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Frank C. Havens (Bonita Avenue) School

From a Piedmont calendar in the Oakland History Room:

When the doors to the Bonita Avenue School opened in 1911, it was not the first time that Piedmont taxpayers had paid for a school, but it was the first time that they actually owned one. In 1897 Piedmont residents had paid $4,000 to Mt. View Cemetery for a piece of property on which to build a school and had passed $16,000 in bonds to erect the structure. Before the new building was even completed, however, the City of Oakland annexed the land on which the school was located and claimed jurisdiction over the facility. For the next four years the voters not only paid off the school bond, but paid $20 per child for their children to attend the Oakland School District.

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Picturing school activities / An interesting résumé of modern school activities, as exemplified in the public schools of Alameda County, California by Rice, Archie Birmingham; Bell, Harmon

Publication date 1915


For instance, preparation of the children of the Piedmont school for the cover design, "A California Tower of Jewels," was no small task. I went to that school at 8:30 in the morning, consulted with the four men who were about to construct the necessary scaffolding, telling them what I had in mind. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon I was back with a still-life photographer, for then the structure was ready. By 2 :30 o'clock I began arranging the 300 children, the littlest first and down in front. But little folk wiggle and tire, and even these charming Piedmont children would not all stay put. By 4 o'clock the thing was ready, and the photographer made three rapid exposures. The preparations took an hour and a half for that grouping, working rapidly, but the actual picture was made in two-fifths of a second. I had to be careful and sure that no accident might mar the occasion.

Some twenty years at newspaper and magazine writing, with an eye ever alert for the strange and the picturesque and the beautiful, and a personal experience at talking before nearly a hundred school, college, and convent audiences in California are back of the assertion I now make: That Piedmont group is uniformly the finest looking lot of children I have ever seen together anywhere. Particularly were there lovely little girls, and as sweet as they were good to look upon.

Piedmont is a hillside paradise of beautiful homes, made lovely with gardens and set for a commanding- view down over Oakland and toward the Golden Gate and the fire- christened city off over there that is piled and ranked upon its forty hills, the least of which is higher than any hill in Rome or Athens.

They told me that the supervising principal of those two Piedmont schools is the highest paid woman teacher in the county schools. She is Miss Clara Crumpton, and the pay is $1,800 a year.

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Living New Deal website:

Project type: Education and HealthSchools

New Deal Agencies: Public Works Administration (PWA)Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Started: 1937

Completed: 1942

Quality of Information: Very Good

Status: Unmarked

Site Survival: ExtantNo Longer Extant

Frank C. Havens Elementary School was originally built in 1910 and expanded under the New Deal with the help of Public Works Administration (PWA) funding and Works Progress Administration (WPA) relief labor and materials.  A new five-classroom wing and an auditorium were built on the eastern edge of the school grounds. The lovely auditorium, renamed the Ellen Driscoll Community Playhouse, survives.

There had been three previous efforts to replace temporary buildings at schools in Piedmont in the 1920s, because about one-third of Piedmont students were being taught in temporary buildings (derisively called ‘shacks’ by the locals). All 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.  

Overall, Piedmont schools rebuilding program erected 28 classrooms in new buildings at Havens, Wildwood and Beach Elementary Schools, as well as adding auditoriums at each one.  Beach School was completely rebuilt.  Additions were also made to Piedmont High School.  

Of the original funds, $89,000 were allocated for the Havens School (Tribune, Dec. 11, 1933). Work did not begin until 1936, however, and it appears that the School District ran out of money, because it applied for additional support from the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The amount provided by the WPA is unknown to us, but the two buildings added to the school in the late 1930s are both attributed to the WPA.

The WPA classroom at Havens School was built in 1937-38 (Piedmonter 1938) and the auditorium was added in 1940-42  (Piedmonter 1940).   The WPA crews also carried out painting, refinishing and adding new lighting to the Havens classrooms (ibid).  The auditorium was named in honor of Ellen Driscoll. Students participated in painting the ceilings of all the Piedmont school auditoriums; the theme at Havens/Driscoll is California history.

In 1955, a new Havens School was built at the same site.  Later, the 1910 school was torn down (on the current playground area).  The New Deal classroom and auditorium remained.  Then, in 2010, the school was completely rebuilt and the 1938 classroom was demolished. The new Havens School is a beautiful Mission Revival complex.  The elegant Mission style auditorium still survives.

In the gallery below are three aerial photos of Havens School:  

The first shows the 1910 Mission Revival school facing Bonita Avenue with the 1938 WPA classroom building behind it.  The auditorium is to the east, facing Highland Avenue. 

In the second,  the 1955 school has been added to the north of the older buildings.  

The third photo shows the same complex with the 1910 school removed and replaced by a playground.  The imprint of the 1910 school still shows on the playground surface.

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The Western journal of education, by Wagner, Harr, - Publication date 1895:

Miss Driscoll, principal of the Frank C. Havens school. Piedmont, is one of the first persons of California who put into operation in her school the activity program. Miss Driscoll several years ago, before inaugurating the program, made personal observations of procedures in progressive schools around New York City. The activity program as functioning tinder Miss Driscoll has been a success. Miss Driscoll and her teachers have acquired the happy faculty of having activity work with discipline and a classroom free of boisterousness. A visit to her school shows the fine work done. The low third, in charge of Miss Vivian Rhodes, has an Indian unit; the high second, under Miss Marion Reed, is studying Japan; Miss Maurine Harmon of the high third has a project on Spain and Norway; the f arm is the study of a first grade, under Miss Helen Sheridan. Mrs. Evae Gildae, elementary supervisor of the Piedmont schools, is also an ardent advocate of the activity program, and that is one reason why the program has been so fully developed in Piedmont.


Miss Ellen Driscoll, principal of the Prank C. Havens School, Piedmont, has been an exponent of the activity program and the free expression of children for years, with reservations. Miss Driscoll runs one of the few schools in the country where the activity program is a delight and yet there is constant quiet control. One of the best outcomes of the past year was the publication of a book of poems by children of the Frank C. Havens School, which was printed by Piedmont High School printing department.

This book of poems is 80 pages in length, printed in good- sized type on tinted paper. The book is bound in board and has a cover design of hollyhocks, the work of Mary Jane Davey. The frontispiece is a block print of the Frank C. Havens School and is the work of Bill Bliss.


Oakland Tribune - Tue - Apr. 14, 1914

Piedmont - Schools - Havens bonita avenu

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Apr. 14, 1914

Piedmont Exedra, October 27, 2018:

This was 1954 and I was Captain of the Traffic Patrol for Havens School. I would go out in the street and raise my traffic sign and bring cars to a halt. My name is Fran Bishopric Wolfe and I have lived in Piedmont for three quarters of a century.

In that time, I have witnessed many things that have changed — and some that haven’t. I attended Havens School (the old, OLD Havens school designed by Albert Farr) as did our children (in the newer, old Havens school that was torn down in 2010). 

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