The first public high school program in Oregon began in the downtown Portland area in 1869. This school, called the Portland High School provided educational services to the children of early settlers. As Portland population grew and spread, the need for high school on the east side of the river became apparent.
Central School, of the east side of Portland School District, was built in 1876 on the Washington High School site. A high school program was added in 1883. The program was discontinued after 1891 when the cities of Portland, East Portland, and Albina were consolidated and their school district annexed by the School District Number 1. It was then necessary for the students to attend Portland High School on the west side of the river.
The east side remained without a secondary school until 1906 when construction of East Portland High School begin. During this time the principal road horseback over money pass checking up on the high school students temporarily accommodated in four nearby grade schools. Coordinating activities and maintaining accurate attendance records was a difficult task.
In 1909 the school board adopted a policy to name high schools after great American Statesman. After drawing names from a hat, East Portland's name was changed to George Washington High School in Portland High School was renamed Abraham Lincoln High School.
This color postcard depicts the first Washington High School building in 1921. It was built on the site of earlier school that dated back to 1877 in what was then the town of East Portland. It burned in October of 1922.
One of the most memorable events in history of Washington took place on the night of October 25, 1922 when a spectacular fire gutted the school. It was reported a stunned student remarked the following day, "Yesterday I wish it would happen, but now it has and it’s terrible!"
Plans to rebuild begin immediately. The present building was opened Sept 2, 1924. In 1957 the original gymnasium and the old Hawthorne School adjacent to the Washington High School building was torn down. A new gymnasium was built in 1959 and the C Wing was added 1961.
In 1965 the buildings in the Washington complex were dedicated to former Washingtonians. The main building was dedicated to former student Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner; the C Wing to Arlon Bougard, a Washington music instructor; and the gym to Vere Windnagle, a vice principal who set many athletic records as a Washington High School student.
In 1978 to declining in enrollment, Washington and Monroe schools were merged in the Washington High School building. Washington Monroe was closed August 1, 1981. The students were absorbed into neighboring high schools.
Washington High School Principals:
- Hugh Henry Herdman 1906-1920
- Hugh Boyd 1920-1942
- Stephen E. Smith 1942-1957
- Clifford J. Skinner 1957-1960
- Harold A. York 1960-1967
- William R. Gray 1967-1977
- Eugene J. Douthit 1977-80
- John Lashley 1980-81