Strawberry School

August is when most kids start thinking about going back to school. It's not always a pleasant thought, but a late-summer visit to the Strawberry Schoolhouse is different. It comes with a lot of history, but no history exams.

Strawberry School

By Kathy Ritchie / Photo by Mark Lipczynski

School might be out for good at the Strawberry Schoolhouse, which opened in 1886, but it still gets its fair share of visitors during the summer months, when the classroom opens its doors to the public. "People come to see the schoolhouse and say, 'I went to a school just like this,' " says Margaret Parker, president of the Pine-Strawberry Historical Society. "It's amazing."

Residents chose the site of the one-room building after they took a rope and measured the distance between a cabin at the far west end of the valley and a cabin at the far east end of the valley. They counted the rope lengths and built the school dead-center. While the exterior was constructed of logs that were cut and hauled down from the Mogollon Rim, the interior was "elegant," according to the Pine-Strawberry Historical Society. Wainscoting and wallpaper were used throughout, and instead of benches and tables, factory-made desks were ordered for the students, who ranged in age from 5 to 20. The school even housed an organ, which was used for social events, gatherings and church services. Attendance over the years varied, and in 1908, the school closed for an entire year because only five students enrolled in class. Eight was the minimum. The schoolhouse shut its door for good in 1916 after another school was built in Pine.

Time took its toll on the building and, eventually, only the log frame remained. During the 1960s, residents took the first steps toward restoring the school's exterior, and by the late 1970s and early 1980s, renovations to the interior were completed. "It looks and feels like you're walking into a classroom," Parker says. Today, the historical society maintains the structure, which is considered "the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona."