Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Broadview-Thomson Elementary School

  • Posted 8/27/2013
  • Essay 10468
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This People's History of Broadview-Thomson Elementary 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.

Broadview-Thomson Elementary School

Early in the 1900s, a sawmill stood on the western shore of a small lake north of Seattle. The taste of tannic acid left by the logs floating in the water gave the lake its name, Bitter Lake. Playland, an amusement park, opened on the south shore of the lake on May 27, 1930. The Interurban dropped riders off at the Bitter Lake Station, just outside the park. Large crowds from throughout the region came in summer to visit the haunted house and ride the merry-go-round, water slide, and big dipper roller coaster. In winter, visitors were attracted to the lake for ice skating.

In early 1956, members of the Seattle School Board viewed the Playland property as a possible site for a junior high school they planned to construct. Hearing that the amusement park would probably close (which it did in 1960) and fearing the property would be subdivided for residential purposes or a regional shopping center, they chose to negotiate for the site along with the Seattle Parks Department as a location for a community center, park, and school. The parks department paid for a portion of the school construction costs and was given a deed to half of the property.

The new north end junior high school was constructed on the west side of the lake, with a parks department recreation unit attached to the school gymnasium. The school was named for former Seattle city engineer Reginald H. Thomson who changed the shape of Seattle by initiating the Denny Regrade and the Cedar River water system, among other projects. R. H. Thomson Junior High opened with 1,065 students. In accordance with the district's desegregation plan, beginning in September 1978, Thomson took in 6th graders who had just completed Graham Hill, Northgate, Olympic View, or Viewlands.

By 1980-81, Thomson's enrollment was down to just 552. Declining enrollment district-wide forced the school board to decide which schools to close and which to maintain. At the same time, junior high schools were being converted into middle schools. The convenient answer for the Broadview neighborhood was to close the much older Broadview Elementary and shift its program five blocks north to Thomson, which had closed as a junior high.

As an elementary school in the district's desegregation plan, the newly formed Broadview-Thomson was a K, 4-6 school, paired with Muir K-3.

The Thomson building was large and was not fully utilized by the elementary school program, so the district considered other uses that would better utilize the space. Alternative Elementary School V was also located there in September 1992. It was renamed COHO in 1995-96, and the following year it was moved to Wilson. The name COHO, a homonym of a type of salmon, derives from "Cooperative Holistic Learning."

A new Bitter Lake Community Center (13035 Linden Avenue N) opened in 1997 at the southeast corner of the lake. The old community center (13040 Greenwood Avenue N), adjacent to the school, is now used as an annex to the new facility.

Today Broadview-Thomson is a blend of students in gifted, bilingual, special education, and regular programs. Currently 25 percent of the students are enrolled in a program for the highly capable (Spectrum). All students participate in a variety of music activities. A preschool program is designed to assist children ages 3-6 who are experiencing developmental delays. Evette Mardesich, principal 1996-99, received the district's "Principal of the Year Award" in 1999.


Name: R. H. Thomson Junior High School
Location: 13052 Greenwood Avenue N
Building: 43-room brick
Architect: Waldron & Ditz
Site: 9.8 acres
1962: Named on November 28
1963: Opened in September
1981: Closed as junior high in June; reopened in September as Broadview-Thomson Elementary

Broadview-Thomson Elementary School in 2000
Enrollment: 514
Address: 13052 Greenwood Avenue N
Nickname: Bulldogs
Configuration: K-5
Colors: Royal blue and goldĀ 


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

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