North Queen Anne School Blackboard
Summary: Construction workers found a peek into history when a demolition team uncovered a surprise hidden behind a wall at North Queen Anne School.
Hidden Gems: Surprise Find During Demolition Brings 1938 Graduate Back to North Queen Anne School
Construction workers found a peek into Seattle Public Schools history when a demolition team uncovered a surprise hidden behind a wall at North Queen Anne School. A blackboard contained signatures of multiple people and included the date, Jan. 31, 1938.
Who were these people? The lists of names were clearly grouped, leading to speculation that the names on the left were students and those on the right belonged to staff members.
No matter whose names were on the blackboard, this was a fun find. SPS posted the image to social media in April, and someone recognized the name of a former neighbor. That person reached out to the neighbor’s family, and soon the project manager had a visit from the daughter of one of the people who signed the chalkboard — Ardelle Blunt, who graduated from eighth grade at the school that January. Sadly, Blunt passed away in July 2021, but her daughter enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on her mother at age 14.
Other names included on the blackboard were Blunt’s best friends, Ruth (Ruthie) Hanson, Reidun Gunderson, and Marguerite (Polly) Angelis. These four had been friends since second grade, and they were moving up to Queen Anne High School together.
“I was told by my sister that they staggered the classes graduating, so half of them graduated January … and then the others were six months later,” said Blunt’s daughter who visited the school to see the chalkboard.
That early friendship continued throughout their lives, leading to the Birthday Club — a celebration for each of them together. Their families also remained close, with summer picnics and other gatherings.
A few years ago, Blunt, Hanson, and Gunderson visited North Queen Anne together shortly after the school building re-opened to house Cascade Parent Partnership in 2014. Principal Owen Gonder arranged to meet them and their families for a tour. Except for finishes, reports were the school had not changed much from when they attended.
Soon, the project team was connected to the families of Hanson and Gunderson. Coincidently, Hanson lives next door in a retirement community that backs up to the North Queen Anne parking lot and front entrance. Hanson had selected an apartment that looked over her old school.
SPS was happy to welcome Hanson and her daughter, Sally, one day in June, as well as Gunderson’s son and Blunt’s daughter the next day. Unfortunately, Gunderson was not feeling well that day, so her son took photos to show her the blackboard she signed in 1938.
Preserving the Memory
The demolition is part of a project to upgrade the North Queen Anne School building for earthquake safety. Facility improvements are also being made to better meet the needs of the school that now uses the building, Cascade Parent Partnership.
Attempts to remove the blackboard to preserve it were unsuccessful. The blackboard turned out to be a type of paint applied directly to the wall finish. Any removal would result in crumbled pieces. As a compromise, plans were made for photographs that could be installed in the renovated building once it was complete.
Luckily, project engineers found a way to preserve a small part of the chalkboard by building a window into the new reinforced wall. The 36-inch square will frame the names of the three friends – along with their classmates – making them a permanent part of Cascade Parent Partnership’s new library.
The seismic upgrades for earthquake safety and other facility improvements are funded by voter-approved capital levies. This project is part of SPS’s work to provide safe and welcoming schools for every student.
Cascade Parent Partnership is an alternative learning experience school where staff and families collaborate. Together, they create individualized learning plans that support the unique needs and interests of diverse learners. Students learn in classrooms, at home, and wherever their curiosity takes them. Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, the school will also offer the district’s K-12 virtual option for those looking for a fully remote option.