Happy Birthday, Head Royce

by Dennis Evanosky

School celebrates 125th Anniversary of its founding

Anna Head inherited her mother's passion for education. File photo

The Head-Royce School on Lincoln Avenue recently celebrated its 125th birthday. Anna Head founded the school in Berkeley in 1887. Anna arrived in Oakland with her parents, Judge Edward and Eliza Head, in 1861.

The judge opened a law practice; his wife started a school to instruct young ladies in the finer points of English and French. Eliza retired and sold the school in 1887. She gave the profits to Anna to help her start an expanded educational institution to provide solid and comprehensive training for girls.

Anna opened the school at 2538 Channing Way in Berkeley to accommodate both boarding and day students. She retired in 1909, and sold her school to one of the teachers at the school, Mary E. Wilson.

Wilson ran the School until 1938, when it was sold to T. R. and Lea Hyde. The Hydes owned Anna Head School for 12 years. Daniel and Catherine Dewey purchased the institution in 1950. Five years later, the University of California told the Deweys that it needed the Channing Way property. Cal then acquired the property by writ of eminent domain. The site is now home to the Anna Head Residence Hall.

The Deweys could not afford to relocate the school, so they donated it to the Anna Head School, Incorporated with a board of trustees to administer it.

Trustees and friends of the school raised capital and planned for the school’s new campus. They searched for a new location, and found it in the Oakland hills at the site of the old Easton & Wilson Quarry. According to the state mining bureau, in 1906 the quarry was “on Lincoln avenue, 1 mile from Diamond (sic) P.O. [Post Office.]” The quarry opened about 1899 and was worked intermittently for two years.

In 1964, the school completed its relocation to the abandoned quarry. In 1971, the board of trustees established a boys’ school, which they named for Anna’s brother-in-law, Harvard professor and philosopher Josiah Royce. The school was situated in a small leased building across Lincoln Avenue from the girls’ school.

By fall of 1979, the schools had joined as The Head-Royce School, completely coeducational at all grade levels. Today’s school has three divisions. The lower school (kindergarten to fifth grade) offers a firm foundation in learning skills, concentrating on a low student-teacher ratio to best serve the needs of each developing student.

The middle school (sixth to eighth grades) is designed to meet the developmental needs of this transitional age group, and has an activity period to supplement the basic curriculum. The Upper School (grades nine to 12) offers a strong college preparatory program with a variety of supplemental activities.

Find out more about Anna Head and other prominent Oaklanders in Mountain View Cemetery, a 120-page book by Dennis Evanosky on the history of Oakland’s historic cemetery. Send a check made out to Alameda Sun for $30 to 3215J Encinal Ave., Alameda CA, 94501 to receive a copy.