Olive Through the Ages

Community: Olive School and Civic Center

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It's hard to imagine how long the school of Olive has been in existence, but on a national timeline, the formation of the Olive school district was conceived in the month and year The Battle of Little Bighorn was fought. Since its inception, the school has undergone numerous changes, including a relocation from its original site to its present site, three different styles of buildings, a couple of name changes, and a closure and reopening. The Civic Center, which is located on the school grounds, has served as part of the school's facilities from the time of its construction during the Great Depression era.

My thanks to the Orange Public Library History Center for its collection of articles about the school's history, and Archivist Susan Berumen of the Orange County Archives for the circa 1940s image of the Olive Civic Center. Special thanks to photo contributors Richard Rutter, Jim McCollum, and Ross McClintock.


Olive School and Civic Center timeline

1876 June 6: Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorizes the formation of the Olive Grammar School District.
1877 Olive Grammar School begins operating out of a home in Olive Tract, the latter which was founded by James R. Toberman on March 10, 1876. The school is located where Heim Elementary School would be established in 1963.
1888 Olive Milling, Land & Improvement Company offers to relocate the one-room schoolhouse to the Olive Heights tract, named for the Olive Tract and Olive School.
1893 Olive Milling, Land & Improvement Company relocates the schoolhouse to Block G - Lot 4, one of the prime lots in Olive Heights. This is the south parcel of three parcels that comprise the present school site.
1895 April: Olive Milling, Land & Improvement Company donates all of Block G, except Lot 11, to the school district where a two-story, white, wooden schoolhouse is built.
1919 October 20: A new, single-story, Mission-style schoolhouse opens, replacing the former two-story, wooden schoolhouse.
1936 May 5: The School Bond election results in the plan to build Olive Civic Center, which would also serve as the school's auditorium and gymnasium. Jotham Bixby Co. donates 2.5 acres of land for use by the school.
1937 November 8: Excavation commences for the Work Progress Administration (WPA) construction of the Civic Center building.
1939 May 21: Olive Civic Center building is dedicated.
1942 August: A third parcel of land is added to the school site to make a total of 8.3 acres. This parcel, purchased from the Jotham Bixby Co. would be known as the north athletic field.
1953 July 1: Olive Grammar School and District is acquired by Orange Unified School District when the Orange Union High School District is restructured. The school is now known as Olive Elementary School in the Township of Olive.
1961 June 9: The Olive school site is annexed to the City of Orange.
1963 January/February: All 1919 structures on the school site—except one building—are razed to make way for the construction of facilities that meet earthquake standards, and students attending Olive Elementary complete the 1962-63 school year at Heim Elementary School.

September: Classes resume at Olive Elementary School.
1965 September 26: The original school bell, mounted with a plaque, is dedicated by [Santa Ana] Canyon Women's Club.
1984 June 9: Olive Elementary School holds its closing ceremonies.
1989 May 25: Plans to demolish Olive Elementary School are revealed at the School Board meeting.
1993 October 7: Olive Civic Center building is recorded on the National Register of Historic Places.
1999 September 7: Olive Elementary School re-opens.
Sources include: The Chronology of Olive Grammar School and Olive Elementary School by Wayne Dell Gibson and Dorothy Gibson, and "Olive School: Alumni Remember the Way it Was," Orange City News, February 29, 1984, by Lisa Redfield.


Olive School and Civic Center images

Click/tap the thumbnail images below to view larger images in a separate browser window or tab:

Olive School: Then and now

Olive School, 1899

This 1899 photo of the 1878 schoolhouse includes school teacher Lillian May Bowland, grandmother of Richard Rutter, contributor of this photo.

1899 class portrait

This 1899 class portrait includes Miss Bowland. If you have information about her, contact Richard Rutter at dundas1@ sbcglobal.net
1910 Olive students and faculty
This 1910 class portrait includes Fritz Meyers, son of rancher and businessman Henry C. Meyers, and father of Fred Meyers, site contributor. [NOTE: See Fritz Meyers photo from the mid-1970s.]
1919 school building This image of the 1919 mission-style school was taken circa 1959. Photo contributor: Jim McCollum [NOTE: See Jim McCollum's section on Olive residents: Memories for his class photos.]
1933 5th and 6th grade class
This 1933 5th and 6th grade class portrait submitted by Ross McClintock includes his father, Ross. [NOTE: See Ross McClintock, Olive Native photo compilation of Ross' early life in Olive, submitted by Ross' daughter Julia.]
1878 school bell This 2009 photo shows the bell that hung in the bell tower of the 1878 schoolhouse.
1963 school building
This 2009 photo shows the front of the elementary school built in 1963.
1963 school building courtyard This 2009 photo shows the school courtyard facing the Civic Center building.
Olive Civic Center: Then and now

Olive Civic Center circa 1940s

This photo of the Civic Center was featured in a circa 1940s brochure.

Olive Civic Center National Registry plaque

This plaque on the wall of the Civic Center describes when the building was entered in the National Register of Historic Places.
Civic Center building, 2009
This 2009 photo of the Civic Center shows the front of the building facing the school courtyard.

Side and rear view of Civic Center building This 2009 photo shows the south and rear sides of the Civic Center building.

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