Claremont Middle School's presence at the intersection of Birch Court and College Avenue dates back to the year 1918, according to documents obtained from the History Room at the Oakland Public Library. It was relocated just five blocks from its former location at the intersection of College and Claremont avenues, where it was founded as a one-room schoolhouse in 1899.
At the time, it was called Claremont Grade School, positioned at the entrance into the expanding neighborhood on the Berkeley-Oakland border. The name tells us a lot about the neighborhood back then, when Winifred and Raymond Perry famously bought a substantial amount of property in the upscale Claremont district adjacent to Vernon Park, purchasing just more than 5 acres of the Roselawn subdivision at the northeast end of Oakland. At the time, this area was already well known for the Pagoda Hills Estate and Roselawn Park Estate, which were considered the largest and fanciest in Oakland.
Indeed, the Perrys' choice of location in 1910 -- now the site of St. Albert's Priory -- to build their estate, "Brookhurst," at the end of Birch Court (formerly called Pagoda Avenue) to constitute a country estate near the heart of a great city reflects just how fine this neighborhood was and how the addition of Claremont Grade School at the opposite end of Birch Court would have been well-received by families moving into the community. In fact, enrollment was so great that the lower grades were split off in the 1920s to form the Claremont School Annex on Chabot Road, later renamed Chabot Elementary School.
At some point, Claremont Grade School became a junior high school -- I could not find a date in the History Room. But when I moved to Birch Court in 1976, it was known as Claremont Junior High. It officially became a middle school in 1985 when a sixth grade was added and the ninth-graders were sent to Oakland Technical High School. My oldest son was in that first sixth-grade class.
Today, the signage on the side of Claremont Middle School states, "this school has been here since 1913." Unfortunately, the sign is celebrating the wrong year, as the school opened for its very first class in 1918, and, in fact, there is a photograph at the History Room of the first class sitting in front of the gate that states "Claremont Grade School 1918."
I believe over time the letter on the signage eroded and the "8" turned into a "3." As a mother of three children who attended Claremont Middle School in the 1980s and 1990s, I wholeheartedly support and celebrate the school and the excellent teachers they were fortunate to have.
I understand that the Claremont Middle School community is planning a centennial celebration. I would, however, like to suggest they save the date for historical accuracy to celebrate this wonderful school, its dedicated teachers, and its place in the history of this northeastern part of the city of Oakland.
Anne Kasdin is an Oakland resident.