The original Vashon College has been gone for more than eighty years. Fires of 1906, 1910 and 1930 claimed all the campus buildings. What remains of Vashon College are the photos and memorabilia collected and preserved by the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association. We are all thankful for their work.
Vashon College was “near Burton” on Vashon Island in Puget Sound. It was primarily a military academy for young men but also was described as a seminary for young women. A non-sectarian school, Vashon none-the less required students to attend daily chapel and Sunday services. In the four-year programs, Vashon had two courses of study—classical and scientific. Until the senior year, students followed a prescribed order of courses. Vashon also provided a school of pharmacy, a conservatory of music and a school of commerce for those students who wanted career training. Vashon, like many colleges at the time, had an academy for those boarding high school-age students who wanted a rigorous high school experience to prepare them for college.
Some students as young as age ten were allowed to enter in the early education program. The school assured parents that there was “no place of evil influence” within eight miles of campus, and that there was “not a drop of alcohol” on the island. According to the Oregonian, Vashon College wanted to “throw around those who attend the influence of a Christian home.” From 80 students its first year, Vashon grew to around 200 students.
Among co-curricular activities, Vashon College students were members of one of two literary societies—the Columbia and the Kalethea. They also published a monthly newspaper.
After Vashon had been in operation for twenty years, a major fire largely destroyed the campus, forcing the college to close.
Since 2006 a new college—purporting to be a re-opened Vashon College—has operated on the island.
Bricks and Mortar
The buildings of Vashon College sat atop a hill overlooking the Quartermaster Bay of Puget Sound. The Main Building was ready for the beginning of school in 1892. A multi-purpose building, it provided classrooms, library, chapel, music conservatory, administrative offices and living quarters for the students. An annex was added in 1898, allowing the conservatory to move from the basement. The other main buildings were Commercial Hall (which also served as the men’s dormitory), and the Gymnasium/Armory (built in 1904), a structure made of wood.
In 1906 Commercial Hall burned, removing dormitory facilities for male students. On December 19, 1910 Main Building burned. The gymnasium was used by a Chinese school until 1912, when all educational activity ceased. A major fire in 1930 removed the gymnasium.
In this 1905 photo, Commercial Hall sits between Main Building (left) and the Gymnasium. (Courtesy of Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association).
Team name: Newspapers often referred to the team as “Islanders.”
Colors: Red and Blue
Vashon fielded teams in baseball, basketball, football and track. The school was a member of the Western Washington Association, traveling by ferry to Tacoma or Seattle for events. In basketball they “acquired an extensive reputation among the smaller institutions of Western Washington.”
Vashon football teams played and lost games to Tacoma, Olympia and Seattle high schools. They also put on the pads with the Tacoma Athletic Club and at least three times with the University of Washington.
Photos suggest that Vashon also fielded a women's basketball team.
(Below) A Vashon College football team from around 1896. The alignment is somewhat odd, and the grounds and equipment seem a bit primitive. (Photo courtesy of Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association)