Founded by Nellie Cornish in 1914, the arts school moved as it grew.
CONSTRUCTION FOR the new campus of The Cornish School began on the first day of 1921.
The work was rushed forward so the school could open in September, on time for the still-young institution’s eighth season. Perhaps predictably, agents with homes to sell or apartments to rent in the neighborhood began running classifieds for their properties with the message, “near Cornish School” in The Times and The Post-Intelligencer in late summer. That enticing landmark is under construction in this week’s “Then” photo, although its bricks are not yet adorned with the ornamental tiles and stucco skin that still define its Spanish Colonial lines.
Cornish was founded in 1914 on Capitol Hill in the Booth Building at the southeast corner of East Pine and Broadway, less than a mile south of where its new campus would be built. After a year, in the summer of 1915, it featured two studios, five teachers and 80 pupils. The growth was impressive. Five years later, when the enlarged and relocated academy was being planned and the cash to build it first pursued, the school held 27 studios serving 1,154 pupils, led by 26 teachers. Those halls of ivy surely resonated with the reflecting sounds of rehearsing students. (I remember well that joyful, on the whole, noise from the early 1970s, when I taught filmmaking to Cornish students, most of whom, like me, could not afford to make films.)
This school of “allied arts” was founded by its namesake, the confident pedagogue-pianist Nellie Cornish. As late as the 1970s, the often-convivial tone of her directions were still remembered by some as sometimes comedic. For instance, at one of the Sunset Club’s Masquerades, Nellie proved her sense of humor when she won the “funniest costume” award. Cornish also frequently gave lectures, many of them before the city’s applauded Ladies Musical Club.
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Both photographers aimed northwest from the fortunately irregular Capitol Hill intersection of East Roy Street and Harvard Avenue. Following the Cornish example, this part of the Capitol Hill neighborhood became sophisticatedly snug when joined by the Woman’s Century Club and the Rainier Chapter of the DAR (both built in 1925), and architect Arthur Loveless’ charming Studio Building. HistoryLink’s principal founder, Walter Crowley, describes the last in his National Trust Guide to Seattle (1998) as a “delightful mimic” of England’s Cotswold villages. Crowley notes that to the north and west of this prospect are the admired homes that make this Seattle’s only residential preserve, the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District.