::Logan visits Pine Grove Town Hall and Old Elementary School
Logan recently tarried in Pine Grove. He was “Gathering Grounds” to revisit the annals of its Town Hall and its former elementary school. Both old buildings front Highway 88 — one in mid-town, the other a bit Upcountry. Neither is as old as most believe.
In the news is a community goal to reopen the former county branch library in the hall, hoped for after its renovation was accomplished some time ago. A petition to that end has or still is circulating. As the county, like governments everywhere, is on life-support, town activists seek donations and volunteers to reach their goal. Alas, they can’t just print “counterfeit” money, like the feds do.
Ah, goals. One elusive one this writer has vainly pursued in the past 30 years or so is to persuade town leaders to correct the old hall’s date of construction. Sentimentally, they cling to the myth that their forbears erected the hall in 1879. If you haven’t noticed, that year in big letters shouts from the front façade for all to see.
The date was never an issue until the writer, in 1978 in an Amador Dispatch column and, subsequently, in a volume of “Logan’s Alley,” mentioned that the real date was 1897, not 1879. Perhaps the artisan who originally printed that date had dyslexia. No matter. The date is part of folklore, though Logan knows of no fact or evidence which even hints the building went up then.
In 1979, however, the community and its hard-working civic improvement club rehabilitated the venerable building and celebrated its centennial. This cheeky writer audaciously suggested their celebration was about 18 years premature — to no avail. Leading the improvement club were the hardworking Dohlings, Jack and Gwen. They didn’t want the date changed and, out of respect and love for that couple, my several pleadings were nixed.
Much ado about a date? Who cares? Maybe so and maybe nobody. One doesn’t mind people purporting mythology, but promulgating it proudly from the gable-top is mischievous. Anyhow, I do hope they get that library reopened in this historic 1897 building and “renovate” the date. One hundred and fifteen years old isn’t exactly a spring chicken.
Times were good in the late 1890s in the county, and they must have been propitious in Pine Grove. Three of today’s significant buildings — not the oldest in town — arose about then. In 1896 and ‘97, county papers carried various items about Pine Grove constructing the new town hall. It needed one. The original saloon was built in the mid-1860s, ironically becoming home to the Sons and Daughters of Temperance, Pine Grove Division 34, in 1869.
That organization allowed the community to use the hall. In fact, its members held the hall “in trust for the citizens of Pine Grove.” Thus it evolved into a community building with “town trustees.” Nonetheless, a new one was needed after about four decades of use, and it went up, mostly in 1896, with some finishing and fundraising in 1897. In 1921, a new six-foot stage and dressing room were added.
Also that year, citizens raised the funds for a new site and a new school, probably replacing the one built in 1856, which fronted the cemetery on today’s Wieland (Mine) Road. Logan hasn’t researched it fully, so it’s possible another school served between the two. County collections have marvelous photos of the new sidehill schoolhouse, where the present elementary school is now, as well as one or two of the first school.
As a fledging reporter for the Sacramento Bee in 1965, this writer remembers well the big move, that February, of the old school house to its present, lower site along the Highway. Back then, some believed the school dated from the 1850s. Being a newcomer, I didn’t know, until some local historian pointed out the newspaper’s error. Luckily, I had quoted school officials.
Of course, to correct that date required a retraction and another headline. I’m still not sure if we ever got it right back then. Moreover, some were peeved, if not aghast, that the historic school would be used for a real estate office — but they got over it.
The third building? The brick Italian restaurant, Giannini’s. Circa 1900, the old hotel burned down and Richard Webb, the Jackson publisher of the Amador Ledger, rebuilt mostly what you see now.
Thus, in the space of a few years, three treasures of the town arose. For that, the townsfolk can be proud. Surely, preserving them is more important than dating them correctly. But correct dates help determine whether they’re worth saving or not and give local historians something to do.