Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: John Hay Elementary School

  • Posted 9/07/2013
  • Essay 10522
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This People's History of John Hay 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.

John Hay Elementary School

In June 1904, the Seattle School Board asked an architect to draw up plans for an eight-room East Queen Anne School. However, the residents of the area couldn't wait for the building to be built. In September that year, the board approved their request for an interim portable building. That month East Queen Anne Annex opened at 4th Avenue N between Newton and Crockett. The one-room portable for grades 1-2 served as an annex to Mercer School on lower Queen Anne.

Plans for a permanent building proceeded according to a district wide scheme for building several elementary schools during this period. All were wood-frame structures, but only the new Queen Anne School, Latona, and Bagley had distinctive octagonal towers flanking their main entries.

With the permanent building on east Queen Anne came a new name, John Hay School, suggested by the school board secretary. John Hay was a statesman who served as foreign policy advisor to several American presidents. Hay had recently died and when his widow learned that the school was named for him, she sent a portrait of her husband that was then prominently displayed at school.

During the first year at John Hay, 267 pupils in grades 1-6 were taught by six teachers. The next year, 7th and 8th grades were added. Hay students excelled in literature, English, and reading, challenging
other schools to reading contests. Art and music were also popular subjects. When schools were just beginning to use phonographs to teach music, Hay held a performance of folk games and dances from other lands in the Queen Anne High School auditorium. The admission fees were used to purchase the first phonograph owned by a Seattle public school.

In 1912-13, Hay developed a relationship with the Children's Orthopedic Hospital (see below). That year two portable classrooms at Hay were converted to open-air classrooms, as an experiment. By December, there were complaints of children getting cold from the "draughts of air during the foggy weather, and that the children are taking cold." In January, the school board decided that the "two rooms be conducted as other school rooms are, and to be heated in the usual manner, thus abandoning the open air feature."

In November 1913, the PTA and Civic Club of John Hay School requested a two-to-four- room addition to the present building or additional portables. Honoring this request, the district expanded the building to 12 rooms in 1914 and added four portables. When enrollment continued to grow, topping 500 in 1920, the district agreed to construct a new building.

The new brick building was opened in 1922 on a site on the adjoining block. The old building was to be torn down and an addition made to the brick building. However, this plan was never carried out. When Mercer began to close in 1931 at the height of the Depression, the older Hay building was needed to house 100-140 additional pupils. A newspaper article in early November 1944 proclaimed the 1905 structure had reached its "Time to Retire." Exaggerating that it had "grown old and creaking in public service" for "half a century," the writer states that the building "is typical of the ancient, hazardous structures to be replaced or modernized if Seattle adopts the . . . school levy". Although the levy passed with overwhelming voter approval, the old structure remained in service.

In September 1955, Hay shifted from a K-7 configuration to K-6. When Warren Avenue School closed in June 1959, Hay's southern boundary was extended to Stewart Street. Hay gained 30 students from the newly added service area as well as 24 pupils from Warren Avenue's Special Education Classes for the Blind. In 1960-61, seven portables were added, including a gym and a library. Enrollment in the early 1960s hovered around 600.

By the early 1970s, enrollment had dropped to about 400. From fall 1977 through spring 1988, Hay was a K-3 program paired with Brighton's 4-6. A portable, known as the Hay Stack, was placed on the playground for 1977-78. The portable was the site of nontraditional learning in language and math. Each class would visit the less structured alternative space for 45-55 minutes each week.

The Hay Bilingual Orientation Center moved to Sharples for the 1980-81 school year. In 1981-82, Hay became an Early Childhood Education Center, an upgraded program for grades K-3 under the direction of educator Louise McKinney. Transfers were taken from all over the district. The overflow of neighborhood children went to Coe. The decision to build a new John Hay was made in 1982 and funds were approved in a 1984 bond issue. The old wood facility was judged to be a firetrap, while the existing brick building was seismically unsound. Although the buildings were about a block apart, they were not connected by an intercom system.

The new John Hay was built on the site of Luther Playfield, the former track and field of Queen Anne High School, which was across the street to the south. It opened with grades K-3, and the following year expanded to K-5. In recent years, John Hay has received district awards for student achievement on standardized tests. It currently houses a program for autistic children. A pilot program for increased full day kindergarten options also operates there.

In 1989-91, the Old Hay building served as a temporary site for students from B. F. Day. New Option Middle School (NOMS) moved into the old John Hay buildings in 1992-93 from their former location at Washington. The 6th graders occupied the brick building, while the 7th and 8th graders studied in the wood building. NOMS moved to a permanent home at Monroe in Ballard in the 1999-2000 school year. A Bilingual Secondary Center will open at Old Hay in September 2000.


Name: John Hay School
Location: Bigelow & Boston Streets
Building: 8-room wood
Architect: James Stephen
Site: 2.0 acres
1905: Named on July 7; opened in September
1914: Addition (Edgar Blair)
1921: Site expanded to 3.01 acres
1981: Exteriors designated a city landmark
1988: Closed as an elementary school
1989: Opened as a temporary site in January
1992-99: Site of alternative school

Name: John Hay School
Location: 411 Boston Street
Building: 9-room brick
Architect: Floyd A. Naramore
Site: 3.01 acres
1922: Opened
1981: Exterior designated a city landmark
1988: Closed as an elementary school
1989: Opened as a temporary site in January
1992-99: Site of alternative school

Name: John Hay Elementary School
Location: 201 Garfield Street
Building: 20-room brick facade
Architect: Cardwell-Thomas & Associates
Site: 3.18 acres
1989: Opened in January

John Hay Elementary School in 2000
Enrollment: 465
Address: 201 Garfield Street
Nickname: Jaguars
Configuration: K-5
Colors: Red 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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