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Alamo Grammar School

Alamo Grammar School

San Ramon Valley Historical Society Plaque # 15

Through the efforts of Mary Ann Jones, one of the San Ramon Valley’s first grammar schools was established in 1854. Mrs. Jones said

…people began to come in with their families and we began to think about having a school for our children. So we built a schoolhouse on the Hemme Place (near today’s El Portal and Danville Blvd.) and hired a teacher. 

She also boarded the teacher, Richard Webster. James Smith wrote about the little school as well, with compliments for teacher Webster. In later years three Alamo Grammar Schools were built near today’s corner of Stone Valley Road West and Danville Blvd. The 2 ½ acre property on which these schools were located was sold for $200 by Mary Ann Jones to be used for school purposes in 1876.

Alamo School c. 1880
Alamo School c. 1880

The second one was built in 1871 when voters approved $1500 to buy land and built a school house. Some trustees in those early years included J. M. Shuey, J. Thirston, L. Humburg, A. W. Stone and M. W. Hall. Miss Ida Hall taught at the school for years.  It was destroyed by fire in 1893.

Alamo School 1904
Alamo School 1904

The third Alamo Grammar School originally had a bell tower. It was remodeled several times over the years. The tower was removed and the bell placed in the outside yard, presumably because of concerns the tower might fall in an earthquake. In 1904 there were 61 children enrolled, in 1908 -- 68 and in 1911 -- 50. Astrid Olsson Humburg taught in this school in the late teens and early 1920s.

In 1921, after fundraising by the Alamo Community Club, a large playground apparatus was built, including swings, sand box, basketball and handball courts (leveled), plus a baseball diamond mapped off.  But the school began to show its age.

In an article titled Ancient School at Alamo May Be Replaced Soon in a local paper, county physician Dr. C. R. Blake talked to a meeting of Alamo grammar school district residents. He

excoriated them for permitting their school to remain in its present condition.  He told them that their school was a relic of an age now half a century gone; that it was unsanitary, an imposition on the children, and a disgrace to the district.

To get a drink of water, the children have to walk half a block from the dilapidated building to a 39-year old pump, which they have to prime and struggle with its wheezy old handle before they get results. Then they drink from a rusty tomato can.                                                                                                                                                  May 19, 1924

The school was extensively remodeled in 1924. Alamo residents discussed joining with the new Danville Union District but voted against it. Some of the parents sent their children to the new Danville school.

About 1934 the cloak room was torn out and front porch enclosed to make another classroom. Efforts to pass a bond issue for a new school were defeated in 1935, getting a WPA loan was attempted and plans were made, but nothing was built.

Alamo School 1950
Alamo School 1950

In 1940, a $20,000 bond issue was passed and the fourth Alamo Grammar School was successfully built on the same site. As with the earlier schools, it was an important part of the community and for 25 years was used for a polling place, social gatherings, dances and card games.

Other schools were built in Alamo as the population grew, including Stone Valley Intermediate (1952) and Rancho Romero Elementary (1959). From 1958-59 Alamo School had so many students that rooms were rented at the Methodist Church to accommodate the growth.

Today’s Alamo Elementary School at 100 Wilson Rd. opened in 1965. The original school bell has been placed in its courtyard.

The Alamo schools which once sat at Stone Valley Road and Danville Blvd. now have a plaque at that corner, dedicated by the San Ramon Valley Historical Society on October 14, 2000.

Beverly Lane, 2019


Sources:  Contra Costa County History Center: School notebooks created by Barnard Freeman; Contra Costa Gazette: 1871; June 1880; 3-18-1893; 8-12-1911; 12-23-1921; 3-7-1935; 6-27-1935; 3-25-1936, Betty Dunlap interview by Irma Dotson, 1996, V. V.  Jones, Alamo Today  Jan 2004 and Remembering Alamo, p. 52, 185 ff J. D. Smith, Recollections, ed. By Gary Drummond, p. 17, 40