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.