Two buildings on the campus of Van Asselt Elementary School in South Beacon Hill are currently up for landmark status: the oldest building on the campus, a 1909 building designed by Edgar Blair, and a larger, neighboring 1950 building designed by Jones and Bindon.
At the time the 1909 building was constructed, Blair was head draftsman for Seattle Public Schools (SPS). He designed many buildings still standing today, like Franklin High School, B.F. Day, West Seattle High School, and North Queen Anne school (which is now condos). He also consulted on the Montlake Bridge.
The school started in the first school building ever constructed in Seattle in the late 1850s: a seven-student schoolhouse built near the home of early King County settler Henry Van Asselt. After the original building was demolished in 1907 to make way for a railroad, it operated out of a portable until the 1909 building was constructed in its place with the capacity for nearly 200 students. It’s a two-story, wood-frame building, with a large, central gable and another framing the entry porch, accented by stucco and half-timber. Rectangular additions in 1940 added two classrooms and an office above the boiler room.
Overcrowding was so bad by the 1940s that, although classrooms sprawled into a selection of temporary portables, teachers suggested parents bring their kids home for lunch. This led to a whole new building in 1950, which is more typical midcentury construction, with a long, flat roof, a modern awning, and contiguous window banks. The architects behind that building, Jones and Bindon, also designed other area school buildings, including the University of Washington’s Husky Union Building (better known as the HUB) and Civil Engineering Building.
While another annex was built down the road in 1962, it was fully independent by 1967, and was eventually renamed as Wing Luke Elementary, although now it’s temporarily in the 1950s building.
Van Asselt is also notable for a third building, originally built for the African American Academy in 2000 by the firm of groundbreaking black architect Mel Streeter. The school closed less than a decade later, and the building became part of the Van Asselt campus. The nomination acknowledges the building and its “central circular dome representing a dogon, an architectural feature found in several African nations,” but buildings need to be at least 25 years old to be considered for landmark status.
The nomination was submitted by Rebecca Asencio, K-12 planning coordinator with SPS’s Capital Projects and Planning department. Landmark nominations are often submitted in advance of future work, whether that’s alteration or demolition.
The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination during its Wednesday, March 20 meeting at 3:30 p.m. at Seattle City Hall.
This article has been updated to correct some locations of SPS programs and Van Asselt building functions.