Seattle Now & Then: The Gatewood School

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Opened in 1910 to 268 students in grades 1 to 8, school architect Edgar Blair’s Gatewood Elementary School was awarded landmark status by the city in 1988. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Looking south over Myrtle Street and down 44th Ave. S.W., the school’s Tudor-styled face survives with very few changes.

Set five-or-so blocks east of Puget Sound and 200 feet above it, Gatewood Elementary School is also only a half mile west of – and about 320 feet below – the highest point in Seattle. At 522 feet above the tides this elevated area is appropriately called Highpoint, and like the school below it, its two water towers face Myrtle Street.

A borrow from the generous Google Earth looking north over the nighest part of Seattle – somewhere on the alley that drops down the middle of the subject from Myrtle Street and the two municipal water tanks.
A detail of the neighborhood pulled from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map. Both Gatewood School and the Kenny Home are colored red to indicate or celebrate their brick construction. The namesake additions are both directly north of the school.  

In Jean Sherrard’s “now” Myrtle interrupts the northward extension of 44th Avenue SW, bottom-left.  In the historical photo we can detect the rails and timber ties of the trolley line that spurred the building of both homes and families in this part of West Seattle.  The streetcars began running south from The Junction at Alaska Street

Looking north though the Junction on Sept. 23, 1941.
California Avenue and Myrtle Street looking north on the former and thru the latter where tracks turn west (or left).
Looking north on 47th Avenue SW thru its intersection with Othello Street. We did a now-then on this recently and will include it below with at the second of our “Edge-Links.”  We also published a now-then long ago on the same intersection and will interrupt with it here above a temporary Vashon Welcome Archi that follows it..   Here – in the photo above – the Kenny Home is on the right.

and California Avenue in 1907.  The tracks turned west on Myrtle and soon after passing the school turned south past the Kenney Home (treated in this column for June 19, 2016)  to reach the nearby Fauntleroy neighborhood and its pier for ferry and mosquito fleet connections with all of Puget Sound, most importantly with Vashon Island.

First appeared in PACIFIC on April 9, 2000, and honestly it shakes me so to understand that that is now seventeen years ago. (I need a match to light some incense.)

In spite of the school’s name, no great gate was built to open for admission into these woods.  Rather, the school is named for Carlisle Gatewood, a developer who platted two residential additions nearby: Gatewood Acres and Gatewood Gardens. (You can find them in the Baist Map detail printed above.)  Liking, perhaps, the picturesque qualities of the name, the Seattle School Board kept it for its neighborhood school, which opened in 1910 on the campus’ original 1.67 acres.  The first year’s attendance of 268 students indicates that the school was needed – perhaps desperately.  While the 1922 addition by architect Floyd A. Naramore was later demolished, the original schoolhouse was saved and designated a city landmark in 1988.

Franklin High School another of architect Edgar Blair’s creations.

Certainly, by many tastes, the Tudor-styled Gatewood School is beautiful.  The architect Edgar Blair was 35 when he moved here in 1906. Three years later he succeeded the prolific James Stephen as the official Seattle school architect. Blair also kept busy. As we learn from the repeatedly helpful UW Press tome Shaping Seattle Architecture, he drew the plans for many other schools with which the reader may well be familiar. His more than 35 school designs (originals and additions) include three Seattle high schools, Franklin (1910-11, above),  Ballard (since replaced) and West Seattle.

Horace Sykes late 1940s panorama of the Olympic Mountains lighted by a winter sunset. We confess that Horace lived in Magnolia not West Seattle. He was a member of the Seattle Camera Club and a sensitive adjuster of fire insurance claims who also lectured on subjects related to fire safety. A few years back we shared a daily feature on this blog that we titled “Our Daily Sykes.” You may search for it and perhaps rediscover Horace Sykes’ splendid embrace of the picturesque during his travels with camera around the American West…

Gatewood is but one part of the undulating neighborhood that looks west across Puget Sound from the long and laid back western side of West Seattle.  The five miles from Duwamish Head to Fauntleroy is worth an unplanned exploration.  Across Puget Sound the string of Olympic Mountains summits with their sunsets are the benchmarks for what is also alluring about the western side of West Seattle.  In 1924 the enduring gift of this panorama inspired a sentimental majority of the West Seattle Commercial Club to profess “We feel that the term West Seattle covering the west side is confusing.”  In its place the business boosters proposed a new “blanket term to cover the entire west side.”  The term, elegiac but short-lived, was “Olympic Hills.”


Anything to add, les mecs? Yes Jean more wallowing by Ron and I mostly in West Seattle or on the way to and from it.   But something  is new.  When we select an appropriate feature that was first published in Pacific before we started our weekly printing of this blog, me will now feel free to mix it with any more recent blog feature with which it mixes well.  For instance four inches below we have snuggled the first illustrated writing we did on Sea View Hall, not so long ago on January 23, 2000, hand-in-hand with our recent treatment of the same structure.  We hope you will find that not too much it lifted from the old narrative into the new.   We decided to do it twice because of our love for Clay Eals, our old friend who until recently was the executive director (or some such status-saturated power-title) for the West Seattle Historical Society.   Start clicking.

THEN: The Gatewood Craftsman Lodge was built on a road, in a neighborhood, and near a public school all named for the developer Carlisle Gatewood, who also lived in the neighborhood. The three women posing in the third floor’s open windows are the Clark sisters, Jean, Dorothy and Peggy, members of the family that moved into the home in the late 1930s.


THEN: Looking into West Seattle’s Junction and north on California Ave. SW to its intersection with SW Alaska Street in 1941. The Hamm Building, is seen above the light-colored car, and the Campbell Building is at right, behind the G.O. Guy Drugs sign.

The above first appeared in Pacific on April 10, 1994.

THEN: Included among the several detailed photos taken for the Bernards of their new and yet rustic Fir Lodge, was this one of the living room with its oversized fireplace and the piano on which Marie, their older daughter, learned to play well enough to concertize. (Courtesy Doris Nelson)

THEN: In 1852 many of Seattle’s first pioneers removed from Alki Point by dugout canoe for the deeper and safer harbor along the east shore of Elliott Bay (our central waterfront). About a half-century later any hope or expectation that the few survivors among these pioneers could readily visit Alki Beach and Point by land were fulfilled with the timber quays and bridges along Spokane Street. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: The Seattle Times in its lengthy coverage of the then new Seattle Steel in the paper’s Magazine Section for Sept. 10, 1905 – the year this photograph was recorded – noted that “the plant itself is a series of strong, substantial, cavernous sheds, built for use, not for beauty.” (Courtesy, MOHAI, the Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: Looking southeast from above Alki Avenue, the Schmitz Park horizon is serrated by the oldest trees in the city. The five duplexes clustered on the right were built 1919-1921 by Ernest and Alberta Conklin. Ernest died in 1924, but Alberta continued to live there until well past 1932, the year this photograph was recorded. (Seattle Municipal Archives.)


THEN: Built in 1893, West Seattle School kept teaching until ruined by the region’s 1949 earthquake. (Courtesy Michael Maslan)

THEN: The Oregon and Washington Railroad Georgetown Depot was built in 1910 about two blocks north of the Seattle Lighting Company’s Gas Works, far-right. (Courtesy, Frank and Margaret Fickheisen)

THEN: As the caption at the bottom allows, the Juneau Street footbridge opened for pedestrians on March 26,1915. It crossed the main track lines – not spurs – of three railroads and reached east from the Georgetown business district to a sprawling neighborhood of workers’ homes on the gentle slope of the Beacon Hill ridge. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives.)

THEN: Part of the pond that here in 1946 filled much of the long block between Massachusetts and Holgate Streets and 8th Avenue S. and Airport Way. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: The work of filling the tidelands south of King Street began in 1853 with the chips from Yesler’s sawmill. Here in the neighborhood of 9th Ave. S. (Airport Way) and Holgate Street, the tideland reclaiming and street regrading continue 70 years later in 1923. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)

THEN: Unemployed men search for anything useful in land being reclaimed with city garbage used for fill on the tideflats. The date is March 6, 1937. The scene looks northwest from what was once near 7th Ave. S. and Forest Street, but is now inside the operations facilities for the Light Rail Division of Sound Transit. The Sears Department Store, now home of Starbucks Coffee Co., appears in the upper-left corner. Courtesy: The Post-Intelligencer Collection at the Museum of History and Industry.

THEN: Sometime before her first move from this brewery courtyard in 1912, Lady Rainier was moved by a freeze to these sensational effects. She did not turn her fountain off. (Courtesy of Frank & Margaret Fickeisen)

THEN: Twenty years ago the Mukai Farm and Garden on Vashon Island was designated a King County Landmark. (Courtesy, Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association)








First printed in Pacific on July 24, 1988, the then 7th year for “Seattle Now and Then.”

3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Gatewood School”

  1. Thank you for profiling Gatewood Elementary. I grew up a few blocks from there. In 1959 I started kindergarten. Mrs.Storm’s class was in the daylight basement room to the right of the main entrance. I still have a vivid memory of a mother dragging her daughter down the sidewalk from California Avenue, crying and kicking on the first day of school. In those days there were portables on the north side, two or three. Mr. Stratton’s 6th grade was in the very northwest corner, and Mrs. Hyde’s 3rd grade was in a portable just south of it, I believe. On the east side was a small playground area where we congregated before school. Some bricks fell off that east face in the 1965 earthquake, which fortunately hit about a half hour before kids started showing up. The whole lower playground on the west was paved in those days. Around the corner on California there was a mom-and-pop grocery where the coffee shop Café Ladro is. The owner was a durable old Siberian named Leon. The candy counter was mobbed every day after school. The 50’s and 60’s were a great time to grow up, and the somewhat small-town feel of West Seattle in those days was a bonus. Having Lincoln Park as a nearby back yard was fantastic. Great memories.

  2. I remember that all the playgrounds were paved and there was a girl side and a boys side, you could not intermingle on the playground. And I remember that the students were only allowed to use the drinking fountains in the basement; the drinking fountains on the upper floors were for teachers only. And I remember the day of the earthquake where the bricks fell from the building. And I definitely recall the front stairs as you enter the building and the woodsy smell of the interior. And the swinging door cloak rooms within the classrooms with all the hooks on the wall. I attended Gatewood Elementary from 1961 thru 1967 (Kindergarten thru 5th grade). Also pants on girls were not allowed, you had to wear a skirt or a dress everyday. My how things have changed!

  3. Yes Marie you remember it exactly as I do. That old wood structure smell. I was in first grade in1965. I lived up over the top of Gatewood Hill and had just left for school. Mrs Kelly’s class. Wasn’t sure what had just occurred until another older student across the street yelled that it was an earthquake. I regret not ever getting back to walk that school before they remodeled it. Lots of great memories. The girls side and boys side of the playground and the “courts” used when it was raining. That was not so much fun. Mrs. Rosetti the playground teacher. She took her job very seriously. How about Pete the janitor. He was cool. What a job he had. I’m would think these people are no longer alive but they sure had an impact on my young life. A different time for sure.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.