photo of Bear Valley Schoolhouse

In January 2012, Pinnacles National Park acquired the Bear Valley Schoolhouse, which lies on just over one acre of land adjacent to the park’s eastern boundary. The Bear Valley Schoolhouse was constructed in the 1903 on land that was donated by the earliest American settler to homestead in this rural valley at the eastern foot of the Pinnacles. The one-room, wood-frame structure was the principal school serving the local community for the next fifty years. It also functioned as the nucleus of the community’s social life, serving as a gathering hall for many events, later including Park Service meetings. It continued in this role even after it ceased to function as a school in 1950.

The building was shuttered in 2002 due to its deteriorating physical condition. Nonetheless, the building remains structurally sound and retains its historic integrity, having never been moved or substantially modified.

The Bear Valley Schoolhouse continues to hold strong emotional and historic associations for local residents, many of whom are descended from the first generation of settlers who went to school here as children. Its preservation will help to maintain a tangible link to a historically-significant period in California’s past, while a careful rehabilitation of the structure will help support ethnographic traditions which were centered on the schoolhouse itself. The importance of this building as bearer of both history and tradition makes it crucial that its preservation be done in a manner that faithfully conserves these values. This in turn requires accurate knowledge of the building’s physical development over time and a careful analysis of alternative treatment methodologies in order to identify the most appropriate restoration process.

In February 2012, PIPA financially supported the research and writing of a Historic Structure Report to provide this detailed knowledge.  The report gives much-needed guidance for the long-term preservation and use of this significant property.  During this time, the building was stabilized by gently removing the bell tower for safe storage until further rehabilitation can take place and preservation funding can be raised. 

Timothy Babalis, Ph.D., Historian of the National Park Service’s Pacific West Regional Office, finalized the Historic Structure Report in 2013.  The site will be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and in February of 2014 the State Historic Preservation Office of California supported this nomination.  Pinnacles National Park Superintendent Karen Beppler-Dorn anticipates a final decision announcement from the National Register during 2014.

Pinnacles Partnership is proud to be the fundraising partner to Pinnacles National Park supporting projects like the restoration of Bear Valley School.  Once restored, Bear Valley School will serve as a classroom for students and visitors for educational and interpretive programs.  It will also continue to serve as a resource for the community. 

Pinnacles Partnership is happy to receive and publicly acknowledge specific grants and donations for this large project.  For more information please contact Rochelle Fischer, Executive Director, at 831-637-4879.