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Now & Then
Like The City, Expandable
Fremont's B.F. Day Elementary School is now both the longest continuously operating school building and the oldest brick school in Seattle. The school is between Fremont and Linden avenues north of 39th Street.

spacer Photo PAUL DORPAT
WHILE THE NORTH END annexations of 1891 nearly doubled the size of Seattle, the increase in population was paltry. Since Ballard was not yet included in this expansion, the barely 4-year-old mill town of Fremont was the most populated neighborhood added.

B.F. and Francis Day treated the enlargement as an opportunity. The couple offered the Seattle School District 20 lots of the Fremont farmland they had recently platted into city blocks and streets. Their one condition was that a brick schoolhouse be built there at a cost of not less than $25,000. The district obliged and indicated its gratitude by naming the new school after the developer-farmer.

The school stood out on the clear-cut ridge above Fremont, and in the quarter century needed to complete its campus, B.F. Day performed as a barometer of the explosive growth in Seattle population. In 1892 it opened with only four of its first eight classrooms ready. English-born architect John Parkinson designed the brick box so a second eight-room section could be added later. The accompanying "then" view is an early-20th-century record of the H-shaped fulfillment of the Parkinson plan. The north wing was added in 1901.

When the Ballard Locks were completed in 1916, it was generally expected that Fremont would continue to multiply its number of both families and board feet produced at the mill. Nearly 700 students were then attending B.F. Day, some in temporary structures. School district architect Edgar Blair extended Parkinson's symmetry with four-room wings, added in 1916. While massive, the results were elegant and restrained. The restoration of the school in the 1990s is a testimony in red brick to the virtues of preservation.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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