Castlemont (1929 – 1959) A Eulogy….#68

To be destroyed but never forgotten

To be abolished but never forgotten

“Forever lost, forever changed, we care, so we remember.”   Previously on Friday March 22, 1957 at 11:44 ,  Gary having commenced his oral report in Miss Lamping’s third period American History class when an seismic aberration rattled the bay-area imposing a sempiternal judgement on Castlemont High School.  Seismologist finding  the epicenter location to be across the bay in Daly City, south of San Francisco, a moment magnitude of 5.7 and a maximum Mercalli Intensity of VII (Very strong).  It was the strongest earthquake along the San Francisco peninsula since 1906.   The rumbling and results of the quake didn’t register with the Youth at the time,  but the announcement that followed would forever be inscribed.

  Gary’s Mother was a board member on the District PTA and was in attendance during a presentation of an official  seismologist report concerning the earthquake and all the Oakland Public School buildings.  She approached the constituency with consternation about Castlemont High School and received an invitation to tour the educational building as the district PTA representative  to witness the structural damage.   Upon completion of the school assessment,  she was testimony to the results of the inspection and the Public Schools forthcoming announcement.   The existing Castlemont high school buildings would be demolished and replaced with better lateral resistant structure.   The teens mother relating that the school had suffered structural damage,  Gary not realizing or comprehending the extent until  word began to spread at school,  Castlemont was going to be replaced.  It was an unacceptable thought, an unspoken topic,  never again the subject of discussion among his classmates, concluding  it was unspeakable, his class living in the present and wouldn’t be subject to the annihilation of this beautiful structure.

Replaced by a bridge

Replaced by a bus

Gary remembering his early school educational  experiences as a first grader with the original Burckhalter Elementary building standing vacant and forlorn awaiting removal.   During his final year of  Junior High,  the announcement of another buildings destruction, the three-story Frick Junior High would be demolished after his departure.   Gary often wondered about the reasoning for removing these well serving institutions, was it in the name of safety or the ascension of a trafficking commerce and their political overtones.   Questioning if there was a place for progress with a purpose in his youthful melancholy world, retrieving the memory of adventuress times on the Richmond-San Rafael Ferry,  it too being replaced by an accelerated passageway called a bridge.  No more can one board the bay traversing vessel to experience the briskness of the breeze entering thru the Golden Gate, communicating its presence as it travels across the deck or the identifying smell of brine nuzzling the bellowing movement of the bow.    The Electric Train or publicly known as the Transbay Transit  becoming another appliance of the past,  never again to traverse the Bay Bridge,  a person able to sit in its confines,  the speciousness,  absorb the panoramic view, the clickety-clack rhythmic sound as its silent motors propel the carriages across the unimpeded  span of track,  replaced  by the cramped enclosed quarters of a bus, a victim of the traffic signal  with its continuous  stop and go in the congestion of traffic.

Castlemont –  (1929 – 1959 ) A Eulogy

The foundation being poured June 1928

The steel supports for the auditorium and towers

Castlemont under construction summer 1928

The second floor walls showing a presence.\


In 1920 after a study the Oakland Board of Education determine because of the expanding population the necessity for another high school in the southeast section of the Elmhurst District.  In 1927 they initially purchased 10.2 acres of land between 84th Ave and 88th ave west of Foothill Blvd.  Architects Chester Miller and Carl Warnecke blueprints for a 15th century medieval castle of the elizabethan and gothic architectural design with cast cement, brick,  half -timber, slate, leaded glass and arches was approved.

The main entrance, 2 lions and  copper & brass 50lb mounted lights

To the southeast of the main entrance, the leaded glass door of the administration suite

To the north another entrance

On August 12th 1929 East Oakland High School opened at a cost of $670,000, but the name was short-lived, by a vote of the students and faculty in 1930 the name Castlemont was officially brought to prominence prior to being nationally designated the most beautiful school structure in the country.

      The buildings main entrance accessed from Foothill Blvd down six steps to the reflection pool then ascend six steps to extended terrace and the four entry solid redwood doors.  The full length of Castlemonts grounds adjacent to Foothill having been magnificently landscaped.

View from above Foothill Blvd.

Steps down from Foothill Blvd to the entrance and reflection pool

Looking northwest the reflection Pool

A landscaping marvel

The southwest wing adjacent to the tower  provided separate slate roof offices for the vice principal with the principal’s office having a side entrance to an extended terrace, the second floor finished in Tudor half-timber.  To the northeast was the covered gate entrance to the rear of the property, lined with the shops.

The second floor Tudor half-timber

Covered entrance to the rear of the school

Shops on the northeast

The auditorium with balcony seated 1500, equipped with a theatre projection accessible stage, dressing room, lighting and a 9ft. concert grand piano.  The extremely spacious library housing books numbering in the thousands with beam ceiling and windows bordering the open air but enclosed south court, accessible through the full service cafeteria.

School auditorium “Jordan Hall

South auditorium corridor better known as Camelot Way

A treasure of knowledge – The library

In 1939 because of additional stringent earthquakes precautions the original gymnasium was replaced.  1941 found the same enacted requirements dictating the removal of the classic gothic slate and brick,  leaded glass shops and replaced with a commercially accepted substitutes.   In 1949  acquired additional property, installing a full service certified heated Pool, and with the criteria of competitive sports expanding, Castlemont, a member of the O.A.L.  (Oakland Athletic League)  acquired and dedicated new turf for its athletic field in November of 1950.  With the blossoming  increase in student population, a large connecting two story academic classroom facility was constructed on the southeast of the school that same year.

The replacement Gym








Castlemonts new turf

New Castlemont Pool

In January 1960 this remarkable Oakland landmark was taken from us.






Gary’s January 1959 class would be the second from the last to graduate from Castlemont.  His tenth grade gym instructor was a member of the first teaching staff at Castlemont……

The inaugural 1929 teaching staff at Castlemont, the arrow pointing to Mr. Clarence Street.

Mr. Clarence Street – 1957

Standing before the building as Gary did on that first day,  heeding the view of ivy covered walls,  majestic ascending  towers,  lily laden reflection pond,  he searched his emotions for an explanation or reason to destroy this emblem of man’s achievement.   If only the structure could speak for itself,  the words would be, ” surely another remedy could be found”.   Gary pondered,  was this the beginning of a new ideology,  expediency is better than reflection,  contemporary  is more desirable than the celebrated,  but knew in his heart, abolishment could never replace memories.

The memories will remain forever




2 Responses to “Castlemont (1929 – 1959) A Eulogy….#68”

  1. gwillson7 Says:

    Haven’t quite deciphered your comment, but thank you for the acknowledgement…….Gary

  2. Patrick Dyer Says:

    My Dad (1920-1978) went to Frick & Castlemont (Class of 1938, I have the Yearbook). That Daly City quake was not long before noon on Friday, March 22 – slightly felt in my 4th-grade class at Olive ES in Novato (Marin Co.) – but a lot worse by my Mom at home, which was built on filled land.

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