EL CERRITO -- The city's historical society is hosting a day of celebration and appreciation for the Chung Mei Home for Chinese Boys, the building at 1800 Elm St. that has recently been found eligible for national historic recognition.
The event will take place at El Cerrito City Hall, 10900 San Pablo Ave., from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 18. A reception with light snacks will be held in the City Hall lobby from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
The Chung Mei home, originally in Berkeley, acquired land and constructed a building where it housed Chinese boys age 6 to 18 years old from its opening in 1935 through 1954. The structure later housed other institutions, most recently Windrush School, a private elementary and middle school, from 1987 to 2012.
The building was purchased a year ago by the Chamberlin Family Foundation after Windrush fell into bankruptcy. The foundation plans to lease it to Redwood City-based Summit Public Schools to operate a charter middle and high school beginning next fall.
On Wednesday, the historical society will display archives of the Chung Mei Chronicles, the newsletter produced by the boys at the school, from 1928, when the home was located in Berkeley, until 1944, as well as photographs documenting the boys' activities, said historical society Treasurer Tom Panas.
The monthly newsletters, with a cover often carefully hand-colored for holiday issues, offer a revealing look at life at the home as well as humor and views on current events of the day.
The three bound volumes were donated to the society by a granddaughter of Chung Mei founder Dr. Charles Shepherd who now lives in Tennessee.
The El Cerrito Historical Society board approved the cost to unbind the volumes, scan the issues and then rebind them.
Shepherd mobilized the boys to raise money to build in El Cerrito after it was learned that state highway construction plans were going to force them out of their building on Heinz Avenue in Berkeley.
"The best accounting we have is that they had two years to move after they found out the state wasn't going to pay for a new home," Panas said.
The boys, some of whom were orphans, harvested and sold firewood, among other ventures, to raise the approximately $35,000 it would take to build the new home.
"They also solicited donations in the community for money and in-kind donations, very openly and honestly," Panas said.
During World War II, the boys spent their summers when school was out picking fruit in California's Central Valley to raise money and fill in for workers who had joined the armed forces.
Chung Mei Heritage Day "is really about honoring the former residents and the fact that El Cerrito now has a building that is on the National Register of Historic Places," Panas said.
What: Chung Mei Heritage Day
Where: El Cerrito City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Ave.
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18