The Cambrian

Relocation site of historic schoolhouse in Cambria called into question

The historic Santa Rosa Schoolhouse, foreground, and the Palmer Building sit on the property sold by the Lions Club to Poly Pro in Cambria’s West Village.
The historic Santa Rosa Schoolhouse, foreground, and the Palmer Building sit on the property sold by the Lions Club to Poly Pro in Cambria’s West Village. sprovost@thetribunenews.com

The historic Old Santa Rosa Schoolhouse won’t be relocated to the Cambria Community Services District’s small pocket park at the creek end of Bridge Street at Center Street.

Now, according to sources at the Cambria Historical Society, which took ownership of the circa 1881 schoolhouse in January 2018, that nonprofit is researching the possibilities of putting the tiny structure on an open Main Street meadow near Santa Rosa Creek Road, the former site of the town’s dog park.

Geologically, biologically, stability-wise and according to county permitting regulations (creek setbacks and parking requirements, for instance), the Center Street parcel probably wouldn’t work, according to a report from architect Brent Berry and opinions from others who studied the proposed project site.

Given the size of the Center Street property and its proximity to Santa Rosa Creek, the property simply wouldn’t be suitable, nor would the society be apt to get county permission to put the one-room structure there for public use.

A lot of work and consideration had gone into that concept, including a November vote by the Cambria Historical Society board to endorse that location (among others), a similar vote Dec. 4 by the district’s Parks Recreation and Open Space Commission, and a Jan. 17 vote by the services district Board of Directors authorizing staff to draft a long-term lease and allow society researchers onto the Center Street property to do their due diligence.

The latter efforts were what apparently skewered the concept of putting the schoolhouse onto that East Village location, according to schoolhouse Project Manager Laurel Stewart.

So, at the historical society’s Jan. 31 meeting, the board voted 9 to 3 to reverse their previous endorsement of the Center Street/East Village location and focus instead on moving the schoolhouse to the former Main Street dog park site across from Fog’s End Bed & Breakfast.

Also, some pioneer family members — whose ancestors attended the schoolhouse as students — reportedly prefer the Main Street site.

They say putting the schoolhouse there would create a welcoming entrance to Cambria from the south and would free up parking at the post office area.

However, others feel the dog-park site has problems, too, being so far from the museum and the Magetti House next door, and expensive improvements would be needed, such as utility hookups, a driveway, parking area and public restrooms.

What’s next?

Society representatives and architect Berry hope to confer with county officials next week in a pre-application meeting about the concept.

They’ll then go before the PROS Commission on March 5.

“Our commitment to the community is to save the town’s historical artifacts,” Stewart said in a Feb. 12 phone interview.

History

According to various historical reports and documents, the circa 1881 schoolhouse was used as such for 71 years. The small structure was moved in the 1960s onto a parcel of land on Main Street next to the Veterans Memorial Building. For decades after that, the schoolhouse was used primarily as an art gallery.

Meanwhile, the Cambria Historical Society was formed in 1990, and bought the Guthrie-Bianchini House and Gardens at Burton Drive and Center Street in 2000. The society painstakingly restored that property — federally listed on the National Register of Historic Places — and created the Cambria Historical Museum.

In the 1990s:

• A Cambria group put forth a plan in 1994 for an East Village historic park or district.

• Greenspace — The Cambria Land Trust bought property between the museum and the creek, land with a historic Chinese temple and plantings, which Greenspace has restored.

• And, during a particularly heavy rain season, the CCSD offices sank into the Center Street property. The offices were demolished in 2003. A collapsing underground culvert proved to be the culprit; the county and district eventually fixed the problem with a new 5-foot-tall drainage pipe.

The area has been functioning as a casual pocket park, but has also become a gathering spot for the homeless.

The Lions Club sold the schoolhouse property in early 2018 to Poly Pro Windows & Doors. But before that deal was finalized, the historical society agreed to assume ownership of schoolhouse, along with the responsibility for finding a new site for it.

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