A Short History of Oxford

   Oxford is one of the oldest schools in Berkeley. Built originally in 1909, the first school structure reflected distinctive features of the Craftsman Style, namely a tile-roofed Mission Revival bell-tower and a large polygonal bay window facing the hillside playground. George Plowman, a Berkeley artist and architect, designed Oxford as a small school that fit aesthetically not only with the hilly terrain but also among the houses at that time.

  On August 4, 1910, school opened with Mrs. Clara Partridge as principal and one of three teachers for 99 students in grades 1 through 6. In 1914 a kindergarten was added. Mrs. Partridge helped establish the original "family" spirit at Oxford so that it would become a place where small children could play together on coeducational playgrounds and celebrate together holidays and annual pageants. "There are no division fences in the yard," she wrote. "It is not an uncommon sight to see a boy and a girl tuming a rope or playing 'chase the fox' merrily." For its time, her emphasis on coeducational play was quite unusual.

  The tradition of family spirit at Oxford helped save it in subsequent years when in the 1920's the school's small size and out-of-the-way location threatened it with closure. It was the "determination and etemal vigilance" of parents and community that kept it open. Community concern With structural safety as a result of the Long Beach earthquake sparked the rehabilitation of the original wood frame building to comply with the 1933 Field Act Oxford parents formed a Dad's Club as a community project to rebuild the structure. Working nights and weekends under the direction of Walter Stellberg, the rehabilitation was completed in 1934. According to Betty Marvin of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, earthquake work included removal of the tower and tiled cornice. Until work was complete, children were transferred to Cragmont School.

  In 1965 the old school was replaced by the present building. While the new school was under construction, some Oxford classes were held at Live Oak Park (on the stage and in the theater and club rooms) Kindergarten and 1st grade were housed at Epworth Methodist Church and grades 5 and 6 were at Thousand Oaks. In 1994, thanks to the continued support of the "Oxford Family," the school was repainted, and beautiful murals added to the Cafetorium. Construction in 1997 gave us a marvelous new state-of-the-art library, an elevator to meet disabled accessibility requirements, two classrooms to support class size reduction needs, a science resource room, textbook and teacher workrooms, and windows with a western exporsure and view of the Bay. Oxford's tradition of outstanding staff, concerned principals, dedicated faculty, eager students, and participating parents continues today. We continue our small school tradition, with family community spirit, for the well-being of the extra special children entrusted to our care.