There isn't a lot of Shakespeare in '10 Things I Hate About You,' the 1999 teen movie riff on 'The Taming of the Shrew,' but the setting of "Padua High" couldn't be more fitting: a romantic, turreted brick edifice resembling a castle, perched atop a beautiful bay. It's the perfect backdrop as Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) pursues headstrong Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles).
Yes, it's a real high school: Stadium High in Tacoma, Washington, just a short drive from Seattle, where the rest of the film is set. (The park where we first meet Kat is in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood. And the prom is held at the Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle.)
Location as Character: We start off in the courtyard of Padua High as new student Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is given the introductory tour (including its unique cliques of "coffee kids" and "cowboys") and we end with a sweeping rooftop shot of the band Letters to Cleo as they jam to 'I Want You to Want Me.' Tacoma's Commencement Bay (where the real high school is located) intercuts nicely with Seattle's Lake Union and Gasworks Park when Patrick and Kat skip school to rent a pedal boat and play paint tag; you barely notice that Seattle's iconic Space Needle isn't in the background when school is in session. The school's football field is the setting of one of the film's most memorable moments: During soccer practice, Patrick serenades Kat while dancing up and down the stone steps as he eludes the school's security.
Historical Significance: The building is over 100 years old and registered as a historic landmark. The original building, which was intended to be a luxury hotel, was begun in 1891 by architects Hewitt and Hewitt for the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. The financial crisis of 1893 halted construction, and in 1898, a massive fire gutted the structure. The Tacoma School District purchased the building in1904 and commissioned architect Frederick Heath to redesign and renovate it into a school.
The reconstructed building opened two years later. It was first known as Tacoma High School, but the name was changed seven years later as a nod to its sports field, Stadium Bowl, a bowl-shaped stadium built in 1909-1910 with 31 rows of concrete tiered seating.
The precariously perched football field was nearly washed away in 1981 by a broken storm drain, but restored by 1985. A 2006 centennial celebration made the Guinness World Record for most alumni in attendance at a reunion. This blog has more information and photos on the stadium's history,
Directions: The school is located at 111 N. E Street, Tacoma. From Seattle, take I-5 South to Exit 133, turn right on S. Stadium Way and continue onto North E. Street.
Visitor's Info: Like any school, public or private, unauthorized visitors are not allowed on campus.