The stately school that opened in 1910 was awarded landmark status by the city in 1988.
SET FIVE OR so blocks east of Puget Sound and 200 feet above it, Gatewood Elementary School is only a half-mile west of — and about 320 feet below — the highest point in Seattle.
At 520 feet above the tides, this elevated area is appropriately called High Point, and like the school below, its two water towers face Myrtle Street.
In our “Now” photo, Myrtle interrupts the northward extension of 44th Avenue Southwest, bottom left. In the historical photo, we can detect the rails and timber ties of the trolley line that spurred the building of homes and families in this part of West Seattle.
The streetcars began running south from The Junction at Alaska Street and California Avenue in 1907. The tracks turned west on Myrtle, and soon after passing the school turned south past the Kenny Home to reach the nearby Fauntleroy neighborhood and its pier for ferry and Mosquito Fleet connections with all of Puget Sound, most important with Vashon Island.
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Despite the school’s name, no great gate was built to open for admission into these woods. Rather, the school is named for Carlisle Gatewood, a developer who platted two residential additions nearby: Gatewood Acres and Gatewood Gardens.
Liking, perhaps, the picturesque qualities of the name, the Seattle School Board kept it for its neighborhood school, which opened in 1910 on the campus’ original 1.67 acres. The first year’s attendance of 268 students indicates the school was needed — perhaps desperately. While the 1922 addition by architect Floyd A. Naramore was later demolished, the original schoolhouse was saved and designated a city landmark in 1988.
Certainly, by many tastes, the Tudor-style Gatewood School is beautiful. The architect, Edgar Blair, was 35 when he moved here in 1906. Three years later, he succeeded the prolific James Stephen as the Seattle school architect. Blair kept busy. As we learn from the helpful UW Press tome “Shaping Seattle Architecture,” Blair drew the plans for many other schools with which the reader might well be familiar. His more than 35 school designs (originals and additions) include three Seattle high schools: Franklin, Ballard (since replaced) and West Seattle.
Gatewood is but one part of the undulating neighborhood that looks west across Puget Sound from the long and laid-back western side of West Seattle. The 5 miles from Duwamish Head to Fauntleroy is worth an unplanned exploration. Across Puget Sound, the string of Olympic Mountains summits, with their sunsets, is the benchmark for what is also alluring about the western side of West Seattle.
In 1924, the enduring gift of this panorama inspired a sentimental majority of the West Seattle Commercial Club to profess, “We feel that the term West Seattle covering the west side is confusing.” In its place the business boosters proposed a new “blanket term to cover the entire west side.” The term, elegiac but short-lived, was “Olympic Hills.”