The old Nell Hoyt Primary School in Tacoma’s North End will get a new lease on life as a Tacoma Public Schools regional preschool center early in the new year.
The school, named for preschool pioneer Nell Hoyt of Tacoma, was built in 1957 as an extension of nearby Washington Elementary.
Most recently, it held Washington’s kindergarten and first-grade students. With the opening of a new Washington building last year, the school’s youngest students were able to move to the main campus in the heart of the Proctor District. Hoyt is located blocks away, on Union Avenue between North 27th and North 28th streets.
Hoyt is currently undergoing renovations that will allow it to have early-learning programs similar to those at the Willard Early Learning Center, which the school district opened last year near Lincoln High School.
When it opened, Hoyt School won architectural awards and a scale model was once showcased at an architectural exhibition in Moscow.
Hoyt will offer several school district programs, including a preschool that includes both special needs and typically developing children. The school district is also talking to several community groups and planning to request proposals from early-learning organizations that would like to lease space and locate programs at Hoyt, Deputy Superintendent Josh Garcia said.
He said the long-term plan is to locate early-learning centers in several parts of the city, as opportunities arise.
Hoyt was added to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places in 2014. It is considered an important building by local historians who value its unique design that includes a domed roof, large windows and plywood construction.
In the 1950s, Tacoma architect Robert B. Price developed Hoyt for what was then called the Douglas Fir Plywood Association (now called the APA-Engineered Wood Association). The idea was to showcase the use of plywood products, and the association paid for architect and engineering fees for the school. It won architectural awards, and a scale model of the Tacoma school was once showcased at an exhibition in Moscow.
The external plywood panels were originally painted in bright primary colors, but in recent years the color scheme was drab gray, offset by forest green. With the renovation, the panels are now bright shades of orange and blue, reminiscent of the original color scheme.
Who was Nell Hoyt?
In 1914, Nell Hoyt of Tacoma founded the Preschool PTA, an idea which soon spread and helped launch a national movement for preschool education. Her husband, Elwell Hoyt, was a druggist who served on the Tacoma School Board from 1912 to 1918.
Nell Hoyt was present at the dedication of the school named for her. The ceremony took place on Feb. 20, 1959 — her 80th birthday.
Sources: Historic Tacoma and “For the Record: A History of Tacoma Schools”