The Oakland’s First School House

Oakland Tribune Feb 08, 1970

When Oakland became a city in 1852, there was no free public school. There was a private school at the corner of 2nd and Broadway run by Mrs. Monroe.

Old Fandango House
Oakland Tribune May 01, 1952
Sketch of Oakland’s first school building
African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph Collection

The town trustees saw the need for a school, so they rented a room at the rear of a dance hall called a Fandango House at 2nd and Washington. The room furnished with half a dozen wooden benches, a table for the teacher, a blackboard, a map of the world, and a rawhide whip. 12 to 15 children attended this school.

Oakland’s FIrst School House – Oakland Tribune Jun 12, 1921

For control of the area around the harbor, Horace W. Carpentier donated a school building to the city. Oxen teams from the hills brought redwood lumber, and a small structure was erected at 4th and Clay Streets. It was 30 x 20 feet with a 12-foot ceiling and a shingled roof. A belfry with a little bell. Carpentier called the building, “substantial, elegant, and commodious.”

from A Steeple Among the Oaks 

In June of 1853, when the school opened, the citizens held a parade, and 16 students carried a banner that read, “Our Duty to Our Country, First, Last, and Always.”

Oakland History Room at Oakland Public Library

The first teacher of the school was Miss Hannah Jayne.  She taught until 1856 when she resigned to marry Edson Adams, one of Oakland’s pioneers.

Oakland Tribune 1936
Oakland History Group

In 1853, the First Presbyterian Church used the building for services. The current sanctuary of the church (built-in 1914) memorializes the schoolhouse in one of its stained glass windows showing church history.

Stained Glass showing Church History
CC SA-BY Our Oakland

By 1855 there were 155 children of school age in Oakland. The little schoolhouse could not house them all.

The old Carpentier school was replaced by a slightly larger building between Jefferson and Grove ( now Martin Luther King) 11th and 12th Streets.

The city continued to grow, and so did the need for schools. By 1873 there were 13 buildings with more than 2000 children receiving instruction. By 1875 there were 3,225 attending school an increase of 1000 in 2 years.

First A.M.E. Church

The First A.M.E. Church of Oakland began in 1858 by a small group of Oakland residents and is the oldest African American church in Oakland. The church founders purchased the Carpenter School House in 1863, which became the first church building.

Oakland Tribune 1883

According to the article below the building was still there in 1921

Oakland Tribune 1921
Oakland Tribune May 1952
Oakland Tribune Sep 12, 1943

In 1943 the school district celebrated its 90th Anniversary with nearly 2000 teachers, 75 schools with almost 45,000 students.

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