Historic Schoolhouse Brings Past Into Present


The Strawberry School and Pine Community Center were among the first buildings erected by settlers in the Rim country. As they join the National Register of Historic Places these structures will forever preserve a time and place steeped in Arizona's pioneer history.

When the schoolhouse opened "it was the pride of the valley," said Dr. Michael Anderson, who wrote his thesis on the history of the area.

Made of squared ponderosa logs, wainscotting and wallpaper the schoolhouse "added an air of refinement not usually present in rural Arizona schools," Anderson wrote in the extensive application to the register. "The building would serve not only as a school, but also as an occasional dance hall, church and meeting house for Strawberry Valley residents."

Back then, the teacher received about $30 a month plus room and board.

"Meals and lodging were normally provided by families with children enrolled in the school," Anderson wrote.

A previous attempt to have the old schoolhouse placed on the register in the 1970s was thwarted by a rumor that it had been moved from its original location. According to Anderson, that wasn't the case.

"A comparison of maps revealed that the alignment of Fossil Creek Road shifted slightly in the vicinity of the school sometime prior to 1967," Anderson wrote. "The change in location of the road may have led to the mistaken belief that the school had been moved."

The original location of the schoolhouse was a point of contention among the early settlers. Homes were scattered throughout the 3.5-mile-long valley and parents were concerned about the distances their children would have to walk to school.

"To resolve the issue equitably, two cowboys used a rope to measure the distance from the home of school-age children at the far western end of the valley to the home of school-age children at the eastern end," Anderson wrote. "They tallied the number of rope-lengths and placed the construction site at the midpoint."

The building's function and place in history makes it worthy of the recognition.

"The schoolhouse represents the efforts of parents and civic leaders to provide instruction to their children in even the most remote areas of Arizona during the territorial and early statehood periods," he wrote.

Pine has two other structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Pine preservationist, Melvin Van Vorst:

  • Randall House

"Beneath all the veneer at the Randall House, that was the first log cabin in Pine," Van Vorst said. "If you go in there you can see behind the plexiglass walls they've left the original part of the building, the log cabin, and that was the birthplace of the first white baby in Pine to the Randalls.

  • First America Title Building

Built in the early 1900s, it was the home of pioneers Pryor and Katie Miller, who operated a general store and post office on the first floor.

See Related Story: Pioneer past tops historic register

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