Story and photos by Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Exactly two years after the Fauntleroy Community Service Agency completed the deal to buy it from Seattle Public Schools, the old schoolhouse at 9131 California SW is full of new life, and new opportunities – for example, want to host your next meeting in a conference room with a bonafide old-school (literally) blackboard?
Even before the multi-year effort that secured the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse’s longterm future as a community-owned facility, it was already home to an eclectic, if small, assortment of established businesses/organizations – Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering, Fauntleroy Children’s Center, Seattle Civic Dance Theatre/Dance! West Seattle among them. Now they’ve been joined by others, with room still for more.
Education is obviously a natural fit; last year, looking for a new home, Lincoln Park Cooperative Preschool – which is an educational program for parents as well as preschoolers – landed at the schoolhouse.
But you might be surprised by what, and who, else you find if you tour the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse, as we did one day recently. Such as – an international game business!
Devir Americas, which distributes board, card, and strategy games, is based there. “We sell games that involve strategy, imagination, mathematics, foreign languages, critical thinking, and all kinds of other elements that are not only mental exercise for our customers but are also addictively fun,” says Devir’s Matt Hyland.
You can’t tell right away, though, that they’re behind one of the doors lining the old schoolhouse hallway:
That’s what you see shortly after you enter the schoolhouse’s center front doors, over which a “CELEBRATE COMMUNITY” banner hung during the June 2010 celebration of the schoolhouse purchase (WSB video coverage here). Till our tour, we hadn’t realized there are rooms open to community members/groups even on a short-term, one-time basis – including two meeting/conference rooms, the one atop our story and this cozier one:
That second, smaller one includes photos of famous faces from schoolhouse history:
Those, explain our guides, are ancestors of “Dr. Pierce” – that’s Dr. Jack Pierce, who helped get the Fauntleroy Community Service Agency going more than 30 years ago, and is also known as former owner of Fauntleroy’s historic Laurentide estate. In a schoolhouse that’s almost a century old – a Seattle Public Schools document details its history – such touches seem fitting, to say the least.
You’ll find preserved pieces of the past everywhere, side by side with renovated areas. A larger room that’s available for booking has been used for fitness groups and classes – and includes some of the original classroom features, like the blackboard:
Elsewhere in the building, you will find other echoes of the schoolhouse’s history, like these shelves:
In some spots, the echo is as simple as a word on a door:
Teaching comes in many forms. Fitness/wellness instructors are finding the schoolhouse a haven, including Mick Philp of Rain City Fitness:
Mick is a West Seattle-residing certified personal trainer, with specialties including kettlebell training, TRX suspension training, barbell lifts, and “bootcamp-style bodyweight conditioning.” His background also includes lacrosse, basketball, and teaching woodshop at West Seattle High School.
Other fitness providers in the building include:
West Seattle Aikikai teaches Aikido; chief instructor Darren McKee has more than 30 years of experience, and leads classes for youth and adults two nights a week. He says, “Aikido emphasizes cooperation and ‘blending’ with others to protect yourself and resolve aggressive situations.”
There’s yoga in the schoolhouse too – Nicole Miller‘s Blooming Wild Yoga has classes there weekly, including parent/toddler classes as well as adult sessions. “When you are more grounded, you are more able to soar fluidly through your day,” Nicole believes.
And Pilates – you might recall our story last July about instructor Pamela Phillips-Blevins uncovering an unerased blackboard, circa 1939, during remodeling work:
(July 2011 photo by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
Then there are the day-in, day-out, longtime tenants, like Fauntleroy Children’s Center, in its fourth decade. Director Kim Sheridan was among those who led our tour of the schoolhouse – including the space her facility uses, on its north side:
The FCC halls are where you are reminded most of the schoolhouse’s history, as well as its vibrant present – a new paint job, with work donated by Paint The Town, was under way when we visited, with new color emerging everywhere:
FCC has daily programs for children 4 weeks through preschool, and before/after-school care for ages 5 through 12. It’s accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and its headquarters occupy a sizable amount of space in the schoolhouse:
A big event for FCC is just weeks away. Sheridan explained, “FCC is celebrating its 25th auction this year! Though we have been in operation since 1978, this is the 25th year for our annual auction. I can tell you that first year I was so surprised when the poster came back and said first ‘annual’ auction, but here we are 25 years later still having a grand time raising money to support the children and families.”
The FCC auction/dinner will be March 24th on the other side of the schoolhouse at The Hall at Fauntleroy, with auctioneer Bob Watt and emcees Jim Dever from KING TV and Greg Nickels, former mayor turned Secretary of State candidate. (Tickets? 206-932-9590.)
Also on the south side of the site, the new year has brought new classes for Seattle Civic Dance Theatre/Dance! West Seattle, which has been in business 30 years. Last month, artistic director Kim Dinsmoor says, they started hip-hop classes, while continuing to offer jazz, ballet, and pre-ballet. (The dance school’s latest happenings are detailed online.)
One big reason people from all over West Seattle – and beyond! – have come to the schoolhouse is Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering and Events, which caters offsite but is proudest of the aforementioned Hall at Fauntleroy, on the south side of the site. Co-owners David Haggerty, Meg Haggerty, and David Meckstroth explain that, “The Hall at Fauntleroy was born by updating the décor, renovating the interiors of both the former auditorium and gym spaces, and installing a beautiful garden where once was a former playground,” adding, “We are excited to join with the FCSA to keep the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse a community treasure that is thriving, vibrant, and community-minded – a true anchor and hub for West Seattle!”
So much interior work has happened to revitalize the schoolhouse – both before and after the purchase closed two years ago – but there’s a big exterior project looming:
Its roof needs to be replaced. And that’s going to require a community fundraising campaign – $1 million, according to the Fauntleroy Community Association‘s “Neighbors” newsletter. Also unresolved: FCSA bought 3 1/2 acres of the 5-acre schoolhouse site, and the future of the rest of the site has yet to be settled.
But for now, the focus is on bringing even more of the community into the space that’s available, and to the services that are offered. So next time you come to the schoolhouse for an event – maybe the 25th FCC dinner/auction as mentioned above on March 24th, or the Chief Sealth International High School dinner/auction coming up next weekend, or a meeting – FCA will be in The Hall with its annual Food Fest membership drive next month – or the Fauntleroy Fall Festival … keep in mind there’s a lot more than meets the eye. If you are interested in exploring possibilities – maybe renting a conference room or scheduling an event or classes for the big room with the mats and windows – property manager Denise Wallace is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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