The Altaville Schoolhouse; Community and State Cooperation in Local Historical Preservation
They came in their usual desultory fashion -- the fashion of country school children the world over -- irregular, spasmodically, and always as if accidentally -- appearing from ditches, behind trunks, and between fence rails; cropping up in unexpected places along the road after vague and purposeless detours -- seemingly going anywhere and everywhere but to school!
The Altaville Schoolhouse, located in the settlement of that name in Calaveras County, California, is one of the best preserved of the proverbial one-room little red schoolhouses in California. Built of brick in 1858 and actively used until 1950, the little school witnessed the instruction of hundreds of children from the Mother Lode region. When it was closed the building began to deteriorate, but by good fortune it was located on property which became the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Altaville Fire Station. Through the efforts of CAL FIRE the building was identified as an important historical structure worthy of preservation. In 1981 CAL FIRE Battalion Captain James McGee prepared a Historic Resources Inventory form for the building, and CAL FIRE personnel developed a restoration plan, which included moving the building a short distance to an accessible location facing Highway 49. Today, the little schoolhouse, authentically and carefully restored to its former state, is one of the principal attractions for visitors touring the Mother Lode mining region. When the building was moved, CAL FIRE Archaeologist Dan Foster conducted excavations in and around the foundation of the schoolhouse, and collected numerous artifacts covering a period of one hundred years. These were analyzed in 1998 by the Institute for Archaeological Research, California State University, Stanislaus, and are now part of the collections of the Calaveras County Historical Society. The Altaville Schoolhouse stands today as a monument to early-day education and to the interest of Altaville and its citizens in preserving their historic past.