By Zach Chouteau
Richmond’s Nystrom Elementary School, which was re-launched last fall following a major multiyear makeover, has made news of a completely different kind this autumn.
The Harbour Way South venue was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, in tribute to its singular heritage forged during Richmond’s WWII Homefront heyday. Nystrom School served the South Richmond community during the height of Richmond’s shipbuilding era, with enrollment exceeding 3,000 students by 1944 and the school sometimes operating on ‘quadruple-shifts’ in order to accommodate all the students.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic sites dubbed worthy of preservation. The national program is centered on supporting public and private endeavors to find, evaluate, and preserve America’s most-treasured historic and archeological resources.
While the school has been located at its current location since 1943, its origins date back to 1908, when John Richard Nystrom gifted property to the city on South 13th Street, where the original campus was then located. The current campus’ main building was later built by the Kaiser Company at its location at 230 Harbour Way South.
The West Contra Costa Unified School District received the ‘historic’ news in a letter from State Historic Preservation Officer Julianne Polanco, with the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation. Polanco stated that the designation “affords a property the honor of inclusion in the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation and provides a degree of protection from adverse effects resulting from federally funded or licensed projects.”
One of the many impressive aspects of the school’s lengthy overhaul that wrapped last year was the respect given to the original venue, re-using the handsome maple flooring on the second floor and maintaining the architectural integrity. Nystrom also added a brand-new, 13,000-square-foot multipurpose building that was actually completed in 2012 and has emerged as a community center for the adjoining neighborhoods.
The elementary school today educates about 500 students, in contrast to the thousands of children who once attended during Richmond’s Homefront era.