No history of land on America is complete without an acknowledgement of the indigenous people who preceded us.
In Seattle, the Duwamish exist as the host indigenous tribe to the area. Stories of the Duwamish people place their presence in Seattle dating back to the last Ice Age. Our namesake, Chief Si'ahl, or Chief Seattle, emphasized ecological citizenship and respect for the land of his people.
The Duwamish people were some of the first to use principles of cohousing, with multiple families inhabiting one "longhouse." Once white settlers began to occupy the land where the Duwamish were living, they began to push the tribe off their land. In 1855, near present-day Mulkiteo, the Treaty of Point Elliot was signed. The treaty was a lands settlement which required the Duwamish, among other tribes, to be pushed off their land within a year of ratification of the treaty in order to make room for the white settlers.
Today, the Duwamish tribe is made up of roughly 600 members, and is dedicated to the preservation of its peoples' rich history on this land, promoting "social, cultural and economic survival of the Duwamish tribe. The Duwamish tribe has not been granted federal recognition, and currently rely on their established 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Duwamish Tribal Services, to support their community.
To support the Duwamish, contact the Honorable Cecile Hanson at Duwamish Tribal Services, chair of the Duwamish tribe and great-great grandniece of Chief Si'ahl. Help raise your voice for the Duwamish by sending a letter to your representative. To learn more about the Duwamish culture, visit their website.
A map of federally recognized tribes who settled in Washington state. The Duwamish tribe is not federally recognized, but occupied roughly within the above box. Many members of the tribe still reside within the same areas of present-day Seattle, Burien, Tukwila, Renton, and Redmond.
DECEMBER 8, 1902
5031 University Way NE
THROUGH THE YEARS
“A small community developed on the north shore of Portage Bay. The area, known as Brooklyn, was annexed into the City of Seattle in 1881 and linked to Capitol Hill by the Latona Bridge in 1892. The children of the sparsely settled neighborhood attended the Latona School. Growing enrollment at the University of Washington, then situated in downtown Seattle, required the construction of a larger campus, and a 600-acre site in Brooklyn was settled. Construction began in 1894. At the turn of the century, the citizens of Brooklyn sought to convince the Seattle School District that their community needed its own school.”
Featured in Building for Learning, Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000
1902 - University Heights school is built.
1903 – University Heights Elementary School opens. Architects Charles Bebb and Louis Mendel.
1907 – construction begins on a 13-room addition, opened in 1908.
1909 – AYP exposition, 500+ students attend the school.
1920 – Enrollment peaks at over 900 students.
1924 – 800+ student in attendance of UHeights Elementary.
1927 – The Auditorium is constructed.
1927 – 7th and 8th graders leave to attend John Marshall Junior High School, decreasing enrollment.
1930 – Enrollment begins to decline.
1939 – 400 students in attendance.
2010 – University Heights is registered as a National Heritage Site by the US Department of the Interior.
2014 – New Playground with the support of Delta Air Lines.
2015 – Seismic Retrofit and renovation of grounds with support from Building for Communities (WA State) and 4Culture funds.
2016 – University Heights Plaza opens with support of the City of Seattle.
2017 – Auditorium renovated with City of Seattle, 4Culture and Lucky Seven Foundation.
2019 – Repaired roof, parapets, and cornices through major support from Heritage Capital Project Fund, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, 4Culture, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, and Norcliffe Foundation.
Today – UHeights operates as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to arts and community. The beautiful facility that once housed the elementary school is now home to a dozen resident organizations, including six schools and afterschool programs. We continue to grow community programs that address our City's most pressing needs.
University Heights building, 1902
University Heights building, 1960
1955 – A program for deaf children begins at University Heights.
1960s - Showing the start of a multi-ethnic curriculum.
1971 – Individualized education program launched to promote progress for each child’s learning.
A class photo of students on the steps of University Heights, 1946
1972 – University Heights Alternative Program, an alternative school program, launched. This program was centered around ideals of teaching students to value “curiosity, exploration, and responsibility in an open environment” with emphasis on education in small groups.
1988 – University Heights is entered into consideration for closure. Students, faculty, parents and additional protesters create a coalition to save the school, and formed circle around the building chanting “Be cool, save our school.”
1989 – School is closed by the district due to low enrollment.
1990 – University Heights Center for the Community Association is established by activists who protested the school’s initial closure.
2009 – The University Heights School is purchased from the Seattle School District with State of Washington, King County, City of Seattle and UHeights funds. We are grateful to Speaker Frank Chopp of the Washington State House of Representatives and others who tirelessly worked to make this possible and to ensure that our Community Center continued to serve the Greater Seattle area.
Former Speaker - Frank Chopp
University Heights building, today