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Our History


In The Beginning

Let me quote something from PTA history in 1955 . . .

“In the 1870’s, Mr. Joseph Heslop donated an old house and 2 acres of land on the South-East corner of Huntington Drive and Del Mar Avenue for use as school property. Mr. Heslop’s wife, Francesca, was the daughter of Rosario de Guilleu and Miguel Blanco, whose adobe house stands on our high school grounds today. From 1873 – 1890, the children of the Heslop’s, L. J. Roses of Sunnyslope, the Cooper’s, Dan Mulock’s, Pollar’s, J. Smith, and Colonel Winston attended this school.”

San Marino School (later renamed H.E. Huntington School) - 1918 By the 1890’s, a larger school was required to accommodate the increasing population in San Marino and surrounding areas; Washington School located on San Marino Avenue was built. Then by 1917, San Marino had grown enough to separate from adjacent areas and form their own school district. A group of approximately 33 parents organized for 67 students to attend school at the old Mayberry home which had been moved to Monterey Road and Oak Knoll. During that time, land was acquired on 5 acres of the old Cooper Ranch and a $39,258 building was made ready to accommodate San Marino students. By February, 1918, the school initially named San Marino Grammar School was opened to serve 41 children. Later the school was re-named Henry E. Huntington School after San Marino’s “first citizen.”

Southwestern Academy - 1924
Southwestern Academy was founded on April 7, 1924 by Maurice Veronda. The campus was part of an original Spanish grant (the old ranch grew orange and avocado trees) and the land was subsequently legalized by Abraham Lincoln. “Southwestern Academy” was named to capture the distinctive spirit of the Southwestern United States. Another interesting fact, Pioneer Hall, which was Southwestern’s original campus building, was the home of then Governor, George Stoneman.

Stoneman - 1928
Within approximately 10 years from the original opening of the San Marino Grammar School the school was re-named as Henry E. Huntington School, and San Marino’s enrollment had grown 600%. Naturally, with this type of growth, the need to accommodate the population was inevitable and by 1928-29 an elementary school was built on corner of Granada and Huntington Drive – named after former Governor, George Stoneman.

William L. Valentine School - 1938
Another 10 years passed and student enrollment in San Marino had reach 1,000. It was in 1938 when an extension to the H.E. Huntington School was built parallel to Huntington Drive (Monterey style) and connected by a long-tiled roof corridor. The Huntington extension had 400 students and had become a primary school. This school became William L. Valentine School, named after prominent citizen and founding father of San Marino.

Community Center Concept - 1942
Here is an interesting fact: According to first San Marino Superintendent, Elmer Neher, during the month November1942, approximately 168 non-school meetings were held at various school sites. An article from The American School and University in 1943 by Herbert J. Powell outlined the possibility of developing a “community-serving school…schools of tomorrow.” Plans were made to develop the H.E. Huntington, Wm. L. Valentine and current District site into a community center school. Our District Office, which at that time was the San Marino Public Library, was planned to be used as both a community library and provide a pre-school room (where our Business Offices currently reside). Several other ideas were introduced which included a picnic and barbeque area, an open air theatre and a school-community swimming pool.

Original K. L. Carver Elementary School Site – 1947-53
The K. L. Carver Elementary School was originally built in 1947 on the east side of San Marino on the north side of Huntington Drive between Winston Road and Gainsborough Road (yes, that’s right - the current site of San Marino High School). This land was originally purchased in 1928 for $125,000, with the intent to use the land as a high school when the district was in the position to make that transition.
By 1948, the District’s enrollment reached 1,385 students. Finally, in 1953, a new K. L. Carver Elementary was completed at its current location on San Gabriel Boulevard and was, of course, named after a school board member of 19 years – K. L. Carver.

Tale of Two Cities
San Marino City originally organized their school district to accommodate Kindergarten through 8th grade students and high school students would choose to attend Pasadena, Alhambra or South Pasadena high schools. It was not until 1921 when an election was held to determine that San Marino would be annexed for high school purposes.

During this 1921 election, San Marino folks chose to join with South Pasadena to form a new high school district known as South Pasadena-San Marino High School District, and determined the high school campus would be located in South Pasadena. San Marino conducted extensive research and planning in 1951, and received the approval of the State Board of Education to hold an election to create the San Marino Unified School District. The results of the election made it clear that voters wished for San Marino to separate from South Pasadena and become a unified school district. As I mentioned earlier, in 1928 land was purchased to be used for the development of a high school for San Marino children at some time in the future - that “future” came to be by 1955.

San Marino High School – First Commencements! - 1956
For the 1952-1953 school year, high school students were required to utilize the District Administration Building and H.E. Huntington School during the construction transition. The former location of K. L. Carver then became San Marino High School by 1955, with the additions of a swimming pool, science wing and a large auditorium. By June 1956, the first commencement exercises were held at San Marino High School.

Conclusion of the 20th Century
Within in 4 decades, San Marino Unified School District enrollment went from 41 to approximately 3,000 students. From 1956 – 1976 no new school facilities were added and enrollment stabilized at around 3,450 to 3,500 students during that time. As a result of enrollment decreases during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Stoneman School was closed in 1983 and all elementary students were assigned to Wm. L. Valentine and K. L. Carver Elementary Schools. The school is now leased by the San Marino City Recreation Department and houses San Marino Unified School District special education staff. With a “new” technological era upon us during the 1980’s, San Marino upgraded with improved science labs, technology centers and computers at each school site.

Formation of the San Marino Schools Foundation
Throughout the history of San Marino, the community has played a central role in the life of the schools. This tradition continued in 1980, in the wake of Proposition 13 and the Serrano v. Priest decision, with the creation of the San Marino Schools Foundation. The Foundation has helped the schools survive in spite of the circumstances facing the District. Each year, the Foundation raises funds necessary to balance the District’s budget. Few communities are fortunate to have the support of such organizations. To date, the San Marino Schools Foundation has contributed $18,268,485 to our schools since their inception in March 1980.

Teaching, Parent and Community Support
In spite of the challenges which face education today, the District has highly skilled, committed teaching staff, a diverse and talented student body and enthusiastic parents who annually donate numerous hours of service to the schools. In 1988, the Board of Education approved a Master Plan for San Marino Unified School District which was developed as a plan for dealing with program improvement, faculty/staff enhancements and facility projects. Funding to implement this plan was ambitiously sought through a $2.5 million Major Gifts Campaign. This campaign effort was taken in addition to the Annual Campaign which, at the time, raised approximately $355,000 annually.
Then in 1996, the District began “Building Excellence for the 21st Century” – a plan for construction and modernization at all schools sites. This plan included upgrades for:

Wm. L. Valentine Elementary
  • Eight new classrooms, three offices and a small conference room
K. L. Carver Elementary
  • New library, technology lab and six classrooms
  • A bell tower added to create a more harmonious appearance with other San Marino architecture
H. E. Huntington Middle School
  • A new plaza, new band room, and classroom
San Marino High School
  • New classroom and administration buildings on Huntington Drive to provide 19 classrooms, 12 offices, three conference rooms, and various support facilities
  • New math and science building to provide 8 math classrooms and 7 science labs
As the San Marino Unified School District has entered the 21st Century, we continually face many significant challenges and are committed to maintain the San Marino tradition of academic and co-curricular excellence.