6 Tacoma schools move closer to historic landmark status

The City of Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation is scheduled today to review a multiple-listing nomination to place six schools on the...

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation is scheduled today to review a multiple-listing nomination to place six schools on the city’s register of historic places.

The schools, which were built between 1911 and 1951, include Fern Hill Elementary School, 8442 South Park Avenue (1911, 1919, 1925 buildings only); Central Administration, 601 South 8th Street (1912 buildings only); Jason Lee Middle School, 602 North Sprague Avenue (1924); McCarver Elementary School, 2111 South J Street (1925); Stewart Middle School (1926); and Whitman Elementary School, 1120 South 39th Street (1952).

The purpose of today’s meeting is for the commission to determine if the six schools meet the threshold criteria for age and integrity required to be listed on the historic register. If they do meet the criteria, the commission is expected to hold a public hearing on Oct. 27. A final decision on the nominations will probably be made by Tacoma City Council before the end of this year.

The effort to nominate Tacoma’s oldest schools dates back to a two-page report completed in 2006 by a committee formed by the landmarks commission. In that report, the committee concluded that 14 school-owned buildings might be eligible for landmark designations.

Two years later, Tacoma Public Schools hired architectural historian and preservation advocate Caroline T. Swope of Kingstree Studios to complete a survey of Tacoma’s public school buildings and identify those that are historically significant. When the survey was completed, it showed that of the 55 school buildings owned by the district, 27 date back before 1960, which would make them old enough to at least meet the age requirement for inclusion on the city’s register. Many were designed by notable Tacoma architects Frederick Heath, George Gove, E. J. Bresemann, and Roland E. Borhek. The buildings also reflect a variety of architectural styles, including English Gothic, Tudor, and Gothic Revival.

On July 22, the Tacoma School Board voted unanimously to submit the nomination to the commission. The school district contracted with Kingstree Studios to prepare the nomination.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting will be held today at 5 p.m. at Tacoma Municipal Building North, 728 St. Helens, Room 16.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of Tacoma’s historic schools, read the following:

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History Lessons: Survey could help preserve Tacoma’s oldest public schools

By Todd Matthews, Editor

Oct. 28, 2008

Tacoma Public Schools is expected next month to issue a request for proposal seeking qualified architectural historians and preservationists to complete a survey of Tacoma’s public school buildings to identify those that are historically significant.

According to Pete Wall, director of planning and construction for the school district, TPS will issue the request next week and award a $10,000 contract for the survey in December. When completed next spring, the survey would help the school district complete future renovations of its buildings with an understanding of which buildings are historically significant and should be preserved. It could also increase the number of schools added to the city’s register of historic places.

“We feel to the extent that we can in a systematic manner develop an inventory and sensitivity toward those buildings which should receive a deeper analysis with an eye toward preserving them for the long term, we want to do that,” says Wall.

Currently, there are only three school buildings on the city’s historic register. Stadium High School was added to the list in 1975; Lincoln High School and Washington Elementary School were added in 2006.

Of the 55 school buildings the district owns, 27 date back before 1960, which would make them old enough to at least meet the age requirement for inclusion on the city’s register. Many were designed by notable Tacoma architects Frederick Heath, George Gove, E. J. Bresemann, and Roland E. Borhek. The buildings also reflect a variety of architectural styles, including English Gothic, Tudor, and Gothic Revival.

Which schools will be identified in the upcoming survey? Obviously, that will be answered when the work concludes next spring.

But one clue might be found in a two-page report completed in 2006. At the time, the City of Tacoma’s landmarks preservation commission formed a committee to explore the issue. The committee concluded that 14 school-owned buildings (and one building owned by the Puyallup Tribe) might be eligible for landmark designations, and organized those buildings by high, medium, and low priorities. That list, which has since been reduced to 12 in light of two additions to the register in 2006, today includes:

High Priority

— Barlow Annex; 3012 S. 59th St. (South Tacoma); built in 1910 by architect Frederick Heath

— Central School; 601 S. 8th St. (New Tacoma); built in 1912 by architects Heath and George Gove

— Fern Hill Elementary; 8442 S. Park (South Tacoma); built in 1911 by Heath and Gove

— Jason Lee Middle School; 602 N. Sprague Ave. (North End); built in 1924 by Roland E. Borhek

— McCarver Elementary School; 2111 S. J St. (New Tacoma); built in 1925 by John Wallin and Bachelor

— McKinley Elementary School; 3702 McKinley Ave. (East Side); built in 1908 by Heath

— Oakland Alternative High School; 3319 S. Adams St. (South End); built in 1912 by Heath and Gove

— Stewart Middle School; 5010 Pacific Ave. (South End); built in 1925 by Borhek

Medium Priority

— Gault Middle School; 1115 E. Division Lane (East Side); built in 1926 by Hill and Mock

— Mary Lyon Elementary School; 101 E. 46th St. (East Side); built in 1924 by Hill and Mock

Low Priority

— Gray Middle School; 3109 S. 60th St. (South Tacoma); built in 1926 by E. J. Bresemann

— Park Ave. School; 6701 S. Park Ave. (South End); built in 1912 by Heath and Gove

“It’s wonderful,” says Tacoma historic preservation officer Reuben McKnight of the upcoming request for proposal. “It’s very promising to hear that this is something the school district is exploring. I think it’s suffice to say there are a number of important neighborhood schools. I would like to see what [the survey] comes up with.”

The school district’s interest is also a positive sign for Historic Tacoma board president Sharon Winters. Winters worked on the 2006 survey when she was a landmarks preservation commissioner. She has also met with Wall and Tacoma Public Schools superintendent Art Jarvis to discuss the idea.

“I think it’s pretty amazing to have a school district get behind it and actually pay for it,” says Winters.

“This is very exciting for Tacoma to see the school district being proactive. To see them understand that these are assets rather than liabilities, and understand there are good people that can do this work, we can conserve sustainable resources, and we can also really preserve the incredible icons we have in our neighborhoods. It’s very exciting.”

According to Wall, a survey could help the school district know what is in front of them when they consider future school renovations.

“Right now we have been doing it on a one at a time basis,” he says. “We essentially arrive at a building for modification, scratch our head, and ask, ‘Does this building have merit or architectural significance?’ If we do this survey now, we’ll know that before we start. It’s huge from the point of long-term planning.”

Future renovations could come soon, especially considering the school board voted Oct. 23 to put a $300 million bond levy before voters next spring.

If approved, the levy would be the first wave of a series of bond levies to pay for building renovations and new construction.

A historic survey completed this fall and winter could give the school district a better idea of which buildings are historically significant and should be preserved and adaptively re-used.

“A couple of the schools there, from my eye, are significant,” says Wall. “Stewart Middle School would be one of those buildings that should go into preservation mode. To the extent that we can accommodate both historic preservation as well as the educational program within those walls, we certainly want to do that.”

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Tacoma’s historic schools inventory nears completion

http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1757612&more=0

April 23, 2010

Historic Tacoma announced Thursday its “Preserving Tacoma’s Historic Schools” project, a collaboration between Historic Tacoma and Tacoma Public Schools, is nearing completion.

According to Historic Tacoma Board President Sharon Winters, the first stage of the project identified and documented many of Tacoma’s historic schools. An historic resource inventory of 24 schools dating from 1908 to 1958 was funded by the school district to better understand the architectural and cultural significance of its older schools, some of which are slated for rehabilitation with bond levy funds.

The inventory was conducted by architectural historian Caroline Swope of Kingstree Studios. Documentation has been provided to the City of Tacoma’s Historic Preservation Office, the WA Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the school district. Dr. Swope will present her inventory findings to the Tacoma School Board at their meeting on May 3 at 5 p.m. (***UPDATE*** The start time has changed from 6 p.m. to 5 p.m.), recommending that several of the inventoried structures be nominated, as a group, to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places.

According to Winters, the ultimate goal of the project is to preserve and protect Tacoma’s historic schools, each of which is an asset to our community. The second phase of the project aimed to increase awareness of the historic buildings owned by the district. A 20-page publication, available in print and PDF versions, was funded by Historic Tacoma with a $2,200 grant from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Washington. The booklet includes archival photos and highlights a selection of significant historic schools, representative architectural styles, development trends, and prominent architects, Frederick Heath and Robert B. Price, who designed a number of Tacoma schools. The publication is available for download from Historic Tacoma’s Web site at http://www.historictacoma.net/ht/tacoma-tours/ .

Several of the historic middle schools are vulnerable, said Winters. Gray and Gault are both vacant and Hunt Middle School is scheduled for replacement. Each may face demolition if an appropriate re-use cannot be identified by the school district or the community. Others, such as Washington Elementary and Stewart Middle School, will be rehabilitated and re-used as school structures within the next five to ten years. Only Washington, Stadium and Lincoln High Schools are currently on the Register and thus protected.

“Tacoma Public Schools has a strong record of rehabilitation and re-use of buildings such as Jason Lee Middle School, Lincoln and Stadium High Schools,” said Winters in an e-mail Thursday. “Historic Tacoma hopes the District will build upon that record, one which demonstrates a commitment to the re-use of buildings constructed of sustainable materials, the use of local labor and materials to rehabilitate those structures, and the retention of buildings which represent stellar architectural design and which serve as neighborhood anchors.”

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6 Tacoma schools headed for historic register

http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1811282&more=0

By Todd Matthews

July 26, 2010

The Tacoma School Board voted unanimously July 22 to add six of its schools to Tacoma’s register of historic places. The schools, which were built between 1911 and 1952, include the following:

— Fern Hill Elementary (1911, 1919, 1925 buildings only)

— Central Administration (1912 buildings only)

— Jason Lee Middle School (1924)

— McCarver Elementary School (1925)

— Stewart Middle School (1926)

— Whitman Elementary School (1952)

As part of the plan, the school district will contract with architectural historian and preservation advocate Caroline T. Swope of Kingstree Studios to prepare the nominations. The nominations could reach Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in September.

“The School District is the owner of one of the largest collection of significant historic buildings in the City,” said Historic Tacoma Board President Sharon Winters in an e-mail statement over the weekend. “While districts around the country continue to tear down their older structures, Tacoma School District is setting a national model, acknowledging not only the architectural and cultural significance of these structures but also that these places matter deeply to our community. We must acknowledge the School Board’s foresight and understanding as well as the leadership of Pete Wall, the head of the district’s Planning and Construction department, in this action. We also thank those community members who have made their interests known through nominating other schools to Register, speaking up at public hearings, and working with School Board members and staff on this issue for the past six years.

“Historic Tacoma is truly heartened by this action, yet another sign that the conservation and re-use of historic structures is becoming instilled in community values,” added Winters.

The effort to nominate Tacoma’s oldest schools dates back to a two-page report completed in 2006 by a committee formed by Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. The committee concluded that 14 school-owned buildings (and one building owned by the Puyallup Tribe) might be eligible for landmark designations.

Two years later, Tacoma Public Schools decided to explore the issue more. It hired Kingstree Studios to complete a survey of Tacoma’s public school buildings and identify those that are historically significant. In October 2008, Wall told the Index (see “History Lessons: Survey could help preserve Tacoma’s oldest public schools,” TDI, 10/28/08), “We feel to the extent that we can in a systematic manner develop an inventory and sensitivity toward those buildings which should receive a deeper analysis with an eye toward preserving them for the long term, we want to do that. To the extent that we can accommodate both historic preservation as well as the educational program within those walls, we certainly want to do that.”

Wall spoke at a time when only three school buildings were the city’s historic register: Stadium High School was added to the register in 1975; Lincoln High School and Washington Elementary School were added in 2006. When the survey was completed, it showed that of the 55 school buildings owned by the district, 27 date back before 1960, which would make them old enough to at least meet the age requirement for inclusion on the city’s register. Many were designed by notable Tacoma architects Frederick Heath, George Gove, E. J. Bresemann, and Roland E. Borhek. The buildings also reflect a variety of architectural styles, including English Gothic, Tudor, and Gothic Revival.

TACOMA HISTORIC SCHOOLS INVENTORY

According to a survey completed by Kingstree Studios, the following schools in Tacoma could be eligible for Tacoma’s register of historic places:

I. HIGH PRIORITY

— McKinley Elementary School (1908 only)

— Central Administration (1912 buildings only)

— Oakland Alternative School (1912)

— Jason Lee Middle School (1924)

— Wainwright Elementary School (1924)

— McCarver Elementary School (1925)

— Gault Middle School (1926)

— Gray Middle School & Barlow Annex (1926 & 1910)

— Stewart Middle School (1926)

— Hunt Middle School (1958)

— Hoyt Elementary School (1958)

II. MIDDLE PRIORITY

— Fern Hill Elementary (1911, 1919 & 1925)

— Lyon Elementary School (1952)

— Geiger Elementary School (1951)

— Lowell Elementary School (1951)

— Whitman Elementary School (1952)

— Park Avenue Elementary School (circa 1949)

III. LOW PRIORITY OR NON-ELIGIBLE

— Arlington Elementary School (1919)

— Grant Elementary School (1919)

— Downing Elementary School (1949)

— Fawcett Elementary School (1950)

— DeLong Elementary School (1953)

— Mann Elementary School (1953)

— Baker Middle School (1955)

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