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Puyallup Heights School

By Carl Vest

Education has always been a priority for families on South Hill.  However, early arrivals did not always enjoy the luxury of an established local educational system.  Generally, the first settlers had to send their children to schools elsewhere.  The Kupfer family who came to the Hill in 1879 and the Mosolf’s who came in 1890 sent their children to the Woodland school (technically on the Hill but further west).  Others, like the Miller family, who arrived in 1900, and the Price family who came a bit later, sent their children to Puyallup schools.

In a rural setting, like South Hill at the time, distance was important.  So about 1910 an organized effort got under way to create an educational presence on the northeastern part of South Hill.  Several local citizens got together and drafted a petition requesting that a new school district be established.  The petition drive was a success — with almost all local people signing the document. It was sent to the County School Superintendent for approval.  

The size of the proposed new educational region was an issue.  Since a school district was being requested the boundaries had to be defined.  After many meetings and negotiations it was agreed that about a five-square mile area would constitute the attendance zone, even though only one school building was planned.  In today’s terms the new district would be the areas at the top of the Hill overlooking Puyallup and would include the now commercial parts of the South Hill Mall shopping complex, the apartment centers and the commercial regions of Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Bradley Park.  To the east it would extend to about Shaw Road and to the west to about where Costco is now located.

The petition was approved by the county in the spring of 1911 and designated as District 114.  A contract to build the school building was awarded to Mr. S.C Nicholson, who was paid $1,800.  It was located in an area just off present day Meridian and 106th Street, where a 7-11 store and adjacent apartments are now situated.

The new school district started operation in September 1911, with Miss Dorsey as the first teacher.  It was a one-room school, with eight grades.  Initially it was named Forest Grove School and a sign carved with this designation was installed over the door    Later the title was changed to Puyallup Heights School to avoid confusion with the community name FirGrove. 

For several decades this location was the center of social life for this part of the South Hill community.  Among other things, church services and Sunday school activities were held in the building.  In 1915 the Puyallup Heights Improvement Club was organized and for a time held monthly meetings in the school house.  A recreation hall was also added in the summer of 1915.  In 1916 an addition was built to teach manual arts.

The Puyallup Heights School was absorbed into the Puyallup School system in 1944.  The building was destroyed when the area was developed commercially.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.

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