Year In Review — Tacoma's Historic Schools

Six Tacoma schools built between 1911 and 1952 may soon join Stadium High School, Lincoln High School and Washington Hoyt Elementary School as historic landmarks.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing in October to receive testimony on adding the schools to the local register of historic places. The schools include 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.

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.

“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.

This year, the Tacoma School Board voted unanimously to submit the nomination to the commission. The school district contracted with Kingstree Studios to prepare the nomination. In December, Tacoma City Council voted to approve adding the buildings to the city’s register of historic places.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage, click on the following links:

6 Tacoma schools added to historic register —

Tacoma City Council to vote on 6 historic school nominations —

Public hearing Oct. 27 for 6 historic school nominations —