Milestones for The Northwest School

A school on the hill has reached two significant milestones in 2005. The Northwest School, located at 1415 Summit Avenue, turns 25 this year. And the school's building, itself designated a historic landmark, turns 100.

Among several celebrations to mark the occasion, on Thursday, June 9, The Northwest School will break ground on an $11.2 million expansion and renovation of its historic First Hill building. The money will go toward building a three-story addition to the main building. Among other improvements, the addition will allow for five new classrooms and nearly double the library's size. The school's common area will also be expanded.

The private school, which serves more than 400 students in grades six through 12, features a large number of international and boarding students.

The Northwest School building was constructed in 1905 as the Summit Elementary School on land that had been a hospital, serving many children of Seattle's founding families. Enrollment peaked at 607 students in 1918; by the mid-'60s, enrollment had declined to 215 students. The decline prompted the Seattle School Board to put the property up for sale in 1964. A K-12 alternative program used the space beginning in 1966, and Seattle Central Community College leased the building in the late '60s.

The community lease ran out in 1973. The building, by then decrepit, reverted back to the Seattle School District, which tried again to sell it. In 1977, private developer Kemp Hiatt bought the property, intending to turn it into office space. He did a great deal of internal renovation and managed to list the building on the National Register of Historic Places.

The office plans did not turn out, and in 1979 educators Paul Raymond, Ellen Taussig and Mark Terry agreed to buy the building for $1.4 million so they could establish The Northwest School. The sale fell through just as the first year's classes were set to begin. But the school remained open, precariously, for the first few years. A Japanese businessman bought the building in the late 1980s, as well as several nearby buildings that were turned into dormitories. The purchase meant the property would remain a school. The Northwest School was able to buy the school property in 1997, which helped secure its permanent future.

The groundbreaking is the second of three major events to mark the anniversaries. A March 18 concert at the Paramount Theatre celebrated the school's 25th anniversary and featured Pearl Jam, Bill Frisell and the Presidents of the United States of America, all of whom have personal ties to the school. A 100th anniversary event is planned for Oct. 2.

The Northwest School is located at 1415 Summit Ave. The ground breaking ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 9, at the sport court on the west side of the school. City Librarian Deborah Jacobs will deliver the keynote speech.

The school is also seeking the memories of former Summit Elementary students, faculty and neighbors from 1905-1980, and from Seattle Central Community College students and faculty from the 1960s. The history will be shared at the building's 100th anniversary celebration on Oct. 2. Call 328-1129, ext. 27 or e-mail devel

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