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December 3, 2008 > History: From Chalkboards to Movie Screens

History: From Chalkboards to Movie Screens

Just a few weeks ago, the greatly anticipated Cinema Place theater complex opened at the corner of B Street and Foothill. The project took many years to complete but the end result has already brought a sense of excitement and activity to historic downtown Hayward. But long before movie patrons started eating popcorn and seeing the newest James Bond flick, the site of the new theater was where all of Hayward's youngest residents went to school. Roughly on that spot was Hayward's first grammar school.

The story of how Hayward got its first school is humorous. In about 1864, the citizens of Hayward decided that they needed a school for their children. At the time, all children in the area had to walk to Eden Vale School located in Castro Valley. In the middle of the night, a group of concerned Hayward residents decided to "acquire" the Eden Vale School building. They put the building on sleds and towed it to a lot on the corner of B Street and First Street (now Foothill Boulevard) and it became Laurel School. Apparently, the great school theft did not really bother the residents of Castro Valley because the building stayed in Hayward and housed the school until 1876. Around this time it was decided the small building was just too tiny for Hayward's growing population. The old Eden Vale building was moved to another location and reused as a residence and a new building constructed on the site at B Street. The school continued to grow both in students and additions to the building. Famed poet Edwin Markham was hired by the school district to be principal in July 1889. He only stayed for a year but his presences remains in the name of the current Markham School.

In 1905 school district officials again decided that the school was not big enough. The existing building was sold at auction and a portion bought by the Dania Lodge, a local Danish fraternal organization, for $200. The building was cut in half and, at a cost of $1,000, moved to a location on the opposite side of Foothill. The Dania Lodge would remain at that location housing meetings, dances and other public functions until 1952 when it was torn down to widen Foothill Boulevard. At the school site, a lovely four-story building with a bell tower was constructed. The school was renamed Hayward Grammar School and sometimes referred to as the B Street School. It boasted 15 classrooms, a cafeteria, a large hall with a stage on the top floor for school performances, and lots of playground area around the building. The entrance faced B Street and was lined with palm trees. Until 1913 it was the only elementary school in town. In 1928 the name was changed to Markham School. Being located as it was downtown, the school was a hub of community activity, especially for parades which often left from the school grounds, marched down B Street to Main or Mission (depending on the parade) and then back to the school.

Following World War II, the rising tide of school age children and increasing deterioration of the school forced the district to once again build a new building. This time, the school was moved to its present site further up C Street. In 1949 the old Markham School was damaged by fire followed by its demolition later that year. As Foothill Boulevard was widened, a chunk of the former school property became roadway and the rest became the new home of a Lucky One-Stop Shopping Center in 1953. For the next 26 years, Hayward residents got their groceries in the small store until, as usual for this location, the officials of Lucky's decided they needed a larger store. In 1977 the original Lucky's store was torn down and a new, adobe-influenced, 28,000 square foot building and parking lot constructed. Lucky's would continue in operation there, anchoring the downtown business district until an even grander store was completed on A Street and Mission in 2001. The City of Hayward purchased the property on B Street in 2002 with plans to spark a rejuvenation of downtown with a new retail business. Plans for the theater project began in 2003 and the new theater, dining, and parking complex was completed just this fall.

So the next time you're at the theater, appreciate the fact that you're relaxing watching a movie rather than learning multiplication tables or grocery shopping!

NOTE: Thank you to Bernie Golumb for the topic of this article.

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