By Nancy Covert
Inside the familiar brick structure that towers over Steilacoom, once known as Steilacoom School, Steilacoom Historical School District No. 1 board members met on May 1 to review developing plans for the 1916 structure.
Calvin Gasaway, renovation project manager, and representatives from Erickson and McGovern Architects of Spanaway, presented a preliminary report for the structure’s transformation into the District’s main administrative building.
The Tuesday night meeting was held in the school’s “new” cafeteria, constructed in the late 1990s. Ironically, the meeting was held during the start of National Historic Preservation Month. The historic structure’s preservation has been a long, thorough process of interest to many in the community.
The preliminary report featured concepts drawn from staff input that will be modified during the coming months. School Superintendent Bill Fritz said that bids for the work would go out ‘later this summer.”
The building would then be occupied after June 2014.
With the fate of the historic structure of interest to the community, the School Board took steps to ensure the structure’s preservation since building a replacement middle school in 2008.
Those steps included keeping the roof in repair, removing asbestos and installing a new ventilation system. Since the new Pioneer School was opened at DuPont/Northwest Landing, the old building has been used for many of the district’s expanded services and operations.
Scheduled for demolition are the side “wings” and gymnasium. Mr. Fritz added that the “We Love Steilacoom” Food Pantry would remain somewhere on the site, and Kiwanis of Steilacoom would continue to hold its weekly meetings there as well. Plans for the upper field are still “to be determined.” Relocation of the bus barn and its operations to DuPont also are under discussion.
The old Steilacoom school building, built in 1892, was a two-story wooden structure with twin towers, that remained in place until it was dismantled, serving first as a covered play area, and later the site for the newer school’s multi-purpose room.
The “modern” building, which was to be built of tile and brick, included four classrooms and a vocational training area. It also included an auditorium (on the second floor) with a seating capacity for 300 people.
The school opened in December 1916 and served the community for almost a century, until growing enrollment and contemporary educational demands on schools prompted the Board of Steilacoom Historical School District No. 1 to begin planning for a larger facility.