From school to community center: Still a place of education

In 1892, the Bay Side Addition sold land to the Seattle school council to build an elementary school. As population increased in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, a new building was erected alongside of the first to accommodate more students. This second building is the focus of this post.

Beacon Hill Elementary School, 1904

The 1904 building can hold 400 students. But by 1926, the school again was overcrowded with 800 children. Portables were brought to make more room as parents demanded a new school. Finally, in March of 1971, the elementary students walked five blocks to their new school. Over the next year and a half, the neighborhood and city debated about what to do about the property. A group of Chicanos asked to view the building as possible buyers. Once inside, they staged a sit as they had spent months prior trying to negotiate with the school council their pitch for the building, a community center for people of color.

El Centro celebrates 10 years The Seattle Times, October 1982

The social justice movement of the time inspired this group as Native American peoples occupying Fort Lawton in 1970 to restore their treaty rights of fighting in Washington. By the end of 1972, the city of Seattle leased the group the building for $1 a year until they officially bought the building in 1999. It became known as El Centro de la Raza and since its establishment has helped various communities by providing bilingual services, building apartments complex for low to mid income families and holding cultural events.

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