Town Square

Post a New Topic

A century in the making: Walter Hays Elementary School marks 100 years

Original post made on May 5, 2023

When Walter Hays School opened in 1923, Palo Alto was less than 30 years old. A century later, the community might look different, but the elementary school still welcomes new students to campus every fall.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 5, 2023, 6:58 AM

Comments (12)

Posted by Heloise Miller
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2023 at 8:54 am

Heloise Miller is a registered user.

The original Addison, Walter Hays, and earlier demolished Mayfield elementary schools were all built in the mid-1920s and shared a similar architectural style.

Curious...did the same architect design all three schools?

Of note...Addison was originally conceived of as a high school before Paly was built.

Posted by Brian Hamachek
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2023 at 1:54 pm

Brian Hamachek is a registered user.

Walter Hays School holds a special place in my heart, as it is where I met my wife during our kindergarten years.

Throughout the years, the school has experienced growth and transformation, yet it has always maintained its foundational values of respect and inclusivity. The unwavering commitment and passion of its teachers and staff have made Walter Hays School a truly special school.

As the oldest continually operating elementary school in Palo Alto, Walter Hays School has become an important institution in the community, with generations of families sharing cherished memories and experiences. My wife and I feel fortunate to be part of this legacy and are eager to join the festivities alongside other fellow alumni.

Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2023 at 5:10 pm

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

I researched Ms. Miller's question. Walter Hays was designed by Charles K. Sumner. Web Link Mayfield school was designed by Henry C. Smith. Web Link Addison was designed by Birge Clark. Web Link I attended Walter Hays 1949-56.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2023 at 2:20 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Good for Walter Hayes Elementary. Mayfield Elementary on ECR campus is historic too. The campus took in school children while Addison got a re-do in 1968. Now that same plot of land is a schlock, very low income Mayfield Related Place residence. PA/Stanford rewrites history while the Mayfield Place tenants live under the heavy weight of loss of agreement promises of a city wrongs. Example: can’t have speed pumps on the Stanford right away. Why ? because Stanford says so.

Posted by Gerald Butler
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2023 at 8:15 am

Gerald Butler is a registered user.

@Native to the BAY...while the architectural design of Mayfield Place leaves something to be desired, isn't this housing concept the ideal way for Palo Alto to address its housing needs?

The location is convenient and the complex provides all of the amenities that most residents need.

The old Mayfield School was demolished decades ago and the acreage was put to good use.

Look at Mountain selling off the old Mountain View High School property on Castro Street to developers, the school district made a windfall and the mixed-used buildings that were later built there provide housing and commercial space + a park, not to mention that the old high school building needed a seismic retrofit which is very costly.

Addison and Walter Hays were modernized justifying their continuance.

With Ventura, Escondido, and Nixon elementary schools within close proximity, there was no longer any need for an antiquated Mayfield School.

During the 1950s, our family resided in Southgate (near Peers Park) and my younger siblings attended Mayfield School while I attended Harker Military Academy due to disciplinary reasons.

Posted by Milinda Dillon
a resident of Professorville
on May 6, 2023 at 10:04 am

Milinda Dillon is a registered user.

At the time (1950s-60s) and in terms of its student demographics, Mayfield School was the only truly integrated elementary school in Palo Alto.

Addison and Walter Hays had a predominantly white student population while Mayfield was comprised of white students from the Evergreen, Southgate, and College Terrace neighborhoods + various students of color (mostly African American and Asian American) from the South Palo Alto and north Ventura neighborhoods.

Even in those days, certain Palo Alto neighborhoods were viewed as more desirable and affluent than others.

Crescent Park was always considered the 'creme de la creme' of Palo Alto residential neighborhoods and not surprisingly, many of its well-to-do white residents often had regular gardners and domestics (people of color who resided in the South Palo Alto and Ventura neighborhoods).

Times have changed and those older working-class homes in south PA command high asking prices these days.

My parent's first home in South Palo Alto cost them $10K in 1950 and today lists for $3M.

Posted by Hilda Beacham
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2023 at 11:08 am

Hilda Beacham is a registered user.

Though Mayfield Place might look like a projects type residential facility, because it is situated in Palo Alto, it cannot be considered as one.

@Native to the BAY....would you rather have a dilapidated and vacant old school building on the property or a practical residential community that serves Palo Alto on a far larger scale?

Though the Mayfield Place outlay and design may appear unappealing to some, for others it provides a modern day living experience with all of the conveniences.

Posted by Li Jiang
a resident of Mountain View
on May 6, 2023 at 12:52 pm

Li Jiang is a registered user.

@Native to the BAY:

Mayfield Place is a palace compared to many of the apartments in urban China and India.

I have been to both countries and would rather reside at Mayfield Place than in the highly condensed apartment residencies of Shanghai and Calcutta.

Wealthy and privileged Palo Altans have a different perspective than those of the humble working class.

Posted by Dan Kendricks
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2023 at 3:06 pm

Dan Kendricks is a registered user.

I believe the same architect designed Foothill College, Henry M. Gunn, and Chester F. Awalt (now Mountain View) high schools during the early 1960s.

Prior to that, midpeninsula high school designs shared similar appearances like the former Cubberly High School, Los Altos High School, Menlo-Atherton and other local elementary/secondary schools.

Palo Alto, Fremont (Sunnyvale), and Sequoia high school designs are reflective of an earlier time frame as multi-story schools are now passe.

Posted by PalyJim
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 7, 2023 at 2:20 pm

PalyJim is a registered user.

I had the opportunity to attend Walter Hays from K-6th grade through 1969 and it was special. As "graduating" 6th graders, we were kept informed of the city's plans to remodel the school in 1970, and were encouraged to create historical projects. I didn't realize how great it was until I started at Jordan in the Fall that same year and felt the negative culture change. Thanks to its proximity to Stanford, Walter Hays was a naturally diverse experience, from people to education and technology. It was so inclusive that 7th grade at Jordan felt backward and harsh. Walter Hays' proximity to Rinconada Park and Children's Museum and Library were a luxury I hadn't yet realized. This school, and its surroundings, are important parts of Palo Alto history.

Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2023 at 10:41 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

Re architects: Ernie Kump designed Foothill. Web Link I could not (easily) find info for Mayfield School or Awalt HS.

Posted by Alfred Johnson
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2023 at 10:45 am

Alfred Johnson is a registered user.

My grandfather, Alfred Johnson, was the building contractor for the building of the Walter Hays School. Both my father and uncle attended the school.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Worried about the cost of climate change? Here is some hope.
By Sherry Listgarten | 23 comments | 3,388 views

Two Hours - 75,000 Meals – Wanna Help?
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,858 views


Sign-up now for 5K Run/Walk, 10k Run, Half Marathon

The 39th annual Moonlight Run and Walk is Friday evening, September 29. Join us under the light of the full Harvest Moon on a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon. Complete your race in person or virtually. Proceeds from the race go to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, benefiting local nonprofits that serve families and children in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.