Sutter Creek Grammar School – Cole Street, Sutter Creek

The renovation of the Sutter Creek Grammar School is the first major undertaking of the Sutter Creek Community Benefit Foundation.  Founded in 2012 by a group of residents, SCCBF is dedicated to the restoration, preservation and development of Sutter Creek’s historic assets.

The schoolhouse is rich in Gold Rush history. The original Sutter Creek School, built in 1856, burned to the ground in 1870. The building you see today, a thirty-five by fifty-five foot, two-story brick schoolhouse was built in 1870 by a community-funded project for $10,000. Some 200 to 300 children from as far away as Plymouth and Latrobe attended the school each year. In 1896 the school district raised $5,000 in bonds to add the wings in the rear of the building. The school remained open until the early 1960s.

The building, one of the last remaining two-story brick schoolhouses in the Mother Lode, is unique for the period. Most schoolhouses in the region were small, simple wood frame structures; few were as imposing or substantial as that in Sutter Creek.  Only one other extant school building in the Mother Lode, the old two-story brick school house in Columbia can compare in terms of size, scale, materials and quality.  The original design featured classical revival lines and symmetry, with its low gabled roof, simple unornamented cornice and frieze, and small wooden belfry over the entrance.

The schoolhouse is now on lease to the City of Sutter Creek and no longer used by the school district. In the 1980s the Sutter Creek Women’s Club replaced the roof, painted the outside and brought wiring and plumbing up to code.  Thereafter, it was used as a community center until it was closed to the public. Further renovations are now being undertaken by the SCCBF to include the front stairs, the bell tower and the fire escapes. When renovations are completed, the building will house a community museum, Sutter Creek archives, and will be available to the public for meetings, events, and other activities. The foundation is currently working to assemble a list of alumni and relatives of alumni who attended the school. Stories and pictures provided by the alumni will be part of the planned museum.