Egbert W. Beach (Lake Avenue) School
With its burgeoning population, Piedmont incorporated late the following year, September 1907. Several years later, Piedmont’s forefathers deemed it wise to build not one, but two schools to serve the community. The city’s first school (originally named The Bonita Avenue School, but later renamed Frank C. Haven’s after the land donor) opened its doors in 1911. The Bonita Avenue School quickly filled to capacity, and the Lake Avenue School was built in 1913 as a response to the continuing demand for more classrooms.
At the Lake Avenue School, four teachers taught 100 students in six grades. In 1918, the school was renamed the Egbert W. Beach School in honor of Egbert William Beach. Beach was a popular resident and active in his church with children.
His father, Ranson E. Beach, was a well respected interior designer with his home and studio on Sunnyside Avenue. Egbert Beach served as a second lieutenant in the 1st Engineer Battalion, the oldest and most decorated engineer battalion in the United States Army. The eponymous soldier was the first Piedmont resident to give his life in World War I, and the school was soon after renamed in his honor.
While Beach’s original building was constructed in 1913, it was condemned as a firetrap and earthquake menace in 1933 and torn down in 1934.
Temporarily housed in 14 one-room shacks, Beach was ultimately replaced in two separate Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects: the main wing was built in 1936 then the auditorium/classroom wing was added in 1940. This reconstruction was part of the FDR New Deal program’s larger effort to upgrade almost 300 California schools. In Piedmont, the WPA built 28 new earthquake-ready classrooms not only at Beach but also at Havens, Wildwood, and Piedmont High School. Additionally, new auditoriums sprouted in all three elementary schools, each with a different theme: 1) Literature (Beach), 2) California History (Havens) and 3) U.S. History (Wildwood). Interestingly, the beautiful pictures featured on the ceiling were the work of fifth- and sixth-grade students who painted the panels in a paint-by-number fashion. Unlike Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, however, the painters completed their works on the ground and then the murals were applied to the ceiling. Beach dedicated its auditorium as the Florence E. Luke Play House. Ms. Luke had been a teacher at Beach School for 27 years.
Late 20th Century
Beach’s annual musical extravaganza had its humble beginnings in 1969. Diana Rossin of 29 Lake initiated the revue as a talent show. It is doubtful that she could imagine decades later is would become a full-school production and a crowning achievement for fifth graders to punctuate their time at Beach. The rich tradition of Beach Revue has been key to pulling parents and students together. In today’s budget constrained public schools having a serious arts endeavor for Beach students is a rare privilege. We are thankful for Ms. Rossin’s seed and moarn her passing in early 2013.
Beach enjoyed the long-tenured guidance of Nancy McHugh, who served as principal of the school from 1979-2007. Combining Nancy’s leadership with Beach parent and teacher collaboration, the school gained a reputation for both strong academics and community intimacy. Nancy presided over a significant expansion of the school in the late 90’s. The long hallway at Beach originally only had one side with classrooms. The school added four classrooms, the computer lab and the library to the opposite side of the hall. Beach students and teachers continued to meet in their existing classrooms while surrounded by construction. Specific rules were fondly remembered for ensuring safety — no playing with jackhammers during recess! Fittingly, upon Nancy’s retirement, Beach renamed their lovely book treasury as the Nancy McHugh Library.
Piedmont People brochure, 1928:
In 1925, the City Council appointed Mrs. R. C. McLachlan, 102 Sunnyside Avenue, to head a committee on “Good Citizen at Linda Park near the Egbert Beach School. The support of ship," and to take the responsibility of installing a playground Club was secured, and she assumed the supervision of the the Board of Education and the West Piedmont Improvement grounds, and secured the services of Miss Marian Anderson, formerly of the Oakland Playground.
The grounds were opened the middle of July, with 300 in attendance the first week. A constructive program was organized to promote good sportsmanship, and to build character and good citizenship. The honor system and self government plan was adopted.
The first annual play day was held April 17, 1926. It was a success, attended by the largest crowd that had been present up to that time. Miss Anderson resigned in June, 1926, and Mrs. McLachlan in July appointed Mrs. Telura Swim, a worker of experience in Oakland.
At this time a readjustment of departments was effected. The recreation department, being young and small, was included in the park department under Mr. A. C. Hibbard, park commissioner. A new feature was now introduced—the co-operation of schools and playgrounds. Miss Rosemary McDonald, physical
education supervisor of elementary schools in Piedmont became assistant supervisor on playgrounds after school. Now instead of annual play days, the regular monthly play days became outstanding. Inter-school competition was introduced and the grounds of Havens and Beach schools as well as Linda playgrounds were pressed into use, as five hundred children were involved at once in these games. Grounds and organizations were supervised by Mrs. Swim and Miss McDonald.
Officials and referees were given through the kindness and interested attitude of the teachers and principals of Beach and Havens schools—Miss Luke at Beach and Miss Driscoll and later Miss Chapin at Havens as principals.
A beautiful club house was erected by the council, which furnished greater conveniences and a more commodious office. At the opening of the club house, which was named by the children, the Girls' Fidelity Club was hostess and reception committee.
In November of 1927 Mr. Barnett of the manual training department of the high school assisted in establishing a simple program in wood work novelties, wooden toys, etc. The work is a daily feature engaging from twenty to thirty children at a time. An exhibition for the Women's Guild is in progress, after which the things will be donated to the Children's hospital.
A special program in folk dancing and natural dancing under the direction of Miss Betty Rockwood, is the outstanding feature of the last half of the school year of 1928. At the close of the school year a program will be given in the Community Center where the classes are held every Friday.
Oakland Tribune - Fri - May 3, 1918
Oakland Tribune – May 8, 1918
Lieut. Beach of Piedmont Among Slain
“Lieutenant Egbert William Beach, killed in action,” is the brief message received by Mr. and Mrs. Ransom E. Beach, 110 Sunnyside Avenue, Piedmont telling them of the death of their only son on the battlefields of Europe. Lieutenant Beach was killed in action April 27. The telegram bringing the news from Adjutant-General H.P. McCain. The name appears on the casualty list sent out from Washington today.
Lieutenant Beach would have been 30 years old had he lived till next October. He was born in San Francisco and was graduated from the Oakland High School. Before entering the officers training camp last day he was employed in the engineering department of the San Francisco-Oakland Terminal Railways.
The young California was commissioned in the engineer corps and sailed for France last December on the Tuscania, the trip being the one immediately preceding the fatal voyage of the transport during which the vessel met disaster.
Besides his father and mother, Lieutenant Beach is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Frederick Paul Vickery of Palo Alto and Miss Dorothy Beach of Oakland. His father is manager of the Beach-Robinson Company in San Francisco.
Oakland Tribune – Fri – Apr. 13, 1934
OLD PIEDMONT SCHOOL TO FALL
The three story Egbert W. Beach School at Linda and Lake Avenues, built in 1913, was being razed today by workmen, after being closed to 317 pupils on December 15.
The building was condemned by E. D. Francis, senior structural engineer for the State who branded it as being “very deteriorated condition, not having a sufficient margin of safety.”
According to Harry W. Jones, Piedmont superintendent of schools, the building was erected on filled land that had been sinking steadily for the past 20 years, causing walls to sag out of line and jots to be strained.
Construction of a new building at this time is not contemplated. Pupils are being housed in temporary structures containing 17 rooms and costing $6500.
Before work of tearing the building down began the bronze plaque afflicted to the school at the time it was renamed in 1919 was removed. Originally the plant was known as the Lake Avenue School.
In honor of Egbert W Beach, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ranson E. Beach, 110 Sunnyside Avenue, who was the first California officer to be killed during the World War, the school’s name was changed. The bronze plaque was placed by the Oakland Chapter of the D. A. R.
Young Beach was a lieutenant in the Company of B. of the First Engineers.
Oakland Tribune - Sun - Apr. 17, 1921
Designers: John J. Donovan
Quality of Information: Very Good
Site Survival: Extant
The original Beach School was built in 1913 but declared an earthquake hazard and torn down in 1934. It was replaced in two phases: the main wing in 1936 and the rear classroom wing and auditorium in 1940 (PHS 2007). The new school included 8 classrooms, a kindergarten, offices, a health room and an auditorium.
There had been three previous efforts to replace schools and temporary buildings at schools in Piedmont in the 1920s, but the bond issues lost. After the school board sought and gained funding from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a new bond issue passed in December 1933. Of the over $300,000 available, $111,000 was allocated for the Beach School.
Nevertheless, the school district exhausted these funds at some point and sought further aid from the Works Projects Administration (WPA) later in the decade. The WPA provided an additional $115,000 in relief labor and materials to rebuild the Beach School and the plaque on the school credits the WPA (part of the Federal Works Administration in 1940) not the PWA (Piedmonter 1940).
The design of Beach School is single-story Mission Revival. The main building faces north and a long classroom wing extends southward from the back of the former. The back wing has both inside and outside access to each classroom. The L-shaped building flanks a large playground. It remains in good condition with original elements of the interior intact (note the covered fireplace in the lobby).
The auditorium is at the northeast corner of the school (to the left, facing the school entrance). An interesting note is student participation in the creation of the school 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…..”
The school was named after the first son of Piedmont to be killed in the First World War. The Mother Goose murals executed by High School art students and the linoleum inlaid floor depicting Noah’s Ark, both in the Kindergarten room, were done when the school was built but are not New Deal projects.
Oakland Tribune - Wed - Aug. 24, 1966