Capitol Hill Historical Society | The mind boggling array of stairs and corridors connecting history at TOPS K-8

1905 Seward building in red, 1895 in b&w on the right (Paul Dorpat photo colorized by 7 year old)

Part 1: Jennie Lombard, Eastlake’s first principal
Part 2: 

TOPS is a K-8 school with an extensive history dating to the Klondike Gold Rush era. I recently met with a group of 1st to 3rd graders to share what I knew about Jennie Lombard, the very first principal of the first school at TOPS, and other details from the school’s history.

After we made collages, I took them on a tour of the many different parts of Eastlake’s K-8 school.

The oldest piece of TOPS opened in 1895 as the Denny-Fuhrman School and is on the state historic register. It was later expanded and moved, then moved again, then went through a few changes in use and is now the cafeteria.

Just north of it is what was once a prototype standard plan eight room school designed by district architect James Stephen. Today it houses administrative offices, special classrooms, and who knows what else. When this piece was built in 1905, the school was renamed Seward.

Seattle looked back very gratefully to Secretary of State William H. Seward for his role in negotiations that led the U.S. to purchase Alaska from Russia in 1867. The discovery of massive amounts of gold in the Yukon in 1897 caused the Klondike Gold Rush, lifting America out of a five-year economic slide and directly enriching Seattle. The statue of him that’s now in Volunteer Park was made later, in 1909, for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, and Seward Park was named in 1911. The school may be the earliest dedication to him in Seattle.

1905 section of TOPS by James Stephen, seen in 1975 (Seattle Municipal Archives 182144)

To the east is a big, three story 1917 brick building that now houses the TOPS middle school.

1917 addition seen in 1975 (Seattle Municipal Archives 182140)

In the middle is a library building, and, to the north, a gymnasium – both of which were built in 2000.

The library joins the 1905 and 1917 buildings. On the far left is the cafeteria, which started as the Denny-Fuhrman School (Photo Joe Mabel on Wikimedia “Seattle – Seward School library 01“)

It’s all connected in a mind boggling array of stairs and corridors, above and below ground. I led the kids through building by building while other classes were in session. We all wandered quietly, entering the land of the mysterious middle schoolers and looking out their tiny window next to the attic access for its view of Lake Union. And they drank from the middle schoolers’ water fountain!

We didn’t find the 1970s plaque for the Denny-Fuhrman state register listing, but the kids did suddenly notice old class photos on the wall and plaques and trophies outside the office for the first time.

 

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