Gracemont Alumni Hall

Our history as a school is important as we look ahead to the future. As part of the school’s Centennial celebrations, Gracemont Alumni Hall is getting ready for the next hundred years. A historic hub on campus defined by the iconic classrooms, bustling hallways, and a center windowsill, Gracemont has housed great teaching and learning at Bush for generations. 

Built in 1915, Gracemont Alumni Hall was purchased by The Bush School in 1944. It is currently undergoing extensive renovations and seismic retrofit, making the building—which houses classroom spaces, student resources, and faculty and staff offices—more accessible and structurally reinforced. These efforts will also preserve historic materials and details. Scheduled for completion during the 2023-2024 school year, this meticulously managed project has not only preserved original details, but also has uncovered previously hidden features.

In a recent article by the National Business Officers Association (NBOA), Michael Housley, the project architect from SHKS Architects overseeing the project, emphasized the school’s desire to preserve the history and overall visual aesthetic of Gracemont.  “The school definitely wanted to retain as much of the historic fabric as possible, with the least impact visually or otherwise from any of the modifications, whether it be accessibility or structural,” Housley said. 

Notable efforts include preserving wood paneling and decorative plasterwork on ceilings while integrating door auto-operators into stonework or near adjacent railings. “An alum approaching Gracemont post-renovation will see a building that appears mostly unaltered from its original construction over a century ago; however, moving around and within Gracemont they will discover it is now much more universally accessible,” Housley said.  

Preserving History
Throughout construction, the team has uncovered various historical components that will remain visible post-renovation to celebrate the methods used during Gracemont’s construction. For instance, original plasterwork has been saved where possible. The intricate wood lattice cornice details in the sun room (or “loggia,” as it was referred to in the original blueprints) and classrooms on the main floor have been preserved. In the basement—affectionately referred to as “Basemont” by alums and students—the team uncovered a solid brick masonry wall and arch that separates the computer lab from the open gathering space. This will remain exposed on both sides to reveal the brick. On the second floor, beautiful brickwork from the east chimney was revealed and will be exposed when the project is complete.

Despite offering nearly 12,000 square feet of space, Gracemont’s residential design was still evident through its narrow corridors, inaccessible bathrooms, abundance of stairs—many of which were not code compliant—and the absence of an elevator.
The Gracemont project is heavily focused on accessibility improvements. Housley has seen the school’s commitment to making the building accessible and notes, “at some point after the school acquired Gracemont, they carefully modified the central stair and installed a small lift to better accommodate a student who used a wheelchair.” Today the current renovation scope improves accessibility by adding a small elevator on the first floor that will allow access to the basement and the second floor. The refurbishment continues site access improvements made during previous upgrades, including an accessible sidewalk and parking stalls.

Gracemont Reopening: An Invitation
As students and faculty move into the space later this year, we hope alums will visit campus and see the updates in action. The intention and attention given to Gracemont Alumni Hall will transport you right back to the days of Meta O’Crotty taking a break on the porch, an heated history debate with teacher Susanne Eckert, and the hours spent soaking in all of the little nooks and crannies of the building. We cannot wait to welcome you back.
The Bush School is an independent, coeducational day school located in Seattle, WA enrolling 715 students in grades K–12. The mission of The Bush School is to spark in students of diverse backgrounds and talents a passion for learning, accomplishment, and contribution to their communities.

3400 East Harrison Street, Seattle WA 98112    (206) 322-7978
The Bush School does not discriminate in matters of employment, recruitment, admissions, or administration of any of its programs on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. In addition, The Bush School does not discriminate in matters of employment on the basis of age or marital status.
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