The First Alameda School

When most Alamedans think about our lovely old Alameda Elementary School, we are probably thinking about the beautiful and classic building that stands today on NE Fremont between 27th and 29th. Built in 1921, this school has been the neighborhood hearth for generations.

But did you know there was an even earlier Alameda School? I came upon this tidbit while reviewing 1914 articles from The Oregonian, but never dreamed I’d find a photo of the place. You can imagine how pleased I was to find this remarkable shot of the first school in the neighborhood, built in 1915. Check it out:

"First crop of radishes and lettuce at the Alameda Park School, Portland, Oregon, June, 1916. Even in the primary grades children may learn much about the science of growing things. Courtesy L.A. Alderman"

The original caption reads: "First crop of radishes and lettuce at the Alameda Park School, Portland, Oregon, June, 1916. Even in the primary grades children may learn much about the science of growing things. Courtesy L.A. Alderman"

The photo is from a book published in 1919 by Rand McNally called “Vocational Guidance for Girls,” by Marguerite Stockman Dickson. You can have a look at this book (a remarkable story all on its own), thanks to Project Gutenberg, by clicking here.  The Alameda photo is in Chapter V, where you’ll find some other interesting photos from Northeast Portland.

The caption clearly identifies this as the Alameda Park School in Portland, Oregon. That’s us. Pair this up with the news story from The Oregonian on September 18th, 1914 and we can begin to fit some pieces together. Take a look:

From The Oregonian, September 18, 1914.

From The Oregonian, September 18, 1914.

Things to ponder:

  • This original small school building was viewed as temporary when it was first built. Only a relatively small percentage of homes had been built in the neighborhood by then, so it was clear there would one day be a real need. Not so much in 1915, but local kids still needed a local school.
  • It was first imagined in context with a school up the road in the Beaumont neighborhood, which was also to be temporary. Like Alameda, that neighborhood was just starting out in 1915.
  • The newspaper indicates that one site for the school was at the top of Gravelly Hill, NE 33rd and Fremont. It also says the site being offered by J.J. Cahalin was on Fremont between 25th and 26th, the next block west from the current site of the Fremont United Methodist Church. I didn’t find a follow-up story, nor have I looked at the property records, but my hunch just from looking at the photo is that the Cahalin site was selected over the one at the top of the hill. I’ll run that down next time I’m looking at property records, but that just seems likely.
  • Interesting to note the tall windows, lattice-work porch and woodstove chimney. And the fact that the kids had a busy and productive garden.

Where did it sit exactly? Who built it? Who was headmaster? Mysteries yet to solve.

4 responses

  1. We agree. Thanks for the comment, and for the geographical redirect (post updated accordingly). I need to spend some time at the County and should be able to piece together where this building stood. Stay tuned!

    • Indeed they did. Click on the link to the source of this photo (the book about vocational guidance) and go to Chapter V and you’ll find several other photos from Northeast Portland and a description of school gardens. Makes me think that this could be an interesting strategy for today’s kids to teach all kinds of important lessons…

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