Seward School’s three buildings from different eras currently house TOPS alternative school (The Option Program at Seward). The first building was the 1895 one-room schoolhouse (actually a two-room wood pavilion but just one room was used as a classroom for all eight grades). That school was called Denny-Fuhrman after the two big land speculators in the neighborhood, Henry Fuhrman and David T. Denny. The structure was moved a couple of times to accommodate the newer school buildings and is now facing Louisa St. between Boylston and Franklin Avenues.
By 1904 the small schoolhouse was serving 206 students, so in 1905 a new building was constructed, the charming two-story Tudor schoolhouse with stucco and half-timbering siding that faces Franklin Avenue. Together the two buildings were renamed to honor William Henry Seward, U.S. Secretary of State who led the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.
Seattle’s rapid growth continued to expand enrollment, prompting the building of the 1917 brick, block-long building along Boylston Avenue. Its elaborate entry proclaims the importance of education and all who enter it. The building was designed by Edgar Blair who was the Seattle Public Schools Architect (1909-1918, during City Architect Daniel R. Huntington’s tenure) and who designed many similar style Seattle schools that are still standing today, many like the Seward School complex, Designated Seattle Landmarks.
Seward School has had a long history of innovative learning practices, but the construction of I-5 in 1960 had a negative impact on enrollment as many homes in area were demolished. Various programs and temporary uses filled the school while the district considered closing it and did close it in 1990. “Ironically,” wrote resident Jules James in a history of Rogers Playgound, “[closing] marked the beginning of the re-building of the school, the neighborhood, and Rogers Playground. The displaced Colman School was housed at Seward for two years (1990-91), the alternative K-8 TOPS moved into Seward in 1992.”
TOPS closed the school in 1997 for two years for a major renovation, during that time a gym was added to the north and a library, or learning resource center, was added between the 1917 and 1905 school buildings linking them together. A vestibule also links the 1905 building to the original 1895 schoolhouse.
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Very interesting article. I went to grade school at Seward in the 1960’s. I knew very little about the history of either the neighborhood or the school. I do remember the construction of I-5 though. My father was an engineer for the State Highway Department for 50 years so anything having to do with the state highway system I usually heard about.