A Football Championship from the Archives

South School Football Team, 1895-1896, (spl_shp_22725)
South School Football Team, 1895-1896

~posted by Jade

Still got football on your mind? While perusing our Special Collections Online after Sunday’s game, I came across these photographs of the South School Football Champions of 1895-1896. Needless to say, they piqued my curiosity and I decided to do a little digging. What was the South School and how did its team become the football champions nearly 100 years ago?

Lucky for me, we had several books in the Seattle Room that helped me uncover more information about the history of the school including a scrapbook documenting the reunion of South School alumni. From what I learned, the life of the South School was fairly short-lived. The school began as a two room wooden building located at 6th Avenue and Main Street in 1873. Its construction helped alleviate some of the crowded conditions at Seattle’s main public school at the time, the Central School. In April 1888, a fire destroyed the Central School and heightened the need for more educational space. The South School moved to a new, larger building in 1889 that was located on Weller Street between 10th Avenue South and 12th Avenue South (just south of where Bailey Gatzert Elementary School stands today). The school was open to any children who lived south of Cherry Street. When the nearby Jackson Hill Regrade began in 1907, concerns over the safety of the building led to its permanent closure in 1909.

As for the championship football game, I found coverage of the school’s football league in the issues of the Seattle Post Intelligencer available online through Chronicling America. The Seattle Athletic Club formed the public school league in 1895 hoping to develop a love of football in the city’s youth. Each participating team was awarded a five dollar football, training and the chance at winning the league trophy. After beating out the competition, the South School team made it to the championship against the Rainier School on December 20, 1896. Imagine my surprise when, instead of a play by play recap of the contest between the two teams, I found this article describing the championship game: “South School Wins Championship. The Rainier school football team failed to appear at the Y.M.C.A. park yesterday morning to play the South school team for the public school championship and the S.A.C. cup. The game was awarded to the South School by Referee Frank Brown.”  Not quite the ending I was anticipating but a win nonetheless!

Interested in seeing more pictures of the South School? Take a look at Special Collections Online to see photographs of the school, students, teachers and more. (Make sure to look at this picture of the Jackson Hill Regrade to see why some might have thought that the school’s location was unsafe.)

Interested in reading more about the South School or other Seattle schools? Check out “Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000.”

South School, 1901, (spl_shp_22802)
South School, 1901


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