This Month in Edmonds History: Back to School

First school in Edmonds with students out front, circa 1889.

My Edmonds News is proud to present a monthly look at Edmonds history, straight from the archives of the Edmonds Historical Museum. For the month of September, we’ll revisit the school days of yesteryear.

September is back-to-school month, and the Edmonds School District has a long and interesting history to celebrate this month. Edmonds School District No. 15 organized in 1884, holding its first classes in George Brackett’s feed barn.

In these early years, school was only held about three months each year. A schoolhouse was built between Third and Fourth, north of Main Street, and attendance reached more than 32 students by 1889, necessitating an addition.

By 1891, the population had outgrown its first schoolhouse and other options, so Brackett once again donated a site for a new school, this time above Seventh Avenue. The school district passed a $10,000 bond to build the frame schoolhouse that served Edmonds’ schoolchildren for many years.

By September 1907, enrollment had increased to more than 200 students. At this time, the district offered two years of high school studies.  In 1909, facing ever-increasing enrollment, the school district decided to build a separate high school building. On June 9, citizens voted to construct the building on a two-acre lot between Third and Sixth, north of Daley Street; the contract was awarded to Ward & Robertson of Seattle.

The high school’s cornerstone was laid on Nov. 30, 1909, and in May 1910 it graduated its first class (three students). By 1911, enrollment in the city was more than 350, not including the four rural schools in the area. Attendance steadily increased over the years, and voters approved several bond issues to construct additions and purchase additional land. By 1924, a record-breaking 850 students were enrolled, and talk was already circling about constructing a new grade school building. Grade school children moved into their new Spanish Mission Revival style building on Oct. 15, 1928.

During the next couple of decades, the district saw increased enrollment, the construction of a high school athletic field with help from the WPA, the expansion of the grade school, and the addition of an Art Deco auditorium to the high school with assistance from the Public Works Administration.  Enrollment continued to increase during the 1940s, and in 1950 attendance reached more than 2,400. Voters approved a $475,000 bond issue in September 1950 for the addition of more classroom space.

In 1957 a new Edmonds High School opened at Holmes Corner, and the old school building became the city’s junior high.  The school was closed in 1975 and used as a community college until 2001. Edmonds Grade School closed in 1972 and became the local community center in 1979.  In 2005, the high school building was demolished and groundbreaking began for the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

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