The Alamos Schoolhouse is a historic one-room Schoolhouse located at Lake Skinner County Park, just outside of Temecula’s Wine Country in Winchester, CA. The building served as a school for the community of French Valley from around 1900 to 1968.
The area of what is commonly known as French Valley was originally settled by Basque and French sheep herders. Italian-Swiss and English immigrants followed soon after. As the population grew, there became a need for a schoolhouse to educate the children. The first Alamos School was built in 1889, but the growing population dictated the need for a larger building. The second Alamos School was built around 1900 at the corner of Benton and Pourroy Roads, on property donated by a local resident. Grades 1-8 were taught at the school, with students attending high school in the nearby community of Hemet. The school was closed by local officials in 1968 due to declining enrollment. After the school closed all grades attended school in Hemet.
The main economy in French Valley during the first half of the 20th century was dairy, pork, chicken, and turkey ranching, along with farming of barely, wheat, and oats. The local children either walked or rode bicycles or horses to school. Due to the rural nature of the area, children would sometimes walk up to 4 miles one way to attend school. Students sat in wooden desks with built-in inkwells, with the first graders sitting in the front row, and older students in succeeding rows. Over the years enrollment of school children went from a high of 15, to a low of 7. Play Day was a highly anticipated event every spring, as students from other rural schools would gather for a yearly sporting event of relay races and other competitions.
Various teachers taught at Alamos School over the years, but none so long or as fondly remembered as Dora Field. She taught at Alamos School for 38 years. She never married, and lived across the street from the school. She taught her students reading, writing, and math, but also taught manners and read stories to the children during rainy day lunch breaks. She also would not hesitate to play with the children at recess, or give them extra help with schoolwork. She would travel to Riverside on weekends to obtain materials for school projects.
After the school closed in 1968, it sat vacant until 1976, when the Hemet School District sold the building to Riverside County. In 1977 it was moved to it’s current location at Lake Skinner County Park. After it was moved it served as a store for the park, until the new store was built in 1986. The school building again sat unused and fell into disrepair. In 1996 funds were obtained for renovation. Under a joint project managed and financed by federal, state, and county effort, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the building was renovated and opened to the public as a Nature and Interpretive Center in 1998. It served in this capacity for several years, and after a multi-year closure it re-opened as the Alamos Schoolhouse Nature Center, delighting visitors and campers with an authentic taste of local history surrounding Lake Skinner. In 2016 funding was again obtained for Interpretive staffing, and the building is open once again as a Nature and Interpretive Center for the general public.