Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: James Madison Middle School

  • Posted 9/09/2013
  • Essay 10550
See Additional Media

This People's History of James Madison Middle 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.

James Madison Middle School

In the late 1920s, the Seattle School District decided that an intermediate school was needed to relieve overcrowding in the elementary schools of West Seattle. Land was purchased in 1927 and the new building opened in 1929.

During the planning stage, the school was called West Seattle Intermediate School. In February 1928, it was officially named James Madison Intermediate School for the fourth president of the United States.

The building was designed for a capacity of 1,300 students, with the option of enlarging to house 1,750 with additions. The floor plan was similar to that of the other three intermediate schools constructed during this period, but Madison's Gothic architectural details were unique.

The initial student body consisted of 7th and 8th graders from Alki, Gatewood, Fauntleroy, Jefferson, and Lafayette. Ninth graders were added the next year, bringing enrollment to 1,212. In September
1931, an addition to the north end of the building opened with four more classrooms, a study hall, and a conference room.

The school paper, the Madisonian (1930-51), first appeared as a Christmas gift to all pupils. A Japanese cherry tree, planted in the northeast corner of the lawn in front of the building, was dedicated on February 18, 1932 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth.

Students from Hughes joined Madison in September 1938. During the 1938-39 school year Inez Stark's art classes painted four murals. Two in the library depict the activities of students at the school. Another on one wall of the study hall focuses on the "Four Freedoms" and was inspired by the Atlantic Charter. The fourth, on the opposite wall, studies the industries of the Pacific Northwest.

Madison sponsored several annual events in the late 1940s. A Christmas tree contributed by the Boys' Club was trimmed by the Girls' Club. At Christmas time, students caroled in the halls and held an inspirational program in the assembly room. A spring concert took place when lilacs bloomed, and girls "c[a]me forth in their long dresses and the boys don[ned] their best white shirts." In the mid-1960s there was still a Christmas assembly and a Spring Concert that were so popular that all 1,000 tickets for both performances sold out in just three days.

The school's first principal, J. W. Scudder, held that position until 1956. By 1961, students graduating from Schmitz Park, Fairmount Park, Genesee Hill, and Cooper also came to Madison, and enrollment stood at 1,650. However, by 1973, Cooper students shifted to Boren and enrollment dropped to approximately 1,400. In 1972, a new gymnasium opened with a weight room and gymnastic equipment. From September 1982 through June 1989, Madison housed only 7th and 8th graders.

In 1992, Madison became one of only three middle schools in the United States to participate in Stanford University's innovative Accelerated Schools Project. This project aimed to do away with labels such as "gifted" and "remedial" and challenge all students equally.

In June 1993, students from the metal and wood shop class won the statewide Solar Vehicle Competition with the boats they constructed during and after school. Madison received the 1997 Governor's Award for the state's best middle school drug and alcohol prevention program. A series of student-support projects, including an auction, which raises $23,000 annually, stems from a seven-year partnership with Nordstrom.


Name: James Madison Junior High School
Location: 3429 45th Avenue SW
Building: 3-story brick
Architect: Floyd A. Naramore
Site: 7.92 acres
1928: Named on February 10
1929: Opened September 3
1931: Addition opened in September (Naramore)
1972: Addition (Grant, Copeland, Chervenak & Assoc.)
1989: Became James Madison Middle School

James Madison Middle School In 2000
Enrollment: 890
Address: 3429 45th Avenue SW
Nickname: Bulldogs
Configuration: 6-8
Colors: Blue and yellow
Newspaper: none
Annual: Kamiakin


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

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You