February 04, 2004
Padua High was Stadium High

One of my favourite movie genres is American high school movies, and in recent years, one of my favourite examples of this genre has been Ten Things I Hate About You, starring Julia Stiles, concerning whom it would be inappropriate for me to rhapsodise too rhapsodically in a blog devoted to education by an occasional and would-be teacher, what with her being a schoolgirl in this particular movie.

But my question about this movie has long been: What is that beautiful building? Is it a real high school? I doubt it. I mean, it's just too beautiful. But if not, what is it?

Well, the Internet is a wonderful thing, and I do now know what this building is. I looked
here. Under "Other Info" is a category called "filming location". Click. Scroll down. "Stadium High School, Washington, USA – (Padua High School)." Click. Not helpful.

But now I know what I'm looking for and soon I get to things like this which has the best picture I have so far found of this extraordinary edifice.


This site also contains an explanation of how such a splendid thing came to be a high school.

"The Brown Castle" is home to over 1700 students. Originally designed to be the Northern Pacific Railroad Tourist Hotel, construction began on the structure in 1891. The depression of 1893 caused the company to abandon work on the structure before it was completed. After being boarded up for a number of years it was acquired by the Tacoma School District. In 1906, Tacoma High School, as Stadium was then called, opened its doors to 878 students and 38 teachers. Renamed Stadium High School in 1913, the Brown Castle has been host to many historical figures, including Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding, presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, World War I hero General John "Black Jack" Pershing and John Philip Sousa's band. The Brown Castle, a registered historical landmark, is a source of pride for the students, parents and staff of Stadium High School.

Presumably "being host" means they were guest speaking, yes? If so, not bad.

For my money, this building, despite even the presence of Julia Stiles, was the true star of Ten Things.

Interestingly, there are quite a lot of websites about Tacoma High, but none of them seem to make much – or indeed anything - of the fact that their building was in Ten Things. It's almost like it's a policy or something to pretend it never happened. Would this drum up business of a sort they don't want? Does Hollywood itself make it a condition of use that you don't brag endlessly about what their locations "really" were? Odd.

Anyway, it's a magnificent pile. I was not a bit surprised to learn that it was modelled on a French chateau, indeed I could tell that just by looking. It reminded me strongly of the (also French chateau modelled) Royal Holloway College, which is near where I was raised, in Englefield Green, Surrey.

RHC is even more splendid than Stadium High, but it isn't a school. What is the world's most architecturally splendid school, I wonder? Any suggestions?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:31 PM
Category: Architecture