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Back To School 1861 At Columbia in September
columbia school house
The interior of the Old Columbia Schoolhouse. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

The Old Columbia Schoolhouse opens its doors to the public on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Visitors are welcome to participate in Back to School 1861, at the Old Columbia Schoolhouse, within Columbia State Historic Park. This event is free and open to the public.

The evening of fun and educational opportunities includes 1861 school lessons every half hour, old fashioned toys, dress up clothes, homemade ice cream, and a singalong on the steps of the schoolhouse.

Columbia’s schoolhouse is the oldest two-story brick schoolhouse in the state. In 1861, the doors first opened to students to serve the educational needs of the growing families in the mining town. The schoolhouse closed its doors for use in 1937, when the new Columbia School on Parrots Ferry Road opened.

As the old Columbia schoolhouse became a part of the California State Park System in 1945, the opportunity to bring the condemned relic back to life began. In the 1950s, the California Teachers Association began a fundraising drive for restoration. Thousands of schoolchildren throughout the state contributed their pennies to raise the $60,000 needed for the restoration. The California State Park System and ongoing fundraising efforts brought unique educational opportunities back to life.

Thousands of students throughout the year visit the schoolhouse and participate in 1861 living history programs led by costumed docents. Back to School 1861 is a special event when the old schoolhouse doors are open for the public to enjoy.

Donations made during this event go to the non-profit organization “Friends of Columbia State Historic Park”, which provides funding for these unique educational opportunities at Columbia State Historic Park.

Columbia State Historic Park, located in Tuolumne County, is designated a National Historic Landmark District. The state preserved the area to tell the story of the towns which arose to serve the needs of the miners during the California Gold Rush. California State Parks restored, and continues to preserve, over 30 of the original brick buildings along the town’s Main Street.