Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California
History of the 29 Palms Schoolhouse
"We too have loved the desert to the point of feeling that it was there that we had lived the best years of our lives." ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "Wind, Sand and Stars" (1939)
When the homesteaders of Twentynine Palms were denied funds by San Bernardino County to build their first school, pioneer residents decided to go it alone. With donated land, money, material and labor, they completed the building of the one-room schoolhouse in 1927 to accommodate their nine local students.
The school served the whole Morongo Basin, and within four years an additional room was required. By 1940, there were three rooms and with more than 90 pupils, the school was at maximum capacity. Overflow classes were held in private homes or other available locations in town. For many years the schoolhouse was also used as a community center—a place to hold social events including dances, town meetings, and even religious services.
The last classes were held in 1954. It was then used for offices and storage for the Morongo Unified School District. In 1990 the space it occupied was needed for expansion and rather than demolish the old building it was offered to the Twentynine Palms Historical Society.
The Society immediately began a successful fund-raising campaign, which resulted in the 3,000 square foot building being moved in its entirety some two miles to property owned by the society. This historically significant four-acre site near the Oasis of Mara is where the Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, and Serrano Indians, the gold miners, the cowboys, and the homesteaders came for water. The current exhibits in the museum reflect the history of these early settlers of the Morongo Basin.
The "moving event" on April 4, 1992, was recorded by Huell Howser of public television's KCET-TV for his program "California’s Gold." Accompanied by the High School marching band playing "California Here I Come," an entourage of local residents escorted the moving schoolhouse to its new location on National Park Drive across from the historic Twentynine Palms Inn.
Subsequent to the move, professional contractors and volunteers alike spent many hundreds of hours restoring the structure which now houses historical exhibits, a research library, and a fine gift shop. The grounds also has on display a working windmill. Today, it is the oldest public building in use in the Morongo Basin.
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