History & Culture

The Start of Something Big

In 1978, in a little coffee shop in Redmond, Washington, three friends who also happened to be teachers, Paul Raymond, Ellen Taussig, and Mark Terry, were talking about what they felt was lacking in education. Suddenly, Mark said, “Hey, what about starting our own school?” They all looked at one another, sketched out some plans on a napkin, and within a few short weeks they had filed papers as the essential three-member board of a nonprofit organization.




The Northwest School opened its doors in the fall of 1980 to 230 students. It was a 6-12 school, just as it is today, and was centered on the belief that to create a great school you must first hire a great faculty. The following spring, its first ten graduates received their diplomas. Over the next 35 years the school added an international boarding program and doubled the size of its student body. Today, we enroll 500 students, 80 of whom are from countries other than the United States.

While our community of students and faculty make the school what it is, the buildings in which we learn and teach are a meaningful part of our culture. The school’s original building, known as the Summit School building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and has been designated an official City of Seattle historic landmark. Another wing to the Summit School building was completed in 2006, housing the Library, Computer Lab, Photography Studio, Music Studio, Dance Studio and two multi-use classrooms. In 2011, we purchased the nearby wedge-shaped building that serves as our dormitory, and in 2014, we opened the doors to the school’s newest addition—401 E Pike

Object Stories

A warm, eclectic, and special place

Our school culture has thrived for more than three decades, arising partly from students and faculty who generously share their passions and ideas, and partly from the “House” itself – a historic landmark building over 100 years old. From the moment you step into our classrooms and hallways you’ll know you are in a special place. Here are number of intriguing things you’ll see and experience at any given moment.