School site in 2000
Seattle University campus


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

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