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Washington College

Seattle and Tacoma, Washington



What we know of Washington College comes from its advertisements and occasional news items that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Tacoma Daily News.  The Tacoma Public Library Digital Collection contains images of the building and students.

Students and teachers at Washington College.  Photo from Tacoma Public Library Digital Collection. TPL-4144  Accessed 2-4-2018


In January 1884 Washington College was a Seattle school with 45 students.  After a brief name change to Yesver College, it reappeared in advertisements in 1885 as a Tacoma school with its name restored .  Advertised as a “boarding and day school for young men and boys,” it accepted pupils as young as ten.  


The school boasted that its courses of study were “thoroughly taught.”  These courses included Languages, English, Mathematics, Science, Business, Music, and Drawing.  By 1890 a “post-graduate course” had been added including "higher algebra, solid geometry, trigonometry, Herodotus, Greek testament, Horace, Livy, English literature, logic, and world problems."  The school was pleased that 41 of the 84 students were pursuing a Classical course of study.  One of the trustees hoped that "Washington College will some day be a college in fact as well as name."


Washington College was sponsored by the Episcopal Church.  Its companion school in Tacoma was the Annie Wright Seminary for girls.  The two schools sponsored joint outings, dances and other social activities together.  One social group was the Gratus Cum Dulce club, which sponsored some of the entertainments.


Students at Washington College published a “spicy little journal” called The Collegian  twice each month.


A new president,  arriving in August of 1892, determined that the school would not reopen until the spring. It apparently never did, due at least in part to the financial panic of 1892-93.


Washington College officially closed in 1896 with its resources going to Annie Wright Seminary.


Bricks and Mortar

Ads in 1885 note that a gift from C.B. Wright and the generosity of Tacoma residents had allowed the school to build a “commodious and well-appointed building” in Tacoma.  It was a “high and healthy site,” bounded by Tacoma Avenue, G Street, 7th Street and 8th Street.  Dormitory space was such that each boarder had a single room.


By 1890 enrollment had nearly doubled, and newspaper articles began to note the need for more space.  Oft-mentioned plans to trade the downtown location for one in the suburbs never materialized.


Washington School property was ultimately purchased by the Tacoma school board with the building being renovated for the high school.  It was razed in 1912 to make way for a new school.

Washington College building.  Image from the Tacoma Public Library Digital Collection. TPL-1028


In conjunction with commencement, Washington College students participated in a ten-event field day.  Events included base running, the 50 and 100 yard dashes, the standing and running high jumps, the standing and running broad jumps, the sack and three-legged races, the baseball throw and putting the shot.


In 1891 Washington College became a founding member of the Western Washington Intercollegiate Athletic Association, joining the University of Washington, Tacoma Academy, Puget Sound University and Whitworth College.  That same year Washington College participated in the conference field day involving tennis, track and field events and baseball games.


Newspapers record three football games.  Washington College played the University of Washington to 0-0 and 6-6 ties in 1890 and 1891.  In 1891 the team also played Seattle University to a 6-6 draw.


Newspaper accounts show two lawn tennis clubs on campus with a tournament.  At the 1892 W.W.I.A.A. meet, Washington College students won both the singles and doubles competition.  



Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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