Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Catharine Blaine School

  • Posted 8/26/2013
  • Essay 10462
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This People's History of Catharine Blaine 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.

Catharine Blaine School

Following World War II, the Magnolia community wanted both a broad recreational program for its youth and a secondary school to keep students in the community, rather than sending them to Queen Anne High School for 8th grade.

The enrollment at two local elementary schools, Lawton and Magnolia, had increased to such an extent that a third school, Briarcliff, was built in 1949. Even with this addition, there would not be enough room for 7th graders after 1951. The Seattle School Board recognized that a junior high school serving 1,000 pupils was needed to house the growing population. 

Property owned by the Seattle Parks Department at 34th Avenue W between W Raye and W Dravus streets was centrally located and ideal for a joint school-recreation project. The project as presented in 1949 would utilize the existing Magnolia playfield as well as 5.9 acres previously designated. The architect's plans were accepted in time for the school to open in 1951, but delays caused by opposition by some Magnolia residents postponed the building's completion for one year. Nevertheless, when final agreement was reached, it was nearly unanimous. 

Catharine Blaine Junior High School was the first school west of the Mississippi to be planned and financed jointly by a school district and a parks department, with all facilities included under one roof. It was named for the first teacher to establish a school in pioneer Seattle, nearly 100 years earlier. Catherine P. Blaine's husband was Seattle's first minister. Both her 90-year-old son, Edward L. Blaine, Sr., and her grandson, Edward L. Blaine, Jr., participated in the dedication of the school. 

The building contains 11 regular classrooms, two music rooms, two science rooms, two home economics rooms, two art rooms, three shops, a library, two gymnasiums that open onto each other to become one large court, a spacious office suite, and custodial quarters. There is also an auditorium/lunchroom with kitchen facilities at one end and a stage at the other. The parks department wing contains three large rooms, offices, a kitchen, and a lobby. 

Catharine Blaine Junior High opened with a student body of 534. Claude Turner, former principal at Magnolia who helped to plan the new junior high, became the first principal. The staff included 17 teachers, a librarian, counselor, and secretary along with a lunchroom and custodial staff, and three parks department employees. At first, the school housed grades 5 to 9. A 5th grade class and 6th grade class from Lawton and a 6th grade class from Briarcliff attended Blaine to relieve the congestion in those two schools. These classes followed the elementary program in self-contained classrooms, while the rest of the school followed the regular departmentalized program of a junior high school. Sixth grade classes continued at Blaine until 1955. 

During its first year, Blaine set up a student council, a Boys Club, and a Girls Club. In partnership with the community, the students authored and adopted a code of conduct. At the same time, the community adopted a creed and code as a standard of operation for the families of Magnolia. The Pioneer, a student-published paper, was launched the first year. Students and faculty also established an annual Pioneer Day to honor Catharine P. Blaine. On this day, faculty and students dressed as pioneers and participated in a program reminiscent of times past. 

From 1978-81, Blaine housed grades 5-9, taking in students from Briarcliff and Hawthorne. With this new configuration, its name was changed to Blaine Intermediate Center/Junior High. In September 1981, the 5th grade classes were returned to Briarcliff. 

In February 1982, when school board members expressed concern that the school would automatically revert to city ownership upon closure, Mayor Charles Royer issued a promise that the city would not "recapture" the building. When Blaine closed in June 1982, its 7th and 8th graders were sent to McClure, and incoming 6th graders were assigned to Briarcliff. 

In 1983, Blaine was the temporary home of students from Green Lake Elementary, which closed in February because of chemical contamination in carpets at the school. The following September, Blaine reopened for K-6 elementary students with the closing of Briarcliff. Students from Hawthorne, who had been attending Briarcliff, continued at Blaine until a new Hawthorne opened in 1989.

A technology levy in 1991 provided Blaine with a new computer lab and teacher. Later, the inner courtyard was refurbished as an outdoor classroom, complete with resident rabbits. An old tradition, Pioneer Day, was reinstated in March 1994, featuring old-time crafts and activities. 

In fall 1997, Blaine added 7th grade classes. The following year 8th grade classes returned. Blaine thus became the district's first non-alternative K-8 school since Beacon Hill, Cooper, Highland Park, Warren Avenue, and Whitworth in 1951-52. 


Name: Catharine Blaine Junior High School
Location: 2550 34th Avenue W
Building: 20-room brick
Architect: J. Lister Holmes & Associates
Site: 8.35 acres
1950: Named on May 5
1952: Opened on September 3
1978: Renamed Blaine Intermediate Center/Junior High
1982: Closed in June
1983: Temporary site in February
1984: Reopened as Catharine Blaine Elementary in September
1998: Renamed Catharine Blaine School

Catharine Blaine School in 2000
Enrollment: 521
Address: 2550 34th Avenue W
Nickname: Tigers
Configuration: K-8
Colors: Blue and white


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

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