Merced County Times Newspaper
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‘Back to School 1861’ to be held at Columbia State Historic Park 


Columbia State Historic Park has announced the annual Back to School 1861 event will be Saturday, Sept. 18, from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Visitors are invited for a look inside the Old Columbia Schoolhouse. 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 and dress up clothes, homemade ice cream, and a sing-along on the steps of the schoolhouse. Donations made during this event go to the non-profit organization Friends of Columbia State Historic Park, which provides funding for unique educational opportunities at Columbia SHP.

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 in 1937 when the new Columbia School on Parrotts Ferry Road opened.

When 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 fund-raising efforts brought unique educational opportunities back to life. Thousands of students throughout the year visit the schoolhouse and participate in living history programs led by costumed docents. Back to School 1861 is a special event where the old schoolhouse doors are open for the public to enjoy.

For more information about the park and upcoming events, please visit or call (209) 588-9128.

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