Old Pine Street School in Redding
By Jon Lewis
Making the Grade
Story and Photo by Jon Lewis
For its first 45 years, Pine Street School welcomed Redding children into its classrooms and provided lessons and memories that serve its former students to this day.
Shelly Shively has only fond recollections of the school she attended from kindergarten through the fourth grade, including the Wednesday hot dog lunches, drying rain-soaked coats on the radiators and dressing up as a sailor and singing “Que Sera Sera” in the talent show with her twin sister, Doni Chamberlain.
“It was a cool school,” Shively says. “It’s kind of a pride thing to have grown up in Redding and people are always surprised to learn I’d gone to Pine Street School. I have nothing but good memories. It was a great experience.”
In its second life, the stately building has spent the last 50 years as a unique center of commerce in the downtown area. Unlike many a historic building in Redding, the Pine Street School avoided the wrecking ball. “I’m glad the building still lives on,” Shively says.
Jeana LeClerc is glad, too. She has operated her Art of Skin Care business in the school for nine years and says her clients enjoy visiting—especially the former students. “They come in and say, ‘This used to be the principal’s office.’ They love this spot.”
“It’s a landmark,” agrees Wendy Hodge, whose Farmers Insurance office is in the building. “All you need to do is tell them, ‘I’m in the Pine Street School.’ My stepmom attended and many of my clients attended here. They will go on and on. They tend to relive a childhood when they walk in.”
“It sort of has a good feel about it,” says Redding attorney Gary Brickwood, who opened his law practice in the school in 1995. “It’s different from a lot of office buildings. It’s an old building that probably needs more repair than the average office building, but it gives you a decent feeling when you’re here.”
Brickwood should be quite familiar with that feeling: the Redding native attended Pine Street School from kindergarten through the sixth grade and his grandmother, Flora Jordan, was a third-grade teacher there for years.
Designed by the Sacramento architect firm of Woollett & Lamb, Redding Grammar School (as it was called then) opened in 1922 at the intersection of Pine Street and Eureka Way on a lot donated by Edward Frisbie.
In keeping with the architectural trends of the time, the school is a wonderful example of the Mediterranean Revival style with its stucco exterior, red tile roof and arched windows. It served as a school until 1967, when it was found to not meet seismic safety standards and its students were reassigned to newer schools in the area.
The school was purchased, extensively remodeled and transformed into a complex of retail shops, offices and restaurants. It underwent another remodel in 1995 with an emphasis on office and restaurant use. It is owned by Les and Dianne Monthei and managed by Michele Goedert.
Nick Parker is not a former Pine Street School student, but he was a former downtown restaurateur when he decided in 2013 to relocate his Cheesecakes Unlimited from East Cypress Avenue to the school and he’s been happy ever since.
“It’s been really good,” he says. “I wanted to get back downtown and this space was the only one that could accommodate the amount of business I do. The feedback from customers is that they really love this place. It’s a good environment and has a great feel to it. It’s not a shopping mall kind of place.”
Chu’s Too, a Chinese restaurant and sushi bar owned by Don and Lambo Diep, occupies the space at the southern end of the school building. Having the two dining options “is a nice perk,” says LeClerc. “You can go down and get food at either place. A lot of clients like that.”
Parker and his wait staff have served many customers who remember attending Pine Street School, which makes sense, since Cheesecakes’ dining room is in the school’s former gymnasium.
Chamberlain says one of her cherished memories from grade school were those special days when kids were allowed to bring money from
home and walk across Pine Street to the back door of The Shack (now Clearie’s), buy hamburgers wrapped in white paper and take them back to school for lunch.
“There were no adults involved. It was just us kids,” Chamberlain recalls. “We’d walk like ducklings to the back door of The Shack,” Shively adds.
Other sights and sounds remain fixed in the mind of former students. “I remember highly polished wood floors that the janitor—the tallest man I’d ever seen—would re-polish during Christmas break and I remember long banks of white porcelain water fountains attached to the stucco on the cool north side of the building,” Chamberlain says.
Shively has fond memories of days starting with all the students gathering around the flagpole to sing songs like “America the Beautiful” and then dividing off into classrooms to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “There was a sense of belonging. For many years, there’s been a real camaraderie with people who went to Pine Street School.”