Then & Now – Oakland Schools Part 2

Updated Feb 2, 2021

In this series of posts, I hope to show Then and Now images Oakland Schools.  Along with a bit of history of each school, I highlight. Some of the photos are in the form of drawings or postcards, or from the pages of history books.

Note: Piecing together the history of some of the older schools is sometimes tricky. I do this all at home and online — a work in progress for some. I have been updating my posts when I find something new. Let me know of any mistakes or additions.

Campbell School

The school was built in 1869 as the Grove Street School. The name was changed in 1906 to Campbell School when it was named after Fred Campbell’s superintendent of Oakland schools from 1870-1870 and 1886-1890. He was the state superintendent of schools 1880-1883.

Campbell’s daughter Mary was the principal of the school from 1898-1926.

In 1907 a new school was built. The Mission Style school was designed by Architect F.E. Voorhees and cost $38,000. It had seven classrooms and offices for the principal.

Oakland Tribune Mar 1907

In 1954 due to the school not being earthquake-safe, it was closed, and the students were sent to Tompkins School. The school was sold and demolished in 1954. A commercial building was built on the site.

More Info:

The school was located at 416 Grove Street.

Cleveland School


The first drawing – Oakland Tribune July 09, 1912

In 1912 the first drawing for a new Peralta Heights school was submitted to the school board. John J. Donovan and Shafer & Wilde were the architects.    Donovan designed many schools for the district.

Peralta Heights is a small neighborhood in what is now known as Cleveland Heights.

Bids to build the school were submitted in 1912, based on the below photo. They held a formal opening of the school in Jan of 1914.



ClevelandOakland_Tribune_Sun__Mar_29__1914_ (4)
Oakland Tribune Jan 1914

Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 10.03.40 PM


The old school building was still standing in 1973 and was finally replaced with a new building in 1977.


Oakland Tribune Mar 26, 1973

Cleveland Today


Cleveland School Today – Google Maps

More Info:

California Distinguished School for 2020

serves the very diverse and historically underserved city of Oakland, with a large percentage of students living in poverty and a large percentage of English learners

Press Release California Department of Education

Press Release – OUSD

Cleveland Elementary School is located at 745 Cleveland Street.

Cole Grammar School

Cole Grammar School was opened in 1885 in West Oakland on 10th Street between Union and Poplar Streets.


Oakland and Surroundings 1885
Oakland Local wiki

It was named for Rector E. Cole, an early Oakland dentist and member of the city council, and member and then president of the Oakland Board of Education.

Jack London attended Cole starting in 1887. He graduated 8th grade in 1891


Front doors of the Cole School building with several children standing on the sidewalk.
Circa 1908
Jack London Photographs and Negatives, Huntington Digital Library

Cole School was located at 1011 Union Street.

As of 2013, Cole School is the headquarters of the Chief of Police.


Cole School Today – Google Maps

Piedmont Avenue School

The Piedmont Avenue School, as seen below, was built in 1891.


Oakland Tribune February  13, 1892

Before that, there was a two-room schoolhouse up closer to the Mountain View Cemetery. Classes we held for a time at the home of G.W. Hume, who lived in a large estate where the school is located now.

The school at that time was used by both children from Piedmont and Oakland. The building was designed by William Kirk and cost about $10,000 to build. The school had a bell tower with a 350-pound bell. There was a large assembly room, a library, a hothouse for plants, classrooms on both floors, and a large lighted basement where the children could play during wet weather.


Oakland Tribune February  20, 1892

The school was dedicated on Washington’s Birthday in 1892.


Engraving of the Piedmont District School at Webster Avenue in Oakland, Alameda County, California, from the book “Illustrated album of Alameda County, California” by Jos, 1893. Alex Colquhoun. Courtesy Internet Archive. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

In July of 1938, while the students were on summer break, the school was destroyed by a fire that was considered arson. Ten firemen were injured four of them seriously.


Oakland Tribune July 25, 1938


Oakland Tribune July 25, 1938


Oakland Tribune July 25, 1938

The new school was dedicated in March of 1941 with funds provided by “The Living New Deal” Works Progress Administration (WPA).

This Art Deco school building is complete with auditorium, library, kindergarten classroom, kitchen, offices, and regular classrooms. There is still a WPA sidewalk marker in front of the school.

More Info:

Prescott School

Prescott School started in 1866 as a one-room primary school. It was located at Ninth and Campbell Streets, which was dirt roads surrounded by woods.


Oakland Tribune 1877

In 1869 a new two-story building with four classrooms on each floor opened the largest, and it was the most up to date school in Oakland.


Exterior Prescott Grammar School
Oakland History Room

Prescott school building was heavily damaged in the historic 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.


Prescott School with damage from the 1906 earthquake
UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library


Prescott School, 9th & Campbell 1906
Owning Institution: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

New School

Prescott Primary school was constructed in a record time of 187 workdays by Lawton & Vezey, a local contractor.


Oakland Tribune October 24, 1916

The new school was a two-story Spanish style steel-framed building with a basement and seventeen classrooms.

accepted by the school board, who considered it one of the best in the recent school buildings”

Oakland School Board – October 05, 1926



The exterior of Prescott School circa 1918
Towns (Royal E.) Papers
Oakland Public Library, African American Museum
Prescott School 9th & Campbell Streets – Cheney Photo Advertising Company c 1919

Ida Louise Jackson, Oakland’s first African-American teacher, taught there starting in 1925 — 13 years before any other school hired a black teacher.

Unsafe and Condemned


Oakland Tribune 1958

In 1954 Prescott Junior High (somewhere in time it was changed?) was condemned for being dangerous and a hazard to the students. At that time, there was no money in the budget to replaced it.

Prescott Today

Prescott is located at 920 Campbell St.


Prescott School Today – Google Maps

The school has been operating under the name PLACE @ Prescott (Preparatory Literary Academy of Cultural Excellence @ Prescott) since 2006, serving Kindergarten through 5th-grade children

More Info:

  • 150 Years of Prescott OUSD
  • Prescott website- OUSD
  • Place@Prescott website – OUSD

Swett Grammar School

Swett School was located at 12th Avenue and East 19th Street.


Views of Oakland 1893


Swett School – 1906 earthquake damage
Owning Institution: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

Woodrow Wilson Junior High

Woodrow Wilson Junior High started out as Mosswood Junior High in August of 1923. It was located at the corner of 48th and Webster Streets. In 1924 the school’s name was changed.

In 1926 they laid the cornerstone for a new school.


Oakland Tribune October 26, 1926


Oakland Tribune Oakland Tribune November 14, 1926


Woodrow Wilson Junior circa the 1970s

In the early 1970s, Woodrow Wilson Junior High School was demolished, and a new school was built.  Sometime in the mid-1970s, the school was renamed the Verdese Carter Middle School.


Demolition of Woodrow Wilson School in the 1970s
from Adrienne Broach


Demolition of Woodrow Wilson School in the 1970s
from Adrienne Broach

Woodrow Wilson Today


The School Today – Google Maps

In 2007 the Oakland Unified school district opened its first school that enrolls only immigrant students. Called the Oakland International High School, it is modeled after international high schools in New York City for newcomers to the United States. The school was still open in 2019.

More Info:

The school is located at 4521 Webster St.

  • Oakland International High School – OUSD
  • West Coast District Uses East Coast Model – August 2007

The End

3 thoughts on “Then & Now – Oakland Schools Part 2

Add yours

  1. I lived in High Street homes low-income housing projects and went to there High Street homes Grammar School. I don’t know when the entire project and school was torn down. However after reading the history of other schools in Oakland, I am curious 2 read about High Street homeschool.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i am looking for the name of a Special Education School for handicapped students that was location in the Oakland hills area between 1963 and 1973. it was on or near Lincoln Ave. Any information would be helpful. thank you.
    Thelma Elbert, 770-774-0064 and elbert2000@bellsouth,net.


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