ENCINITAS — Edward Hammond and his family of 11 doubled the population of Encinitas in one fell swoop when they settled here in 1883.
Soon after, Edward and his son built a schoolhouse to accommodate the growing area. Since then, residents, past and present, have focused on preserving the schoolhouse, the oldest building in the city.
“We need to let people know their history is right here,” said Alison Burns, president of the Encinitas Historical Society. She added that the schoolhouse is one of several “living pieces of the past” in Encinitas.
On Oct. 6, the Encinitas Historical Society celebrated the old schoolhouse’s 130th birthday, inviting residents to “party like it’s 1883.” Visitors learned about the schoolhouse’s past from old photographs and docents who were on hand. And the San Diego Costume Guild, adorned in Victorian outfits, provided added realism.
The origin of the one-room schoolhouse, located on the southwest corner of the Pacific View property, can be traced to false marketing.
The Hammonds, originally from Macclesfield, England, were living in St. Louis, Mo., in 1882 when they saw an advertisement from a land developer touting Encinitas as a bustling town that’s favorable for growing figs. But when the train stopped in Encinitas, they were disappointed to find few residents and a limited water supply. Still, they stayed.
Looking back to the late 1800s, children’s day-to-day life at the old schoolhouse was similar to the present in some respects. Subjects included the familiar reading, writing and arithmetic. Students played Hopscotch and jumped rope during recess, and they pitched in on the school farm, according to “Pacific View: The School That Would Not Die,” a historical writing.
Yet the times were strikingly different in many ways. Boys could come to school barefoot. Mumblety-peg, a game involving pocketknives, was allowed. And while school began at a later time, most of the students had daily chores waiting for them at home once lessons ended, according to the historical writing.
“I read there was one little girl who said she loved coming to school so she could rest,” Burns said.
Because Encinitas’ population steadily increased, a separate school was built in 1916, followed by yet another at Union Street and Hermes Street, “Pacific View” states. For this reason, by 1928, students were directed to other schools.
The schoolhouse was then transported several blocks away and became a private residence. In 1983, its owner wanted to build condominiums on the property, slating the schoolhouse for demolishment. That inspired the formation of the historical society.
The historical society mobilized a campaign to save the schoolhouse. Funds raised moved it back near its original location, but only after a long search of suitable locations around the city. Later construction efforts by the historical society and volunteers restored the schoolhouse, including preserving the wood floor.
These days, the old schoolhouse is open to visitors on Fridays and Saturdays. It also hosts events like open houses and film festivals. Although saved from the wrecking ball once, the future of the schoolhouse isn’t guaranteed.
The city has stated it’s interested in buying the Pacific View property, home to the old schoolhouse and shuttered Pacific View Elementary, from the Encinitas Union School District. Currently, the parties are negotiating over a potential purchase price in closed session. Even if the city agrees to buy the property, it’s uncertain how future plans could impact the old schoolhouse.
“We’re optimistic that we can stay,” Burns said. She added that it would be “very unfortunate” if the schoolhouse is forced to move again without a way to pay for it.
Pam Walker, Edward Hammond’s great granddaughter, said she too is hopeful the schoolhouse can remain at its current spot, or at the very least in Encinitas.
“I’d move it on my property if nothing else,” she said with a laugh. Striking a more serious note, she added: “But I hope it can stay here. I think that’s what the city wants.”