Sierra Madre School, circa. 1887.
(Image from the Sierra Madre Historical Archives, 1999.127.1)
A HISTORY OF SIERRA MADRE SCHOOL
Education in early Sierra Madre began in a one-room school house, built by Nathaniel Carter, the town founder, in 1882. By 1884, the first schoolhouse built by N.C. Carter in 1882 was already too small. N.C. Carter came forth and offered land a second time. Once he designated the land for the school, $3,000 in bonds were secured to build the structure. The two room school frame school was located on the northwest corner of Central Avenue (Sierra Madre Blvd.) and Baldwin Avenue, now part of Kersting Court. It opened in September 1885. Mrs. Chloe Jones, the principal and teacher urged the planting of pepper trees on the school grounds. The school bell was donated by citizens of the community.
With the coming of the Pacific Electric “Red Car" in 1906, the Victorian-style schoolhouse was taken down and replaced with a train depot. Four acres of land at Highland and Auburn was used for the third schoolhouse in the Craftsman style, complete with a wooden pergola gracing the front lawn. It was designed by C.H. Brown and consisted of five rooms. This school became an important location for community events and social gatherings.
Sierra Madre School, June 1917.
(Image from the Sierra Madre Historical Archives, 1999.129.1)
In December 1929, not long after Black Tuesday, Sierra Madreans passed a $210,000 bond measure to build a new elementary school. The bond campaign was entitled “Give the Kiddies A Chance” and resulted in the construction of the building we still use today. This was a huge capital outlay for a town its size when unemployment was over 10 percent. In its construction, many local workers were employed. The school was dedicated a year later on December 12, 1930. Of the Mission Revival Style school, general contractor J. C. Bannister said, “The building is one of the best planned structures of its kind in Southern California.” A student remarked, “Gosh, ain’t it a peach!”
The lovely architecture makes it one of the most beautiful campuses in the district. The auditorium and cafeteria are unique with their dramatic vaulted and carved beam ceilings. The original construction included a bell tower for the historic school bell. Unfortunately, as earthquake damage took its toll on the bell tower, it could no longer house the bell. Sierra Madre School was extensively renovated in the late 1960s at a cost of $600,000 so it could be repaired and retrofitted to withstand further earthquake damage. In 1974, the Sierra Madre Historical Society returned the 1885 school bell to its original home near the pepper trees of what is now Kersting Court, where it can be seen in its modern wooden tower frame.
During the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years, middle school grades (6-8) were moved to the Upper Campus at 160 N. Canon, formerly known as Sierra Mesa School, one half mile from the original Lower Campus (141 W. Highland). During 2012-2013, the addition of a Pre-K wing and upper grades wing was completed. Additionally, in 2013, the Sierra Madre Middle School became a separate school and is a state of the art facility, dedicated in 2016.
Today Sierra Madre Elementary School is a thriving PreK-5 school, with a proud heritage of academic success and a continued commitment to the visual and performing arts.
Sierra Madre School Song performed by Gayle L. Bluemel, Garrett Newsom, and Lindsay Lewis