Maple Valley Grade School, a new $45,000 building in 1920, currently houses only Maple Valley Historical Society. The photo shows the front of the building as seen when entering from SE 216thStreet. A top floor museum is accessed on the right side in a 3-level staircase entry. Photo by D’Ann Tedford
“We’re Moving” is the postcard sized message sent from Maple Valley Historical Society (MVHS) to their newsletter subscribers, to the community, to Tahoma School District alumni. Moving, in the notice, was actually an invitation to come. The invitation continues, “Join us for a ‘Last Look Open House’ to see the schoolhouse and museum collections before we move.” Open house is Saturday, July 21 from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the 23015 SE 216thWay location in Maple Valley.
By the end of August, MVHS will have relocated their third floor museum from the old Maple Valley Grade School. Their collection of school district memorabilia is going into storage with a rotation of displays planned for the future at the Gibbon Store Museum along Witte Road. There are no school district functions occurring in the building’s facilities; therefore, the district is not allowed to spend public funds for an outside organization’s use.
Both the building itself and the museum collection will be fortuitous opportunity to see and visit your first or last time. Information about the building’s history is gleaned from The Seattle Times and Maple Valley Messenger. It is described as a facility to consolidate five school districts within eight classrooms, an auditorium, domestic science and manual training areas. The district’s very first school, an old building on the property now used as storage, had been “fitted up as a gymnasium.” Thirty-five students who enrolled in high school courses the first year consisted of 19 freshmen, nine sophomores, three juniors, and four seniors. Total attendance of all grades was 160 when Maple Valley School opened on Tuesday, Sept. 6,1921.
Final cost of the new building and equipment was $50,000. Even the 1920 and 1921 news articles predicted it would only be a matter of years until a new high school building would need to be erected and the present one used for grade school. Alas, a 1922 newspaper description said, “Two years in, it was considered ‘too small’.”
Visitors on “We’re Moving” day in August might want to take heed of the original building inspector’s suggestions: (1) keep the cloak room sliding doors closed as those coat closets are also used for outlets of foul air; (2) a lack of scales that are deemed “absolutely essential for school medical work” and for the Anti-Tuberculosis League nutrition work; (3) “cause for serious consideration,” just one stairway is leading to the top floor of the building, and that goes right through the center of the building. “Supposing a fire should break out on the lower floor, you can see for yourselves that there would be a catastrophe as there would be no way of getting out. A fire escape should be by all means provided;” (4) four fire extinguishers should be located on the different floors.
Open House visitors are now forewarned: be aware of a stink; MVHS is not providing refreshments … therefore no bathroom scales will be onsite; check to see if the fire escape and fire hydrant mandates apply at your visit 98 years later. Have a nice time and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells.