AKA: Monroe School District, Monroe Junior High School and Wagner Auditorium, Monroe, WA; Wagner Performing Arts Center, Monroe, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - middle schools

Designers: Mallis, William, Architect (firm); Tait Engineering Company (firm); Francis W. Grant (architect); Albin R. Johnson (architect); William Mallis (architect); Tait

Dates: constructed 1938-1939

1 story

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639 West Main Street
Monroe, WA 98272

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Architect William Mallis (1883-1954) designed this middle school and auditorium in 1939; Local lumberman Frank Wagner donated significant funds for the auditorium's construction as a way of memorializing his father, George, who passed away in 1931. The complex included a one-story school building and an auditorium, capable of seating more than 700.

Building History

Monroe Union High School Board Chairman and grocer, Edmund H. Streissguth (1895-1942), presided over the dedication of Monroe's new Wagner Middle School on 09/14/1939, a ceremony that featured remarks by Washington Governor Clarence Daniel Martin (1886-1955). (See "Governor Dedicates Junior Hi; Monroe Has Fine Building," Monroe Monitor, vol. 41, no. 30, 09/22/1939, p. 1.) Begun on 10/01/1938, the Monroe Middle School cost $144,771.75, of which $64,000 came from federal government loans, $10,500 from the school board's budget, $20,000 from the State of Washington, $31,590 from the Wagner Family, and $18,200 from a special local school board levy. The school complex had three constituent units: the classroom wing, auditorium and gymansium. The local newspaper, the Monroe Monitor, outlined the classroom wing's general characteristics: "There are four classrooms in the building, a science laboratory, study hall with 60-student capacity; library and a home economics room; all on one floor." (See "Ceremony Tonight To Dedicate New School Auditorium," Monroe Monitor, vol. 41, no. 29, 09/15/1939, pp. 1, 4.) Scottish-born Seattle architect William Mallis (1883-1954) designed the PWA project and collaborated on its construction with Albin Johnson of the Seattle-based Western Construction Company, the general contractor, and the Tait Engineering Company, the engineering consultant. Francis Grant, working with the PWA, was also credited as working on building engineering.

Streissguth, the chairman of the local high school board, would raise a son, Daniel Streissguth (born 1924), who would become a significant architect in Seattle, teaching for many years at the University of Washington.

The Monroe Monitor newspaper article of 09/15/1939 described the layout of the school in some depth. It started with the wing containing the home economics spaces: "Upon entering one goes through the large double doors to the educational unit. To either side of the entry hall are two classrooms, each 32 feet by 24 feet, equipped with a book case, teacher's cabinet, blackboards, electric clock and a loud speaker. The floors of the classrooms are of a reddish brown color combination, of asphalt tile, and that in the hall is made of brown and tan alternate squares. At the end of the hall to the right are the domestic science rooms in five divisions--the cooking unit, sewing unit, fitting room, store room, and laundry. The kitchen is called the 'unit type kitchen for seven units of four girls each. The units consist of individual sinks, with all necessary cupboard space and fixtures for cooking. The kitchen is also equipped with a seven cubic foot refrigerator. The floor throughour the domestic science rooms is blue. The fitting room is equipped with a triple mirror and indirect lighting facilities. The laundry is equipped with laundry tubs and a heating unit. In the sewing room are six large sewing tables and chairs, the tables being covered with blue linoleum to match the floor. There are locker accommodations for all those taking sewing. The wood work is of light ivory."

It said of the administrator offices: "The hall is 12 feet wide. It is equipped with built-in waste baskets, five drinking fountains and numerous lockers. To the left of the entry hall is the office suite, including a general office with a counter dividing the entrance from the work office, which is a large room for duplicating machines and general office work. Off this room is the public address room. In the private office is a built-in fireproof safe. The floor is mahogany colored."

The long article described the remaining sections of the building: "To the north of the main hall are the study hall, library, science laboratory and lavatories. A wine red is color used for the science rooms, with green flooring used in the study hall and library. As one leaves the educational unit, he emerges in the central hall, back at the auditorium. The new building is constructed in three units--the auditorium, gymnasium, and the classrooms of the school proper. The auditorium has a sloping floor of concrete and a seating capacity of 707 people. The stage has a 32-foot opening. It is 22 feet deep, equipped with two dressing rooms and with all modern lighting accessories, dimmers and disappearing footlights. There are also two rest rooms, adjoining the large lobby. The auditorium is automatically air-conditioned by equipemtn operated separately from that in the other building. It is also wired for a public address system. In the auditorium is a color combination of green and three shades of tan. It is decorated in colored accoustical templock and the walls are of acoustical plaster. The chairs in the auditorium are upholstered in a two-tone wine color with velour backs and corduroy seats. Next to the auditorium is the gymnasium, made with a maple floor, 72 by 56 feet. The construction and size of the floor will make two basketball courts, side by side, of junior high school size. The seating will be handled by use of collapsible bleachers, which will be supplied later. Off the playing floor area girls' locker room and one for the boys, equipped with individual clothes baskets, a shower room and dressing room with two large mirrors. Both locker rooms are furnished alike." (See "Ceremony Tonight To Dedicate New School Auditorium," Monroe Monitor, vol. 41, no. 29, 09/15/1939, pp. 1, 4.)

A fuel-oil-fired boiler provided steam heating for the building. Engineers placed the piping and wiring underneath the floors with separate utility rooms for easy access. Mallis also specified new, automatic systems for shower water heating, plumbing, clocks and room lighting.

Building Notes

The Everett Brick Yard produced all of the bricks used in the building's exterior. The B.F. Shearer Company of Seattle supplied some of the auditorium equipment, while the Wagner Lumber Company of Monroe provided lumber for the school.

Thank you to Connie E. Goss, who shared her research, including two newspaper articles, on the Wagner Middle School and later Performing Arts Center to the author in several emails on 07/15/2018, 09/08/2018, and 09/28/2018.

PCAD id: 22431