Denny-Fuhrman School opens in Seattle with an initial enrollment of 33 students as reported in the Post-Intelligencer on September 21, 1895.

  • By Priscilla Long and HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 4/27/2001
  • Essay 3244
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On September 21, 1895, the newly opened Denny-Fuhrman School (later Seward Elementary and then TOPS) is included in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article reporting the enrollment in all Seattle Public Schools at the start of the new school year. Denny-Fuhrman is the only new school building opened for the 1895-1896 school year: The article lists both 1894 and 1895 enrollment for the other 17 schools on the list, but only 1895 enrollment -- 33 students -- for Denny-Fuhrman. The new school, on Franklin Avenue in what will become Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood, is named for the Denny-Furhman Addition, the neighborhood's name at the time. It will be renamed the Seward School in 1905 when a second building is added. A third building will join the others in 1917. The three historic buildings, designated landmarks in 1981, will become the home of an alternative program known as The Option Program at Seward and later TOPS K-8 School.

Three School Buildings

When the Denny-Furhman School opened, most of the still-heavily-wooded neighborhood was owned by realtor Henry Fuhrman (1844-1907) and David T. Denny (1832-1903). In 1892, the Seattle school board bought property in their Denny-Furhman Addition for a school, and when it opened in the fall of 1895, the school was named for the new addition to Seattle.

The neighborhood developed quickly. By 1903 Franklin Avenue, bordering the west edge of the site, was a bicycle path. A wagon road ran through the present school grounds and a trolley from downtown Seattle ended at Louisa Street. With enrollment growing the school needed to expand. In 1905, a second building, designed by James Stephen, was built and the school was renamed the Seward School after William Seward (1801-1872), the U.S. Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

The 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held nearby on the University of Washington campus, with thousands of people flocking to it, caused the Eastlake neighborhood to develop. Eastlake Avenue was graded and the streetcar lines were extended north. By 1914, more than 400 pupils attended Seward Elementary School. In 1917, third building, made of brick and designed by Edgar Blair, was added.

In 1932 enrollment was about 580, and Seward became a demonstration school. District teachers attended half-day sessions to observe the latest teaching methods and materials. In 1950, the school's boundaries were changed when the nearby Cascade School was destroyed in an earthquake.

TOPS at Seward

In the 1960s, the construction of Interstate 5 directly east of Seward School bisected the neighborhood and contributed to declining enrollments. In 1981, the exteriors of all three buildings at Seward were designated as Seattle city landmarks. But by 1988 the school board decided to close Seward School, and the 1988-1989 school year was the last under that name.

However, the historic buildings remained in use. For the next two school years, students from Colman Elementary took classes in the Seward buildings while their school was remodeled. Then, beginning with the 1991-1992 school year, the alternative program named TOPS, which had originated at Stevens Elementary, was moved to Seward, "and thereafter its initials stood for The Option Program at Seward" (Thompson and Marr).

In a major project extending from 1997 through 1999, all three historic buildings were extensively renovated, with their interiors demolished and replaced with new classrooms while the historic exteriors were preserved. A new resource center and gym were added. What was then called TOPS at Seward reopened in September 1999. Subsequently the school that began life more than a century earlier as the Denny-Fuhrman School was renamed again, becoming TOPS K-8 School.


"An Increase of 422: Many More Pupils This Year Than in 1894," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 21, 1895, p. 8; Patricia C. Erigero, Seattle Public Schools: Historic Building Survey (Seattle: Seattle Public Schools and Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority, 1989), 171-178; "TOPS K-8 School," Seattle Public Schools website (accessed November 11, 2018 (; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Seward School" (by Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr), (accessed November 11, 2018).
Note: This entry was corrected and expanded on November 12, 2018.

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