Wildwood School - Piedmont CA
Wildwood Elementary School in Piedmont CA was expanded under the New Deal, with the addition of new classroom buildings and an auditorium. Prior to that, about one-third of Piedmont students were being taught in temporary buildings (derisively called ‘shacks’ by the locals).
There had been three previous efforts in the 1920s to replace temporary school buildings in Piedmont but the bond issues lost (Tribune 1942). After the school board sought and gained a promise of $83,000 in funding from the Public Works Administration (PWA) in 1933, a new bond issue for $233,000 passed in December of that year. Of the total funds, $79,000 were allocated for the Wildwood School (Tribune, Dec. 11, 1933). Work on the schools began in 1936. But the initial funds must have run out, because the School District sought further aid from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1936 (which the Oakland Tribune appears to confuse with the PWA in its 1942 story).
Overall, the Piedmont schools rebuilding program erected 28 classrooms in new buildings at Wildwood, Havens and Beach Elementary Schools, as well as adding auditoriums at each one. Beach School was completely rebuilt and additions were made to Piedmont High School, as well.
In mid-1940, the Piedmonter reported that, “With WPA aid the program calls for the construction of auditorium units at Havens and Wildwood Schools during the year…..” The last temporary classroom was torn down at Wildwood School in 1942 (Tribune 1942) and its new auditorium was dedicated on May 3d (Piedmonter 1942).
The Wildwood School is simplified Mission Revival design, which is well kept up, but closely fenced in, making it difficult to photograph. The auditorium sits behind classroom wing on the left, as one faces the main entrance. It is uncertain which classrooms were built with New Deal aid, but likely it is that wing.
An interesting note is student participation in the creation of the auditoriums: “The ceilings of each auditorium have a different theme. At Beach the theme is literature. At Havens it is California history, and at Wildwood it is U.S. history. Fifth and sixth graders painted the panels in a paint-by-number fashion before they were applied to the ceiling…..” (Piedmont Historical Society)
"Piedmont to vote on bonds", Oakland Tribune, October 19, 1928, p. 9.
"Banish shacks Piedmont plan," Oakland Tribune, December 2, 1933, p. 5.
"Workers plan drive to ban school shacks," Oakland Tribune, December 11, 1933, p. 14.
"Schools open Monday in new buildings," The Piedmonter, August 22, 1940.
"Wildwood, Havens Building Openings This Sunday," The Piedmonter, May 1, 1942.
"Piedmont's last shack school torn down after twenty years," Oakland Tribune, April 30, 1942, p. 27.
THE ATTIC TRUNK 9:4 (Summer, 2007). (Magazine of the Piedmont Historical Society)
Gail Lombardi, Chair of the Piedmont Historical Society (communications of July 20-21, 2020).
Project originally submitted by Joan Greer on June 5, 2020.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.
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