In the 1970s, needing to update the school’s aging heating system, the Highline School District consolidated three elementary schools into the empty Seahurst Junior High. Lake Burien Elementary School was closed in 1976. Later, through the efforts of Burien residents, the school property was acquired by King County Parks. In 1978, Seattle Regular Baptist bought the property from the school district, operating its own school program there into the 1980s.
By 1992, King County had purchased the property as a potential park site and was preparing to demolish the school building. There was some controversy about what to do with the property. Some wanted a retirement home and others wanted low-income housing. Recognizing the artistic and historic value of the school entrance’s cast ornaments, Vivian Matthews, community activist and former Burien deputy mayor, convinced King County to spare the sculptures and obtained funding to safely remove them.
Protected by many coats of paint over the years, the ornaments were carefully removed from the building, loaded onto a flatbed truck, stored at Kirk’s Feed and the Highline School District’s Maintenance Facility, and eventually mounted on the arch which stands today in the park. The only damage sustained was a broken ear.
- Does the arch have clues to where it came from? Can you find creatures on the arch?
About the Artist
The Burien Parks-Arts-Recreation Council was formed in 1993 and assumed responsibility for the sculptures. Burien City Council proposed placing them in the Lake Burien School Park—the first park for the new city. Roger Patton Jr., who attended Lake Burien School, designed a structure to hold the sculptures—an arch replicating the school’s front entrance—where they could sit high off the ground, as they had over the front doors of the school.
Many community members, organizations, and suppliers helped create the Arch at the Lake Burien School Park. Friends of Burien Parks member Pam Harper took the lead on the project and enlisted the help of a local architect, builder, and a variety of suppliers. The Friends sold personalized bricks—some engraved with apples to identify teachers and principals—that are part of the plaza today.
The Arch took a year to design and build. An art conservator rebuilt the pieces, a dedication ceremony was held, and trees were planted. Two large Hawthorne trees on the Park's west side have survived from when the school was still standing.
Burien City Council negotiated the assumption of responsibility for Lake Burien Park with King County in 1994. The City took the lead in construction of Lake Burien Park, completed later that year.
City of Burien
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