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A History of Leschi School

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

In 1906, the Seattle School Board purchased a parcel of land where a florist named O'Brien had operated a rose garden and greenhouses. Construction of Leschi School began in February 1909. The building was similar in style to Greenwood, Hawthorne, and Emerson, with Jacobean details, including steeply pitched roofs, red brick with terra cotta trim, and pointed archways.

Leschi School in 1972. Photo courtesy of Seattle Public Schools.
Leschi School in 1972. Photo courtesy of Seattle Public Schools.

The eight-room school served approximately 300 students in grades 1-8 until 1918-19 when enrollment rose to 371. At that time, the boys' and girls' playrooms in the basement were converted to two additional classrooms. Because the school had no facilities for manual training or home economics, once a week older students hurriedly ate their lunches and walked over to Walla Walla School (later Horace Mann) for instruction in these subjects.

Parkland opened at 32nd S Avenue and Charles Street in 1925 as an annex to Leschi. Two portables were used for classrooms until October 22, 1939. The Parkland property was sold in November 26, 1941.

When Washington Junior High School opened in 1938, Leschi became K-6 and enrollment dropped. In 1940-41, enrollment rebounded to 374. The closing of Rainier meant that Leschi's area extended further west to 19th Avenue and encompassed a multiethnic neighborhood. Portables appeared on the school grounds, including one used as a lunchroom and as many as six used for classrooms. In 1954, Leschi served 509 students taught by 15 teachers, and the kindergarten operated on triple shifts.

The playfield was blacktopped during the 1950s and the school's site enlarged to the south along 32nd Avenue. Enrollment peaked at 592 in 1958-59. A house standing on the enlarged site was used as an annex during 1958-60. During the 1960-61 school year, a much-needed addition was constructed, adding seven classrooms, an administrative-health unit, a lunchroom-auditorium, a gymnasium, and covered playcourt on the south side of the building. The original structure was also remodeled and modernized at this time.

Leschi School in 2000. Photo by Mary Randlett, courtesy of Seattle Public Schools.
Leschi School in 2000. Photo by Mary Randlett, courtesy of Seattle Public Schools.

On property adjoining the school is Peppi's Park, named by the students in honor of a classmate, Peppi Braxton, who died in 1971. The park contains a wading pool, swings, and large free-form objects for climbing. With its trees and panoramic view of Lake Washington, the park was often used as an outdoor classroom.

Beginning in 1968-69, as part of the district's 4-4-4 Plan, Leschi housed grades K-4. In September 1978, Leschi became K, 4-5 in a triad with Decatur and Wedgwood, both of which housed grades K-3. This configuration continued through spring 1988.

In 1984, as part of a district-wide Capital Improvement Program, Leschi became one of 16 schools identified as needing renovation. Over the next few years, meetings were held with the community. Ultimately the decision was made to demolish the 1909 structure. Leschi students found a temporary home at Broadview-Thomson for the 1987-88 school year.

The new addition, a steel frame structure with brick veneer, is a wing on the 1961 structure. The building now contains 18 classrooms plus arts/science and resource rooms, and a library. Also included are two kindergarten classrooms, an auditorium/lunchroom, a gym, and an administrative area.

Credit: An excerpt from Essay made possible by Seattle Public School District.

Thanks to Anne Depue who found this article and asked for permission to reprint.


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