By Marianne Lincoln
It wasn’t called South Hill years ago, the community was referred to as Firgrove. The pond near 144th Street and Meridian is no longer visible or flooding the roadway in rainy Spring weather. The area is now dotted with strip malls, not tall firs. The Puyallup School District has planned expansions for sport fields and larger schools to accommodate exponential population increases. In the path of all this growth, a small brick schoolhouse at 13918 Meridian E., built by the Public Works Administration in 1935, may fall victim.
From 1974 to 1993, Pat Drake was a teacher at Firgrove School. She is a passionate support of the “Save the School” Committee. Ms. Drake worked at the the Puyallup Herald for several years. In a recent post, she suggested, “Why save Firgrove for a museum? It can store archives —maps, documents, video events, interviews, presentations— a list nine pages long about South Hill archives.”
John Joseph Patzner arrived in the South Hill area in 1892. He donated land for the creation of a school in 1895, insisting they name it Firgrove, after the surrounding trees. The original school was made of wood and the site was was at 136th. With the influx of population to the areas, the community needed a bigger school. In the early 1930’s, Patzner was chairman of the school board and secured funds totaling $11,600 from the Public Works administration for a two classrooms and an auditorium. Over the years, the school expanded to 19 classrooms.
In 2015, district voters approved a bond that included a new Firgrove Elementary that will be located on a different portion of the district property and the old brick Firgrove School is slated to be demolished.
Ms. Drake and other community members have been trying to save the school building and have it host a museum for the community. The South Hill Historical Society is an active organization that recently published a book on South Hill history. The group had a Facebook page, Save Firgrove School. You can read about the Save the School project in on of the South Hill Historical Society Newsletters.
A few years ago, The News Tribune posted a story about Firgrove: Former Firgrove teachers and students have come together to save the brick building that was built in 1935 in South Hill. | Tacoma News Tribune (thenewstribune.com) (You may need TNT access to see this article)
The Bethel School District saved the 1935 portion of the Elk Plain School, my best wishes that the Puyallup School District will have a change of heart before it is too late.