Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Madrona Elementary School

  • Posted 9/09/2013
  • Essay 10551
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This People's History of Madrona 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.

Madrona Elementary School

Like many of Seattle's early schools, Madrona traces its origins back to a small humble structure. In 1890, the Seattle School Board purchased a portion of George and Emma Randell's homestead property above the shores of Lake Washington. The old barn was converted into a two-room school named the Randell School. By 1902, the school had grown to 176 students with three teachers, and the number of classrooms doubled. An outside stairway led to the two new rooms.

After a bond issue passed in 1903, the district purchased part of the adjacent five-acre Colman tract to enlarge the school's site. The following year an eight-room wood frame building was constructed in accordance with the "model school" plan of district architect James Stephen. The new school was named Madrona apparently after the many madrona trees that grew in the neighborhood.

The old school was torn down and two portables were placed at the north end of the block. One of these portables was a two-story structure with a peaked roof, and the other was single-story. Lacking a playground, the children played in the streets or in nearby wooded lots. In 1909, the portables were demolished and the lumber sold to a family who built a house out of it a few blocks from the school.

Madrona School grew rapidly as the surrounding area attracted more residents. In 1916-17, enrollment reached 505 and portables were again in use. A brick addition constructed that year contained eight classrooms, a domestic science room, a shop, auditorium, and lunchroom. Principal Henrietta Mills, who headed the school from 1904 until 1922, also coached the football team. During the 1920s, Joseph W. Graham served as principal and introduced the school's motto of "service and good will." Madrona pupils were encouraged to render service to the community and participate in social welfare activities.

In 1931, kindergarten began, and enrollment reached 683. In September 1942, the 7th and 8th graders left to attend Edmond Meany Junior High School, and enrollment fell to 576. At this time, the shop was remodeled into a play area and the domestic science room became a classroom.

During the 1950s, Madrona continued to grow. A 1958 bond election provided the funds for a major addition. The old wood structure dating to 1904 was demolished, and a brick addition, constructed on the northeast side of the property, was attached to the 1917 structure, which was remodeled to add three more classrooms. When the addition was dedicated on November 2, 1961, the school had 25 classrooms, a new auditorium/lunchroom, kitchen, covered playcourt, and gymnasium.

A special sculpture commissioned by the district was unveiled at the 1961 dedication. Created by artist Henry Rollins, a graduate of Garfield and then student at the University of Washington, the artwork consisted of three carved figures of cedar. It had been hoped that the sculpture could be made from an old madrona tree that been taken down to make way for the new addition, but when madrona wood proved too hard to carve, cedar was substituted.

In September 1970, Madrona became B Center (Madrona) and served 5th and 6th graders in Meany-Madrona Middle School. The kindergarten rooms became art and family life rooms. A former playcourt became the Learning Resources Center. A change in faculty and administrators took place at this time. Desegregation efforts began in 1971 when middle school students from the Wilson, Eckstein, and Hamilton neighborhoods were bused to Meany-Madrona, while students from the Madrona attendance area were transported to one of the north end schools. A total of 842 students were selected to participate in the first year of the middle school desegregation program. The district aimed to reduce the percentage of African Americans at Meany-Madrona to 25 percent while increasing the percentage at north end schools to 16 percent.

Parents and staff became concerned that middle schoolers required more growing space. In the March 1978 desegregation plan, the district decided to return the Madrona building to its original function as an elementary school. So beginning in September 1978, Madrona middle schoolers began attending Washington Middle School.

As part of the desegregation plan's magnet program, in 1978 Madrona was made home of an elementary program for highly capable students, known as the Individualized Progress Program or IPP. IPP students, most of who came by bus from all over the city, shared the building with students in the regular elementary program. In the first few years of this arrangement, IPP students attended separate classes for reading, social studies, and math while sharing classes in music, art, and physical education. Later the two groups were completely separated.

IPP was renamed the Accelerated Progress Program, or APP. In September 1997, the APP students moved to Lowell, reducing Madrona's enrollment to 295 students. Beginning in 1998, 6th grade was added at Madrona, and in 1999 7th grade was added. Expansion to K-8 was completed in the 2000-01 school year. The shift to a neighborhood school has given Madrona a strong, positive feeling about its future.


Name: Randell School
Location: 33rd Avenue and E Union Street
Building: 2 rooms in wood barn
1890-91: Opened
1902: Addition
1903: Site expanded to 1.84 acres
1904: Closed
1906: Building sold and removed

Name: Madrona School
Location: 33rd Avenue and
E Union Street
Building: 8-room frame
Architect: James Stephen
Site: 1.84 acres
1904: Opened
1917: Addition (Edgar Blair); site expanded to 2.1 acres
1960: 1904 building demolished; Addition onto 1917 structure (Stoddard & Huggard)
1970: Formed part of Meany-Madrona Middle School
1978: Returned to elementary school use

Madrona Elementary School in 2000
Enrollment: 377
Address: 1121 33rd Avenue
Nickname: Panthers
Configuration: K-8
Colors: Black and gold


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

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