El Portal, a small town off Highway 140 on the southwestern boundary of Yosemite National Park, had its humble beginnings in 1885 as a “company town”—mining, logging, railroad, and then tourism. These industries brought not only workers but also families and subsequently children, who needed to be educated, into the town. The El Portal School, constructed in 1930 on a hill above Old El Portal Village Center, served as the community’s third schoolhouse from 1930 until the mid-1960s. (The U.S. Congress authorized the NPS to establish an administrative site in El Portal in 1958.) After the school’s 33-year tenure as El Portal’s main educational facility, this schoolhouse building served as the community chapel, allowing it to continue its historic role as a gathering place. Use has declined as various congregations have relocated their church services to Yosemite Valley. The decrease in use has resulted in a decline in financial resources available to maintain and preserve the building. The building was determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places by the State Historic Preservation Office in 1999 due to its association with the expansion of the town and to its architectural characteristics associated with 1930s public buildings. Park architects document the schoolhouse’s history as part of an ongoing preservation project.
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