According to Historic Tacoma, the buildings were identified as landmark eligible during the school district’s 2009 survey and inventory of historic structures. The effort to nominate Tacoma’s oldest schools is also tied to a two-page report completed in 2006 by a committee formed by Tacoma’s Landmark’s Preservation 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 an architectural historian 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.
“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,” Pete Wall, director of planning and construction for the school district, told the Tacoma Daily Index in 2008.
In 2010, six Tacoma schools were added to the city’s historic register. The schools included Fern Hill Elementary School (8442 S. Park Ave.), built 1911; Central Elementary Administration Building (601 S. 8th St.), built 1912; Jason Lee Middle School (602 N. Sprague Ave.), built 1924; Stewart Middle School (5010 Pacific Ave.), built 1925; McCarver Elementary School (2111 S. J St.), built 1925; and Whitman Elementary School (1120 S. 39th St.), built 1952 on the local register of historic places. The nominations to landmark the buildings were supported by the Tacoma School Board, Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, and Tacoma City Council.
More information about Historic Tacoma’s work on historic schools is online here.