The Cambrian

Historic schoolhouse in Cambria finally has a new location to call home

The historic Santa Rosa Schoolhouse, foreground.
The historic Santa Rosa Schoolhouse, foreground.

A creekside meadow where dogs used to play and Shriners used to park on their way to Cambria’s Pindorado parade is expected to be the future home of the circa 1881 Santa Rosa Schoolhouse.

The Cambria Historical Society should soon be able to move the tiny schoolhouse to 2706 Main St., the former site of the community dog park, thanks to a lease and revised deed covenant that have been laboriously hammered out and approved by the Cambria Community Services District, Cambria Historical Society and former property owners Jim and Jan Bahringer, who hold the covenant.

The district Board of Directors unanimously approved the lease and covenant clauses May 23. The society will pay the district a token lease payment of $1 a year for the 25-year agreement, which includes an option for an additional 25 years.

The society plans to use the historic schoolhouse for educational weekday tours for students during the school year, visits by others on weekends and four fundraising events a year. The district board is also expected to approve this month issuing to the society a water intent-to-serve letter, so the society can provide an ADA-compliant unisex bathroom for use by docents and visitors.

Directors seemed unanimous in their approval for the issuance, but wanted more specific verbiage about precedents. The district’s 2001 moratorium on any new water connections is still in force, but it includes exceptions for affordable housing, publicly owned park and recreation facilities and public educational facilities.

Should the society end the lease, which it can do on six months written notice, that water connection would stay with the property because it belongs to the district, according to district counsel Tim Carmel. According to district staff and Carmel, such uses as the ones planned for the schoolhouse comply with the concepts behind public educational facilities and publicly available parkland, and would not set a legal precedent for future board decisions about parks or for the issuance of any other intent-to-serve letters.

However, to help ward off potential conflict in the future, the board asked staff to draft a separate resolution approving the intent-to-serve letter, to preclude any precedent-setting interpretation and, as Director Amanda Rice said, make it “absolutely clear what the intention is” for public use of the water, the property and the schoolhouse.

The board is to consider that resolution this month.

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 near 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 2014, the society bought the Maggetti House at 2261 Center St., next door to the museum; it’s being used as a historical annex and archive. 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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