I recently had the opportunity to lead a learning activity at TOPS K-8. The school is located at Boylston and Roanoke — some would call that Eastlake, others might say it’s on the side of Capitol Hill. Originally opened as Denny-Fuhrman School, it was renamed to Seward in the early 1900s and is today called The Option Program at Seward and is better known as TOPS K-8.
I named the session “Old School TOPS.” A handful of 1st to 3rd graders joined me to learn about the school’s history, make art projects with old photos, and explore the different sections of the school.
To serve or to marry
At the beginning of the event, I shared information with the students about the first school’s first principal, Jennie Lombard.
Jennie was born in 1861 and her father, Ransom, brought the family to Seattle from Maine in 1864. A short time later they moved to Kitsap County, where her father worked at the Port Madison mill. Then they returned to Seattle in 1883, when her father got a job as an engineer at the Western Mill Company.
Before moving back to Seattle, Jennie and her sister passed the Washington Territory teacher’s exam and ran the school in Port Madison, Kitsap County. Jennie continued teaching in Seattle, first at Denny school atop Denny Hill, then at the Central School for three years. After the Central School burned, she worked at South School briefly, then switched to Denny-Fuhrman in 1895. She continued teaching for another three decades.
Jennie’s sister decided to quit teaching in order to get married. Jennie, though, dedicated her life to teaching children.
(Until 1948 married women were forbidden to teach in Seattle. They had to quit. This was normal in America, although we were late to change. Here’s a good essay about the history of teaching in America. Can we stop calling married teachers “Miss” now?)
Jennie Lombard died alone in her apartment on Capitol Hill in 1929, four years after retiring. The building is on Summit near Olive Street and is now known as Hudson House, an affordable housing building owned by Pioneer Human Services.
I visited Seattle Public Schools’ archive the week before the event. It’s worth a visit if you have an interest in connecting to the history of our schools. There I found photos of students who attended TOPS or Seward, school activities, and photos of the buildings over the years. I provided these with other clippings to the students to use as they liked.
That was a very rewarding experience for me, and the students got more out of it than I expected. They were more receptive to history than I dared hope, and had fun doing their own art project with their school’s history.
They spontaneously expressed interest in preservation, shock that their own school has history, and even interest in paying respects at Principal Lombard’s grave in Lake View Cemetery.
For more about Capitol Hill history and to join us at a meeting, check out capitolhillpast.org. Special thanks to CHHS volunteer Caitlin Moran for the edit assist.