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San Timoteo Canyon Schoolhouse before renovation
Photograph by Stephanie Bluck
Courtesy of the California State Historic Preservation Office

Preservation Month Feature

San Timoteo Canyon Schoolhouse, Redlands, Riverside County, California
The schoolhouse was built circa 1890-1895 on property that was once part of the James Johnson Rancho. The architect is unknown, but the design was probably provided by the State Board of Education. The builder was Vander Venter, who was likely assisted by local farmers. The little wood frame building is a prototypical late 19th century one-room schoolhouse; with his and her entries and ante-rooms, one large schoolroom with blackboards on three walls, corner boards, gable returns, horizontal wood siding, and an open stick work bell tower (sans bell) with a pyramidal roof. Water was originally carried from a well from a nearby ranch. Later, a well was dug behind the school and a windmill supplied the pumping power to fill an adjacent tank.  Mature pepper trees, planted in 1918, flank the schoolhouse.  Electricity was brought to the schoolhouse in 1934. The school closed in 1937 due to lack of attendance, although Sunday school continued at the location.

[photo] San Timoteo Canyon Schoolhouse before renovation
Photograph by Stephanie Bluck
Courtesy of the California State Historic Preservation Office

It continued as a polling place and Sunday school, and in 1987 the County of Riverside approved Parks and Recreation to purchase the property.  Heritage Architecture & Planning completed a Historic Structure report to restore the historic school house.  The report called for bat eradication, a new roof, a new foundation, windows and door reconstruction and site and accessibility improvements. The restored school was turned into a Riverside County Parks Interpretive Center. Volunteers from the San Timoteo Schoolhouse Committee provided framed portraits of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln at a ceremony on April 2, 2011 dedicating the Schoolhouse’s new role as an interpretive center. This adaptive reuse of the building won a California Preservation Design Award in 2008.
Setting the pattern for the state’s role in the education of its citizens, the framers of California’s first constitution in 1849 debated and decided in favor of public education.  In 1851, the first free public school opened in San Francisco. In 1862, the first state normal schools were funded to provide trained teachers. State responsibility for uniform textbook series and courses of study in 1866 led to compulsory school attendance in 1874 for children eight to 14 years old

[photo] Downtown Churches Historic District
San Timoteo Canyon Schoolhouse after renovation
Photo courtesy of Heritage Architecture & Planning

The San Timoteo School District (originally called El Casco District and originally part of San Bernardino County) was established in 1856. A small adobe school building was constructed at this time in the vicinity of the current school building. In 1893 Riverside County was formed from the southern portion of San Bernardino County. San Timoteo School was located in the new county. Sometime between 1890-1895 the existing schoolhouse was built at a cost of $1500, replacing the earlier adobe school house.
In the school year 1893/94  twelve boys and five girls were enrolled at the school. The school had 20 seats with suitable accommodations for all students who wished to attend. School was conducted for eight months by a male teacher who had a grammar grade certificate, attended the annual county institute for lecture and training sessions, and earned 65 dollars a month. The school was used to teach students in eight grades in a one-room classroom---there were eight rows of seats with one grade in each row. Some of the older children would help the teacher with the younger students.  There were usually 25 children. Early on the horse and buggy originally provided transportation to the school and later the county provided a bus. The curriculum was similar to other public schools, with reading, spelling, writing, some arithmetic, geography, history and music as well as lessons on virtue and good behavior. Students remember this schoolhouse hosting a number of community activities, including voting, plays, Sunday school, ice cream socials, Saturday night dances and Christmas celebrations. Remote schoolhouses were often the center of rural communities.

The San Timoteo Canyon Schoolhouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on January 26, 2001.

 Read the full file on the San Timoteo Canyon Schoolhouse

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