The Tompkins School (also Tompkins Observation School; later Tompkins Elementary) was located on 5th Street between Linden and Chestnut Streets. It was named for state senator Edward Tompkins.
Construction of the school began July 3, 1877, and was completed December 4, 1877. It opened on January 3, 1878. 11
Until 1879, Charles H. Clement was the principal. Beginning in 1880, William Clawson was the principal until his death in 1882.
In 1887 the Principal of the Tompkins School was Mrs. Rosamond R. Johnston, along with eight teachers; Mrs. Brenda H. Stone, Miss Adeline E. Walton, Miss Henrietta Sumner, Miss Waretta A. Carter, Miss M. A. Kimball, Miss Sadie I Regan, Mrs. Cordelia J. Hammer, and Miss Regina Reilly. B. H. Carter was employed as the janitor.
From 1890 (or 1891) to 1899, Edwin Markham was the principal. 1, 2, 4, 5 In 1900, Miss A. E. Walton was appointed the principal. 3
In 1898, there was discussion about moving the school because of its location near the then marshy shoreline: "Being: so near to the marsh, with such poor surroundings, pupils have avoided it, Parents have found excuses to have their children transferred to one of the other schools in the district" 7 In particular, a 'bog' across from the school that had become a dumping ground was said to be a health hazard. 9 The new location was to be Castro Street just north of 7th Street. However, parents and neighbors objected to the school being moved, and suggested the money be spent improving the area around the school instead of moving it. 8 The complaint was not new; some had blamed William Clawson's death in 1882 on the pools.
In 1911, the school and several others in Oakland had playgrounds with swings "and other modern apparatus" added. 6
1914 Fire and Rebuilding
Early in the morning of August 21, 1914, a fire broke out in the southwest corner of the building. Two policeman, Patrolman Maxey and Special Policeman Robertson, sounded the alarm at 2:55 AM. There was concern for nearby buildings, and some area residents moved their belongings out into the street in case the fire spread. The fire was under control by 6:00 AM, but by then school was destroyed. Arson was thought to be the cause. 13
A new building was constructed nearby and opened October 11, 1915. 11 There was a movement to rename the school for Edwin Markham, but the school board vetoed the idea. 12Local historian Ruben Llamas attended first grade at Tompkins Elementary c.1942, and notes in Eye from the Edge that the school was at 3rd and Adeline. (The 1944 directory lists Tompkins School at 1075 - 5th Street 10 but the grounds took the entire block down to 3rd Street.)
The 'new' school was closed in 1964, and scheduled for demolition because of the nearby Acorn Redevelopment Project. 12 It sat empty for a time, but the wrecking ball came in 1965. 14 The land was put up for sale later that year. 15
Links and References
- Would Succeed Edwin Markham San Francisco Call May 9, 1900
- Edwin Markham on Wikipedia
- Poet Markham's Place Filled By Woman San Francisco Call June 9, 1900
- Modern Language Notes, 1943 (saying he started at Tompkins in Spring 1891)
- Edwin Markham in Muckrakers: A Biographical Dictionary of Writers and Editors (saying he started in 1890)
- New Playgrounds in Oakland To Be Added San Francisco Call June 4, 1911
- Move Tompkins School San Francisco Call March 20, 1898
- The Proposed School Deal San Francisco Call March 26, 1898
- A Bog Adjoins The School San Francisco Call February 4, 1897
- 1944 Directory
- Founding and Growth of Tompkins School Told Oakland Tribune March 1, 1942
- Knave Oakland Tribune August 16, 1964
- Fire Destroys Tompkins School Oakland Tribune August 21, 1914
- Historic School Doomed Oakland Tribune September 16, 1965
- public notice Oakland Tribune October 11, 1965
- No More Schooldays Oakland Tribune September 29, 1965
- Board of Education Oakland Tribune December 11, 1879
- Teachers and Schools of California San Francisco Call January 16, 1898