In the Beginning
During the 1950s, the King County Planning Commission conducted a comprehensive survey of Renton School District. Pointing to the population growth in the area and therefore the possible increased enrollment in the coming years, the District began purchasing sites for future school construction. In 1942 Renton School District had only 2,000 students enrolled; by 1970 the number had jumped to over 15,000, an increase of 700%. This was the result of the baby boom following the war years and the migration of many to the Seattle region during a period of economic expansion. In the early 1960s, the enrollment in RSD schools was increasing faster than construction could be completed, forcing schools into double shifts.
By 1964, Renton High School was out-growing it’s stately old building on 2nd Street in downtown Renton. At almost 3,000 students, it was clear that another high school had to be built. The district chose a large parcel of land in the Renton Highlands for the new high school. At the time, the neighborhood was mostly rural, with lots of small horse ranches and older homes. Photographs of the area show forests, cleared fields with large gardens and livestock, and homes with great distances between them. It truly felt like the ‘sticks’ compared to RHS.
In 1965, petitions were circulated among Renton’s families recommending that the new high school be named after Oliver M. Hazen. Mr. Hazen had worked for the Renton School District for almost 30 years at that point, and was a well-respected leader in education as well as in the community. He served as Renton’s superintendent from 1936-1966, years of rapid change. Finally, on July 17, 1965, the Renton School Board voted to name the new school Oliver M. Hazen High School.
Mr. Hazen dealt with an influx of over 2,000 new families during World War II as Boeing opened the Renton plant and began building the mighty aircraft that would help win the war. His leadership during the post-war boom and subsequent growth of the district was admired by all.
Ground breaking for Hazen began in February of 1967. The new high school would be situated on 33.8 acres in the Renton Highlands. Total square footage of the original building was 254,925 at a cost of just over $6 million. An addition to Hazen was built in 1977 and added another 19,602 square feet. Subsequent remodeling is featured in “Hazen’s Architecture” at the end of this article.
The building was to be large and multi-floored with pre-cast rooms. The exterior is known as Cold War Institutional with a “brutalism” aesthetic. As a standard practice, buildings that housed children were built to with-stand a wide variety of man-made and natural disasters. The exterior has led students over the years to perpetuate an urban myth that Hazen was originally built as a prison! Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our thanks to Peter Huckle for sharing these photos with us. The “front” of Hazen looking from the southeast. Mrs. Huckle and Peter are walking through an area that will become the auditorium.
Looking at the western wall of Hazen from the baseball fields. The gym and the smoke stack are on the right. Peter Huckle, age 4
The original architectural rendering of Hazen by the firm of Mallis and DeHart.