When historic Stadium High School underwent a major renovation in 2004, its mementos — everything from sports trophies to yearbooks — went into storage.
Among the treasures: More than 80 pieces of glass art that students had created over the decades under the direction of Stadium art teachers, the late Wayne Swanson and current teacher Pam Gazale.
The pieces had hung in transoms above classroom doorways and elsewhere throughout the school overlooking Commencement Bay. To make way for the remodeling, the glass work was packed up and stored in the school boiler room.
Over the years, school staff members slowly worked to unpack the glass panels. They found many were damaged.
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Stadium is an integral part of who I am
John Mazzuca, class of 1963
“We all put in many volunteer hours unpacking, cataloging and setting aside piles of unbroken and broken panels along with other artwork and memorabilia that had been donated over the century,” Gazale said.
“The job was too large for us to handle, along with the chief custodian, Bob Baumgras, who also volunteered time.”
So a group of Stadium alumni came to the rescue.
For the past nine months or so, they have been working to reframe the glass pieces so they can be rehung inside the school.
So far, they have placed about 20 pieces. There are 65 more to go. Most of those have already been cleaned and framed, but are not yet hung.
All the pieces won’t occupy their original spots, partly because the renovation altered the dimensions of some classroom transoms and windows.
One piece now adorns a stairwell. Two more are above the school’s front entryway.
For the alums, the project is a labor of love dedicated to an alma mater they hold dear.
“I have a lot of great memories from Stadium,” said John Mazzuca, class of 1963, who also married a Stadium grad. “It shaped me. Stadium is an integral part of who I am.”
The late Wayne Swanson started Stadium’s glass art program
Mazzuca has been crafting the wood frames. Other members of his graduating class — Ken Stortini, Domenick Federico and Linda Hren Orton — along with Richard Bartolatz, class of 1965, have been helping with the project. Bartolatz paid for the wood they’re using.
“Everybody has their part,” Mazzuca said. “After a few attempts, it runs smooth as glass.”
Many of the alums have been friends since their elementary or junior high days.
“We’re thankful that everybody does what they can to get this done,” Federico said. “We all have great feelings about Stadium High School.”
Orton said current teachers seem happy to see the glass work restored to its rightful place.
“They say how much they have missed it,” she said.
One student asked about a piece that had been created by his mother when she was at Stadium.
“These Stadium alumni have been instrumental in spearheading the rehanging of our stained glass pieces,” said Stadium interim Principal Shannon Marshall.
Displaying the student art work once again “is rewarding and inspiring to the next generation of artists,” she said.
We all have great feelings about Stadium High School
Dominick Federico, class of 1963
The landmark high school that many refer to as “The Castle” has a storied history.
It began life in 1891 as a luxury hotel, financed by the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Tacoma Land Co. Construction stalled during a financial depression, and the unfinished building was used to store construction material.
In 1898, a suspicious fire gutted the building. It was slated to be razed, but Tacomans intervened.
Stadium High School rose from the ashes, with a redesign by noted architect Frederick Heath.
Much of the glass art legacy at Stadium comes from art teacher Swanson, who came to Stadium in 1978 and retired 20 years later. He died in 2012.
Swanson’s students initially focused on creating Victorian-styled work to complement the architecture and character of the historic building.
After he retired in 1998, Gazale kept up the glass art tradition. She has encouraged students to feature more personal expression in their glass work.
“Fortunately for all of us, the alumni that decided to take the project on found the time and the funding to bring the project along,” she said. “I am thankful for the renovation team that has taken great care and pride to maintain the beauty of this wonderful school.”
Staff photographer Drew Perine contributed to this story.
A Light Shines Through
Students, alumni and staff members will host a reception and open house at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday (May 24) at Stadium High School. The event, titled “A Light Shines Through,” will celebrate the return of student glass art to Stadium High School hallways and classrooms.
Stadium High School Through the Years
1906 Classes begin at what then was called Tacoma High School. The building, originally conceived as a tourist hotel and financed by the Northern Pacific Railroad, was rebuilt as a high school.
1910 Stadium Bowl added, and the school eventually is renamed Stadium High School.
2001 Tacoma voters approve a $450 million bond measure to pay for a Stadium renovation and other projects.
2004 Stadium closes for renovations; students move to the old Mount Tahoma High School building for two years. Student glass art goes into storage.
2006 Classes resume in the remodeled Stadium on Sept. 6. The school’s centennial celebration takes place from Sept. 15-17.
2015-16 Stadium alumni work to restore and rehang student glass art throughout the school.