Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Territorial University

  • Posted 9/12/2013
  • Essay 10600

This People's History of Territorial University 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.

Territorial University

In 1861, a building was constructed for the Territorial University on Denny's Hill, inland from the established town of Seattle on the waterfront. Beginning in November that year, at what is now 4th and University, Asa Mercer taught a five-month term for primary pupils whose parents paid tuition.

The Seattle School Board, formed around 1861 or 1862, established 11-week terms. The first teacher hired was Lucy Carr, who was paid $60 per month to teach "all the children in Seattle between ages six and sixteen" at one of the rooms in the University Building from May- July 1862. She was succeeded by W. E. Barnard and, in April 1866, by Lizzie Ordway, each teaching 11 weeks for $150.

In April 1866, a Seattle newspaper reported, "The Board of Regents of the University made arrangements to admit the children in Seattle into the primary department of the University without charge for tuition. The Schools' Directors have agreed to pay their common school funds into the University treasury. We heartily commend this arrangement and think it will be advantageous to both the university and the school district." The practice of city children in the primary grades studying without tuition began at the University Building in September 1866. Pupils from outside the city were charged tuition of five dollars.

Finally, the decision was made to find a different site for school classes. "After several years' experience, the Schools Directors considered it would be best to have the public school separate from the University. The school district being without a schoolhouse, the Old County building on Third Street was rented and . . . several terms were conducted" there. (see Central I)

The University Building was again put to use by the Seattle School District in early 1877, when two rooms were used for students 13 and older from North, South, Central, and Bell Town schools. Classes were taught by Edward S. Ingraham, the Central principal, and an assistant teacher.

Following the Seattle Fire in 1889, the building was leased again to accommodate classes that had to be moved out of the National Guard Armory (see Central II). The University Building was leased once more in 1897. University School operated there until spring when the Board of Regents raised the rent.

Name: University
Location: 4th Avenue & University
Building: 2-story wood
Architect: Pike & Russell
1861: Opened for classes on November 4
1863: Classes discontinued on March 13 and the University was officially opened that year
1866: Classes resume in fall
1867: Classes moved out
1877: Leased by district for older students
1889: Leased after Seattle Fire
1895: University of Washington moved to present site
1897: Reopened as University School; annex to Central
1899: Closed
1908: Demolished

Use of Territorial University site in 2000
Circular drive of Four Seasons Olympic Hotel (411 University Street)


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

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