TASSAJARA VALLEY -- Pioneer children started attending the little, one-room school house in Tassajara Valley back in 1889.
One-hundred and twenty-three years later, the school house still stands under black walnut trees behind a white fence on rural Finley Road.
The Museum of San Ramon took ownership of the Tassajara School House last month, and members of the museum plan to keep the school around indefinitely.
"We're going to maintain the historic structure of the building," said Jerry Warren, president of the museum's board of directors. "We want to make sure that it stays a historic resource for the community and continues to support our school program."
For the past 18 years, the museum has operated the Tassajara One Room School program in which San Ramon Valley school district third graders experience what it was like to go to school here in the 1880s.
Students dress in 1880s-era clothing, use slates and chalk for their schoolwork and play games from the era during recess. They even bow and curtsy to their teacher just like kids did back then.
More than 30,000 students and their parents have visited the one-room Tassajara School House through the program. Students attended the school from 1889 until 1946 when enrollment declined too low to keep it open. The building sat vacant until it was deeded to Contra Costa County in 1957. It was then used as a community center and the meeting site for the Tassajara Fire District. In 1990, the Tassajara district merged with the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, which took over maintenance of the building.
"We felt an affinity for it," said Steve Hart, the former assistant chief in charge of facilities for the fire district. "It was our facility."
Hart said district firefighters would hold picnics at the school. A district caretaker maintained the building and tended the grounds. The fire district board of directors offered the building to the Museum of San Ramon Valley in the 1990s, but the museum was focused on restoring the 1891 Southern Pacific Railroad Danville Depot and declined. The museum board reopened the issue this year, and in June the fire district board voted to declare the school surplus property and deeded it to the museum.
"It was taking away from our fire service duties," Hart said. "It's a better fit with the museum."
As the transfer got underway, it turned out that the deed had never been registered either with the Tassajara Fire District or the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, but was still held by Contra Costa County. The county board of supervisors voted unanimously in September to transfer the school to the museum. Hart, who retired from the fire district last month, said he plans to volunteer as a caretaker for the old school.
"I want to keep it going," he said. "I think it's a cool piece of San Ramon Valley history."
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.