Early 20th Century

1906 Earthquake

Oakland Avenue Bridge in 1910

Oakland Avenue Bridge in 1910

Oakland Avenue Bridge in 1910Egbert Beach Elementary can tie its history back to the most famous Bay Area event in the 20th Century: the famous 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.  On that fateful April 18 morning, thousands of people fled the City to the safe boundaries of the East Bay.  As many decided not to return to San Francisco, Piedmont grew ten times over the course of the next year!



With its burgeoning population, Piedmont incorporated late the following year, September 1907.  Several years later, Piedmont’s forefathers deemed it wise to build not one, but two schools to serve the community.  The city’s first school (originally named The Bonita Avenue School, but later renamed Frank C. Haven’s after the land donor) opened its doors in 1911.  The Bonita Avenue School quickly filled to capacity, and the Lake Avenue School was built in 1913 as a response to the continuing demand for more classrooms.



At the Lake Avenue School, four teachers taught 100 students in six grades.  In 1918, the school was renamed the Egbert W. Beach School in honor of Egbert William Beach.  Beach was a popular resident and active in his church with children.

BeachPlayground_late 20s

Beach Playground, late 1920’s

His father, Ranson E. Beach, was a well respected interior designer with his home and studio on Sunnyside Avenue. Egbert Beach served as a second lieutenant in the 1st Engineer Battalion, the oldest and most decorated engineer battalion in the United States Army.  The eponymous soldier was the first Piedmont resident to give his life in World War I, and the school was soon after renamed in his honor.


Beach Playground, 1918

Mid-20th Century


While Beach’s original building was constructed in 1913, it was condemned as a firetrap and earthquake menace in 1933 and torn down in 1934.

Piedmont Boy Scout Troop #1 on Beach Field in 1934

Piedmont Boy Scout Troop #1 on Beach Field in 1934

Temporarily housed in 14 one-room shacks, Beach was ultimately replaced in two separate Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects: the main wing was built in 1936 then the auditorium/classroom wing was added in 1940.  This reconstruction was part of the FDR New Deal program’s larger effort to upgrade almost 300 California schools.  In Piedmont, the WPA built 28 new earthquake-ready classrooms not only at Beach but also at Havens, Wildwood, and Piedmont High School.  Additionally, new auditoriums sprouted in all three elementary schools, each with a different theme: 1) Literature (Beach), 2) California History (Havens) and 3) U.S. History (Wildwood).  Interestingly, the beautiful pictures featured on the ceiling were the work of fifth- and sixth-grade students who painted the panels in a paint-by-number fashion.  Unlike Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, however, the painters completed their works on the ground and then the murals were applied to the ceiling.  Beach dedicated its auditorium as the Florence E. Luke Play House.  Ms. Luke had been a teacher at Beach School for 27 years.

Late 20th Century

 Beach Revue

Beach’s annual musical extravaganza had its humble beginnings in 1969.  Diana Rossin of 29 Lake initiated the revue as a talent show.  It is doubtful that she could imagine decades later is would become a full-school production and a crowning achievement for fifth graders to punctuate their time at Beach.  The rich tradition of Beach Revue has been key to pulling parents and students together.  In today’s budget constrained public schools having a serious arts endeavor for Beach students is a rare privilege.  We are thankful for Ms. Rossin’s seed and moarn her passing in early 2013.

McHugh Years

Beach enjoyed the long-tenured guidance of Nancy McHugh, who served as principal of the school from 1979-2007.  Combining Nancy’s leadership with Beach parent and teacher collaboration, the school gained a reputation for both strong academics and community intimacy.  Nancy presided over a significant expansion of the school in the late 90’s.  The long hallway at Beach originally only had one side with classrooms.  The school added four classrooms, the computer lab and the library to the opposite side of the hall.  Beach students and teachers continued to meet in their existing classrooms while surrounded by construction.  Specific rules were fondly remembered for ensuring safety — no playing with jackhammers during recess!  Fittingly, upon Nancy’s retirement, Beach renamed their lovely book treasury as the Nancy McHugh Library.


Recent History

As Bright as Ever

Supporting city-wide seismic facility upgrades, Beach hosted part of Havens School for the 2009-10 school year while Havens Elementary was rebuilt.  The following 2010-11 year, Wildwood students shared Beach’s campus as they enjoyed reconstruction. In 2011-12, when Beach had its turn for renovations, the school temporarily relocated to Emeryville with traditional yellow school buses shuttling Piedmont students to and from school.  The Beach Dad’s Club was founded in 2006 and hosts multiple community building events while raising important funds for the school.

Back Home

In the fall of 2012, Egbert W. Beach re-opened its campus to an excited community.   The updated facilities included two new classrooms, new outdoor/playground facilities, edible garden and seismic upgrades.  The multi-million dollar improvements were funded not only by California Building Safety budgets but also by a capital campaign generously funded by local residents.

The Endeavor Flies By

On September 21, 2012 the space shuttle Endeavor, on the back of a NASA modified 747 carrier aircraft, flew over Beach School on its way to its final resting place in Los Angeles at the California Science Center. See a video clip of the fly by below.

Space Shuttle Endeavor Flies Over Beach