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February 25, 2009

Remember when? "Sparkling new" Northgate High opens in 1974

Dedicated and resourceful reader Mom's Exhausted came across this gem of an old newspaper article. From the July 14, 1974 edition of the Oakland Tribune, it showcases a press tour of the new $6 million Northgate High School.

(By the way, remember when the Oakland Tribune was also a major source for local news, a strong rival to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Contra Costa Times. My, how times have changed, especially with the Chronicle facing severe cutbacks, a sale, and even closure. But that's another story.)

Even though I grew up in Walnut Creek, I lived on the other side of town and didn't attend Northgate High. Also, it's only been in the past couple years that I finally had the opportunity to visit Northgate High, first to visit a friend's classroom, and then to take my son to Sunday basketball practice in the gymnasium.

On my visit to the classroom, I had to check in at the office, which meant I had to go up the ramp to the main office mezzanine, and I was immediately struck by what Principal Dick Hansen described back in 1974 as the "open or all under-one-roof concept."

Back in 1974, the Oakland Tribune writer said the impact of the view from the office mezzanine "makes conventional school suddenly seem dull and old-fashioned." The main section from view of the office included a 9,000-square-foot library, the largest in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. The library was part of this "open or all under-one-roof concept."

Wasn't that a school architectural trend back in the '70s? To create schools without walls and few interior doors, with these big, open spaces, to promote communal harmony, cooperation, or whatever was the hippie-influenced Zeitgeist of the era?

Certainly, the 184,000-square-foot school was very "modern" for its time, with 75 percent of its indoor space carpeted and 80 percent air-conditioned.

Thanks Mom's Exhausted for sharing this glimpse into the past!

3 comments:

Mom's Exhausted said...

Glad to see you enjoyed the article! Funny, I was actually looking this up for a friend of mine. You have make it very accessible by posting on your site. I'm sure others will be thrilled too.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget Northgate was shut down after the '89 earthquake due to asbestos contamination.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that it was considered "open and modern" when today (I graduated from NG in 2004) it is called the "prison" by rival high schools and most of our classrooms had no windows...it was always fun when the power went out...But I still, and always will, have a very special place in my heart for Northgate :)