Until the mid-1970s, Sunnyside Elementary School had an odd structure that projected into the playground area, called the Arcade. It was about twelve by forty-five feet, one large room, and at least during the 1950s and 1960s housed the school library. What is the story behind this quirky feature?
People I’ve talked to who attended as students or worked as teachers here during this time recall the Arcade. By the 1970s it had a fence around the lower portion, keeping students from going under it, ostensibly because of seismic instability.
It turns out the history of the Arcade goes back to the first Sunnyside schoolhouse, built in 1909. [Read more about that here.]
That schoolhouse was located on what is now the school playground.
According to the current principal, Dr Renée Marcy, when the playground was being dug up in 2015, during the construction of an addition and the reconfiguration of the playground, the foundation of this structure was revealed. But no one knew what it was.
A New School Needed
In the 1920s, as Sunnyside filled out, the old school became inadequate. PTA mothers agitated for a new building, saying the old school was unsafe and unsanitary.
Additional property was purchased by the school district along Foerster Street, and a new modern building was finished by the end of 1927, opening for classes in January 1928.
But the old school building stood until 1933–the two buildings together served over 600 students. This double-school arrangement was in place for over five years.
The Double School
Putting the 1915 and the 1950 Sanborn maps together–there was no Sanborn map done in between–the function of the Arcade becomes obvious.
It was a bridge between the two structures.
The 1938 aerial photograph shows the Arcade in place, with the old school now gone, having been demolished in 1933.
In the 1970s the Arcade was removed, and an elevator was installed in the place where it had connected with the building, according to Elizabeth Seywald, a teacher at the school for many decades–likely due to ADA requirements.
More Recent Changes
Here are three Google Earth satellite views showing the school before, during, and after construction of the new addition in 2015.