Historic Durham School Turns 99

A white wooden building framed by bright red doors and exposed rafters turns 99 years old this year. The historic Durham School building sits off Durham Road and is now home to Creekside Community High School.

Durham School was named after Albert Alonzo Durham. Durham grew up in New York and married a fellow New Yorker, Miranda Almira White, in 1836. They had three sons and two other children who died before reaching Oregon. The Durhams decided to move across the country from New York to Oregon City, Oregon. Durham made a substantial amount of money during the California gold rush in 1848 making an average of $300 a day. He used his profits to invest in mills in Oswego (modern day Lake Oswego). Soon after the founder of Durham, John C. Trullinger, sold his city claim and mill to Durham. The Tigard mill became more famously known as the “Durham Station,” as a place where the Oregon Electric Railroad would stop. Durham’s position in the community continued to evolve as he moved into the position as Representative to the State Legislature in 1860.

Albert Alonzo Durham, Miranda Almira White Durham
Albert Alonzo Durham and his wife Miranda Almira White Durham founders, of the community of Durham. Photo: findagrave.com.

This Craftsman Style school building named after Durham still resides in the same location where it was built in September 1920 with slight modifications and upgrades over the years. Along with the growth of the city came the increase in the need for classroom space. A gymnasium, stage, two more classrooms, and a basement were added in 1937. A covered entryway attached the original schoolhouse to two more classrooms in 1951. The name Durham Education Center was adopted when this new wing was added.

Before this current building, the original Durham School was built in 1889 which was torn down and rebuilt in 1920. The first structure was described by Fred Olsen who attended Durham School from 1916-1920. “The Durham complex consisted of four structures; the main building (one room), a woodshed, and two 4’x4’ smaller structures at opposite corners of the yard, one ‘His’ and one ‘Hers’…Electricity was not available at that time in our area,” said Olsen.

The school continues to undergo upgrades. Looking ahead to this school year, Creekside Community High School students will have access to a new building next door to the historic Durham School. The $6 million Durham Education Center is complete with 15,000 square feet of meeting rooms, covered play areas, a new science classroom, and a cafeteria. This new wing has a solar panel array on the roof and is the first “Net Zero” energy use education building in Oregon.

The old Durham School will continue to be an important resource of Tigard’s history and education for future generations. Even with the new building, the old schoolhouse will remain in constant use. The classrooms, library and office spaces serve as a refuge for students and teachers to learn and grow.

Thanks to Tigard Library’s Local History Collection and the Tigard Historical Association for supplying references and photographs. Sean Garvey, the Local History Librarian, can be reached at seanga@tigard-or.gov. Tigard Historical Association can be reached at info@tigardhistorical.org.