On February 25, 1905, the Walla Walla Evening Statesman ran an article entitled "Will Build $45,000 School House". The architect hired to design the new building was the prominent Henry Osterman. Mr. Osterman designed the County Courthouse, as well as Sharpstein School. Plans for the new school were to build it in Green's Addition. Because of the area's park-like appearance, Green Park became the name of the school. The decision to build was based upon two factors, the increase in student enrollment and the finance committee's report on the district's finances. The student population had increased 11 percent between 1903 and 1904, and the percentage of increase for the following year was anticipated to be another six percent.
A 12-room building (excluding the basement) was designed, and bricks were purchased from Weston at $9 per thousand. Stone was purchased from Tenino stone quarries. The new school would be for grades one through eight, which for many would be a complete education.
1952 Building Addition
Together with the problem of an aging facility, more room was needed to accommodate the population growth of Walla Walla. In 1952, an addition included a gym and eight new classrooms, as well as new playground equipment. The updated facility served the community well, but by the late 1970's, the building leaked and no classroom was without water damage. The original 1905 structure was in particularly bad shape. The computer room was in cramped quarters next to the boiler room in the basement. When bricks and loose mortar started falling off the building in 1980, the school was forced to close and classes were scheduled at Berney and Prospect Point. The faculty was becoming discouraged and even designed a T-Shirt that hung in the teachers' lounge featuring a drawing of the school showing a brick falling off the building and a sign reading "Hard Hat Area". The caption read "Green Park School 1905- ?"
The 1905 building stood unquestioned in its existence for 68 years. The building remained standing as a landmark for those who attended the school and those whose children attended the school. But the peaceful existence of the building was threatened in 1973 when talk began of change. School buildings were being re-evaluated throughout town and in December the district announced plans to remodel Washington school and replace Berney and Green Park. Green Park was described as "rapidly declining as an adequate teaching tool." The estimated cost for renovating the 1952 addition and replacement of the 1905 building was estimated at $940,080, twenty times the cost of the original construction. The findings of the architects must have made the school board suspicious of the firm's need for major commissions, because the school board planned to have the city health and fire departments, as well as the city engineer survey the schools after the architects' recommendations had been made.
The decision to tear down Green Park was not followed through in 1973. However, in 1982, attention was returned to the school. In August it was announced that the school board planned to close Green Park and Paine, but "no decision to close schools, [would] be finalized without considerable opportunity for public comment" according to Superintendent of Public Schools, Dennis Ray.
One year later Jerry Lawrence, member of a Tacoma architectural firm specializing in historic buildings, declared Green Park worth saving. He studied the building over the summer of 1983 and found that the 1905 portion of the school was structurally more sound than the 1952 addition. Upon completion of the renovation, the predicted life span of the 1905 portion would be 50-75 years while the 1952 section was only expected to survive 30-50 years.
The community was torn as to what should be done with the building. One group of citizens was active in the effort to save the building and another group was ready to demolish the building and start from scratch. Those in favor of new construction were hoping for a modern structure with all the modem conveniences a school could have. Those in favor of renovating realized that an old building could be updated with the same modern conveniences as a new building while retaining the original facade and character of the building students had enjoyed for the 78 years of the schools existence.
The year 1984 kicked off the battle of the ballots concerning the fate of Green Park Elementary School. After many attempts, in 1993 the voters finally approved the plan to save historic Green Park and replace the 1952 structure with a completely new structure. The $6.7 million investment completed in 1995 included an elevator, computer lab, library, gym, and cafeteria, as well as additional classrooms, common areas, and multi-purpose room. These features allowed the school to accommodate a larger student body as a three section school with room for future expansion.
Over the summer of 2019, bond dollars provided for a roof replacement and security enhancements at Green Park. We are very proud and thankful that Walla Walla has given us such a wonderful facility. The future continues to shine brightly for Green Park!
Many students have passed through Green Park to become wonderful citizens, but two have became famous.
Bill Anderson attended Green Park and later Whitman College. While there, he became interested in the theater and he decided to give that career a try. He changed his name to Adam West and became TV's Batman.
Drew Bledsoe went to Green Park and later excelled in football at Washington State University. He was drafted Number 1 in the NFL Draft of 1993 and retired from the league in 2006. Drew Bledsoe played quarterback for the New England Patriots, the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys.