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Celebrating 100 years of Garfield High School

(Image: Seattle Public Schools)

By Hannah Saunders

Garfield High School, where graduates have experienced the challenges of wars, the Great Depression, space exploration, and the rock n roll era, is marking its 100-year-anniversary with a celebration on August 27.

The 23rd Ave school — with a long roster of alumni notable in Seattle and beyond including current Mayor Bruce Harrell —  turned 100 years old back in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebration was put off–until now. Garfield High School originally opened with portables as East High School in 1920, and by 1922 the incredible building that still stands today opened.

“It had a tremendous amount of interesting, different people going to Garfield of all different kinds from day one,” said Lynn Jaffe, event chair.

Today, Garfield is — compared to the rest of the city — incredibly diverse with more than 24% of its students Black and more than 14%, Asian, according to the district. It serves students from the Central District, Capitol HIll, and nearby neighborhoods.

Jaffe began working on the centennial celebration at the end of 2017. The principal at the time, Ted Howard, thought it was a good idea and confirmed the party plans.

Garfield’s centennial celebration will showcase numerous activities that reflect the school’s history through videos, pictorial displays and entertainment.

“There are some tremendous, wonderful murals around almost the whole first  floor,” said Jaffe, who noted Martin Luther King Jr. visited Garfield High School in the 1960s. A mural from the visit will be showcased during the celebration.

Historical displays will be presented and broken up by the decade, said Jaffe, who explained how major current events impacted Garfield High School. As a graduate of the class of 1958, Jaffe recalled her experiences at the school.

“I went to school with a lot of Japanese kids that spent their very early years in the camps, so Garfield had experienced that for many, many years,” said Jaffe.

Since the event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jaffe expects there to be several thousand attendees, in addition to food trucks. Music will also fill the event with both current students and alumni performing, in addition to a drum line.

A formal program will take place at 1 PM in the gymnasium, which will feature Mayor Harrell, a Garfield High School graduate. Jaffe also said Gov. Jay Inslee’s father was a coach and teacher while she was attending Garfield, and Gov. Inslee will be coming to the celebration.

“It’s going to be quite an event,” said Jaffe. “I think one of the reasons it’s going to be great is because people have put off and postponed their reunions.”

Jaffe said Garfield graduates will have the opportunity to reconnect with former classmates at the event. In fact, Jaffe stated the Garfield Golden Grads, which is a committee made up of graduates that have reached their 50th reunion, played a major role in planning the event by reaching out to about 3,000 former graduates.

Community partners for the event will have representation with open tents and tables, and include the Northwest African American Museum; Wing Luke Museum; City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods; Seattle Public Library; Seattle Black Firefighters Association; and Black Heritage Society.

One of the school’s most famous attendees, Quincy Jones, serves as Honorary Chair of the event.

The hope is to present a celebration and recognition of a crucial learning institution with a diverse and storied history in this central core of the city.

“It’s been fun putting this on and meeting new people,” said Jaffe. “We’ve all worked really hard putting this on, and Capitol Hill is definitely part of what went into Garfield.”

Meanwhile, there are also new efforts to celebrate as the area around Garfield continues to change. The Garfield Super Block movement has continued its effort to fulfil a promise to transform the streetscape and walking areas around the campus made when the school was undergoing a major renovation that opened in 2008.

After 100 years, what’s a few more months?
Celebrating 100 Years of Garfield High School

Garfield High School
400 23rd Avenue, Seattle, WA
Finally, Saturday, August 27, 2022

9:30 am to 5:00 pm

Come Celebrate with us!

Historical displays from 10 decades of Garfield history * Entertainment * Mini-Reunions
* Formal Program * Food Trucks! * And much, much more

Honorary Chair Garfield alum Quincy Jones


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1 year ago

Love that my mom and I will both be able to go and remember our times at GHS decades apart. Of course hers were a little different from mine, but lots in common too. Glad they finally patched up the school itself though, that thing was actively falling apart when I was there. Maybe they even fixed the bullet holes in the doorframe off sophomore slope!