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.
Updated February 06, 2020
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.
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.
The school was located at 416 Grove Street.
- New Campbell School opens – Oakland Tribune March 30, 1907
- Miss Campbell Retires – Oakland Tribune June 09, 1926
- Old Campbell School – Oakland Tribune June 09, 1926
- Sale of School – Oakland Tribune May 1954
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.
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.
The old school building was still standing in 1973 and was finally replaced with a new building in 1977.
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.
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
Cole School was located at 1011 Union Street.
As of 2013, Cole School is the headquarters of the Chief of Police.
- Rector E Cole – A Bit of History
Piedmont Avenue School
The Piedmont Avenue School, as seen below, was built in 1891.
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.
The school was dedicated on Washington’s Birthday in 1892.
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.
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.
- New Piedmont School – Oakland Tribune February 13ruary 13, 1892
- Firebug Hunt is On – Oakland Tribune July 25, 1938
- School Burns – Oakland Tribune July 25, 1938
- School to Be Rebuilt – Oakland Tribune August 02ust 02, 1938
- Piedmont Avenue Elementary School – Living New Deal
- Piedmont Avenue School – OUSD
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.
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.
Prescott school building was heavily damaged in the historic 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
Prescott Primary school was constructed in a record time of 187 workdays by Lawton & Vezey, a local contractor.
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
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
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 is located at 920 Campbell St.
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
Swett Grammar School
Swett School was located at 12th Avenue and East 19th Street.
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.
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.
Woodrow Wilson Today
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.
The school is located at 4521 Webster St.
- Odd Fellows to Dedicate School – Oakland Tribune October 29, 1926
- School Dedicated – Oakland Tribune August 20, 1927
- Mosswood Junior High – Oakland Tribune January 03, 1949