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UCSB – Once a Schoolhouse

By Dan Hentschke, Daily Nexus, September 29, 1972

It all began back in autumn of 1891 in the Hollister Building at the corner of State and Haley Streets in Santa Barbara. When she first opened the doors of her little Sloyd School, eastern philanthropist Anna Sophia Cabot Blake sowed the seed that would one day flourish into the flower that is UCSB.

Her new school had the distinction of being the first learning institution on the Pacific coast to have a curriculum which included “cooking,” “sewing” and “sloyd.” Translated later into the more modern courses — “household science,” “art,” and “manual arts.”

Miss Blake’s school began operation at the corner of Haley and State in Oct. 1891 and continued there until June of 1892. During that first academic year girls aged 12-14 met once a week from 4:30 – 6:00 in the evening. Boys had to go on Saturday mornings.

After operating at the initial location for one year Miss Blake moved her school to a bungalow on Santa Barbara Street near De la Guerra. Here it remained in use until 1924 when Santa Barbara High School was built, with its own (what we now call) “shop” classes. The school was vacant for one year when it fell victim, as did just about every other structure in the area, to the earthquake of 1925.

Sloyd?

Sloyd, derived from the Swedish “slojd,” means skilled labor or manual training. Herr Otto Solomen originated the Sloyd system in 1879 at Naas, Sweden. Mrs. Quincy A. Shaw, the woman who introduced sloyd to America and had a great influence on Miss Blake, described American sloyd as “a tool work, so arranged and employed as to stimulate and promote intelligent activity, which the worker recognizes as good.”

Anna S.C. Blake, was born in Boston in 1844, the daughter of a banker. She came to Santa Barbara in 1891, when the town was a bustling metropolis of 3,000, to establish her free school.

The school drew pupils from surrounding city schools on specified days, and taught them the skills of cooking and woodwork. Both boys and girls were allowed to participate in all activities, unlike some modern shop classes which until recently kept the sexes and shops separated.

Miss Blake remained as head of the school until her death in 1899. She died on Easter Sunday and all the flags in the city flew at half-mast. On the day of her funeral all the stores and schools were closed, a tribute which no city official has received since.

The city received the deed to the school on June 30 and Ednah A. Rich, Miss Blake’s assistant, took command of the helm. As the support money bequested by Miss Blake became exhausted the school became supported through taxes.

Under Miss Rich the once tiny sloyd school came to outgrow its structural shell and a new building was built on Victoria Street, on land which Miss Blake had provided for an annex. The brick-structure, which is still in use by the city schools as the Administration Annex, was named Anna S.C. Blake Normal School.

By 1913 what had started as a small corner school had grown to a major educational institution. That year Miss Rich and the Chamber of Commerce succeeded in getting the State to appropriate $10,000 as initial funding for a larger campus, contingent upon a proper site and transportation for that campus. The school became the Santa Barbara State Normal School of Manual Arts and Home Economics, moved to the Riviera campus and the APS electric car line was put in.

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