Palo Alto Centennial
Publication Date: Wednesday, April 13, 1994

Palo Alto: an educational mecca

by Carol Blitzer

"Parents with children looking forward to the University will do well to consider its (Palo Alto High's) unusual educational advantages," reported the Palo Alto Statement in its June 14, 1895 issue.

Touting the new high school, which had been in existence since September 1894, the report noted that when enrollment grew to 35 pupils, tuition dropped from $6 per month to $5. Half the tuition was paid by the parents and the other half by local merchants.

Students could choose between two courses of study, with emphasis on the classics (Greek and Latin) or modern languages (French and German). And because the course of study was arranged under the immediate supervision of Stanford University, all graduates were admitted to the university without examination.

There weren't quite enough students to make up a football squad, so the first students had to content themselves with baseball.

In 1894, the Palo Alto Times hailed Palo Alto as a "mecca of the world," noting that the climate and landscape were identical to Italy and Palestine. Calling the town a "great educational center," the report noted that there were two kindergartens in town for children ages 3-6.

Just down the road in Mayfield, elementary schools had been in existence since 1855, when the Mayfield School District was formed. The first Mayfield School was in a little log cabin on Birch Street between Sherman and Grant streets. Nicknamed "The Herring Box," it was replaced in 1867 with Sherman School, a two-story barnlike building. A third school, which stood until 1940, was erected in 1898 for $14,000.

In September 1894, a new six-room, $10,000 schoolhouse was built, where three teachers taught 126 students. The high school was located on the upper floor of Channing School. At that time Castilleja School had about 30 girls and Manzanita Hall taught 24 boys.

"For a town only about two years old and with less than a thousand inhabitants we think this is a remarkable showing," the Times concluded.