By John Christian, Assistant Archivist
Early resident Josiah Grover Brickell built Castro Valley’s next schoolhouse in 1866 nearby Redwood Road and James Avenue. Brickell donated the land for “educational purposes only” and even paid the teacher’s salary. The building burned in 1901 and was rebuilt a few years later.
Unfortunately, the school burned again in 1920. No one knows what caused the fires — perhaps it was an unattended stove, a wayward spark or maybe a student who didn’t want the summer break to end just yet.
Interestingly, there is a plaque naming Brickell’s school as the “first public school” in Castro Valley — perhaps they meant to say the “first public school that was not stolen.”
After Brickle’s school burned, a temporary school was built at San Miguel Avenue and Castro Valley Boulevard. This school house was used until Castro Valley Grammar School was built in 1929 — around where the former sits.
Palomares School was built on the Brophy Ranch site in 1868. Supposedly the land for the school had been donated, but before the school was built the Brophy Ranch was sold and no land was ever formerly deeded to the school. Determined to have their school, $60.50 (about $1,500 today) was collected from families in the Palomares area to buy the land. After the land fiasco was settled the school opened to 34 children ranging from grades 1 through 8.
The building was used until 1955 when a new Palomares school was built close to the original. The old school house was used for a short time by the “Chanticleers”— an amateur theater group. Like the famed Chanticleers’ performances, the old school house caught fire in 1960. After 92 years the original Palomares was no more.
Independent School was built in 1892 at about Castro Valley Boulevard and Crow Canyon Road. The school was built by residents in eastern Castro Valley who saw the daily five to six-mile journey to Palomares or Laurel Schools as unfair for Crow Canyon school children.
Arthur Manter donated the land for the school. And because the local farmers had fought independently for so long to get their own school, the name Independent School was chosen. The original building was used until 1929, when a new school was built at the same location in order to accommodate the influx of students.
The we know today was not built until the post-war boom in 1953. Independent School is also unique among early Castro Valley schools for the fact that it did not catch fire and remained in Castro Valley.
So for those of you keeping score at home that is a total of three schools that burned down and .
Kidding aside, when we look at the history of Castro Valley’s early schools, it is easy to draw connections between today’s residents, the early pioneers’ passion for education and the schools that provide it. Certainly education has always been on the mind of valley residents.