Students at Central School in Puyallup posed for this photo in about 1888. Today’s public school enrollment in grades from kindergarten through high school tops 22,250.
Fort Maloney served as our city’s first school at what is now Grayland Park. No longer able to accommodate a growing student population, in a building not originally intended to house a school, townspeople decided it was time for a new school to be built. It would be located where the present day Karshner Museum is located. Although larger than the room they shared in the Fort, accommodations were sparse. Logs served as chairs, students had no desks, and with no ceiling, the precious warmth remained high in the rafters. To help remedy this situation, and interesting proposal came about. One of the townspeople owned a flag that had once proudly flown over Fort Steilacoom. The flag was huge, large enough to easily cover the open rafters in the schoolhouse. So large, in fact, that it had to be partially folded to fit in the accommodating space. This school, dubbed the “Green School” because it was entirely coated in green paint, served the city from 1873 until 1886.
However, by 1884, it was apparent that the Green School was becoming to small to serve the growing community. Even with many additions, such as desks and large windows, the building was becoming increasingly inadequate. A new school was proposed, but taxpayers rejected the idea of building the planned $10,000 school. By 1885, a new plan was proposed, cutting the costs to $3,000. With a winning bid of $3,035, construction finally began. By summer 1886, the three-story school was nearly complete. All that was left was to place a 475lb. school bell at the top of the beautiful new building. When classes began in October 1886 enrollment stood at 140 students.
What happened to Central School? Unfortunately, in 1928 the building was destroyed by fire… But, the foundation of the original Central School was not destroyed. It was built upon and used as the original Stewart Elementary, and today that building serves as the Karshner Museum.