Enumclaw High School, Enumclaw Washington

Date added: February 11, 2022 Categories: Washington School

Like many schools in other small towns, the Enumclaw High School has served the entire community in a variety of roles. For many decades after its erection in 1921, the Enumclaw High School remained its community's center for cultural, social, educational, and sports activities. Additions to the building during the depression also helped to relieve local unemployment. The design of the building is typical of large schools built during this period with its restrained ornamentation, central halls, and banks of windows. Designed by the notable architect, Harlan Thomas, the school remained one of the most prominent structures in town until its demolition.

The Enumclaw High School stands on land that was purchased from the Catholic Diocese for $5,000 in 1920. The original site totaled approximately five acres and contained a cemetery, which was relocated. The school board retained Harlan Thomas to design the school. At that time, Thomas was a well-known architect practicing in Seattle and had designed at least three other schools in the state, including a primary school in Enumclaw. The successful completion of this earlier commission no doubt aided Thomas in the receipt of the High School contract. Peter Woeck of Seattle was selected as the contractor.

The school was dedicated in September of 1921. The ceremonies were attended by a variety of important officials including Mr. J. Tigert, the U.S. Commissioner of Education, and Mrs. Josephine Preston, the State Superintendent. These officials had come to Enumclaw to acknowledge the consolidation of the greater Enumclaw School District. Previous to this time, the geographic jurisdiction of most rural school districts had been quite limited. A small town would have its own school, which was largely unable to provide a variety of staff or instruction. School district consolidation enabled a number of small communities to pool their resources and create central educational facilities superior to their smaller predecessors. The Enumclaw School District consolidation was considered quite progressive for its time and, at the dedication of the new school, Mrs. Preston stated "that the consolidation system adopted by the Enumclaw School District was being made an example throughout the state." (Enumclaw Courier Herald, September 30, 1921.) The growth of the school district can also be appreciated by looking at school district statistics over a sixteen year span. In 1905, the district spent $5,500 per year, employed five teachers, and had 162 students in grades one through eight, but had no high school. By the time the high school was completed, the district spent $60,000 annually, employed 27 teachers, and had 725 students, 220 of which were in the high school grades.

The increasing needs of the still growing school district required the expansion of the high school during the 1920's and 1930's. The large north wing of the school which parallels Kibler Avenue was erected by Thomas in 1928. A detached garage to house school buses was also built at this time to the south of the school.

A second addition was built in 1935 with Federal assistance. This major expansion included a 1,312 seat auditorium, a cafeteria, a new boys' gymnasium, and boys' and girls' shower and locker rooms. At this time, many people of the region were unemployed. A hunger strike was scheduled to join a statewide march to the capitol in Olympia. The King County Welfare Board was distributing seeds to the needy for spring planting. Consequently, the decision to expand the school came as a great relief to unemployed construction workers. William Mallis was chosen as the architect and his exterior design was strictly utilitarian. The decision to include a performing arts hall and cafeteria is typical of Federally-assisted school projects during this era.

In 1938, Mallis designed a small three story addition that was attached to the western end of Thomas's 1928 wing. Given the prominence of this facade, Mallis copied Thomas's facade arrangement and detailing. A metal plaque on this last addition noted that the funds for the building came from the Works Progress Administration.

Junior high school age students were also housed in the high school building starting in 1928. The high school students were removed to a new location in 1963. Since that time, the building has been used solely as a junior high school. In the spring of 1984, the junior high school students were moved to a modern facility and the school was abandoned.