In 1872, the Southern Pacific Railroad extended its tracks to the south, and the Town of Tulare began to thrive. The following year, the community purchased a school site consisting of one full block on West Tulare Avenue between "E" and "F" Streets and constructed a two-room frame building for a cost of $1,700.00.
In 1884, a grand new school was built on the site and was described in 1892 in The Historical Atlas of Tulare County as follows: "The Tulare School House is one of the handsomest to be found in the state where public schools are the special pride. It is a large two-story red brick building surmounted by a belfry and a clock tower erected at a cost of $20,000.00, occupying an entire city block, the rear portion being used as a playground, and the front a well-kept, ever verdant lawn with borders and beds of flowers of every rare and beautiful variety, the sidewalk curb being also a flower bed, the whole making a most attractive park for visitors."
From 1890 until 1908, the red brick school housed both the high school and the upper and intermediate grades. In the spring of 1909, a new high school opened on a ten-acre plot east of Central School. The new high school was named Tulare High School and was later changed to Tulare Union High School. After 1909, Central School was called Grammar School until 1920 when two additional primary schools, Roosevelt and Wilson, were constructed. Grammar School's name was changed for the last time in 1922 to Central School. Thanks to a $100,000.00 bond election, the old school was remodeled and two wings were added to the structure.
The Tulare Historical Museum is now located on the site of one of the wings which housed a 400 seat auditorium. The other wing housed the music and home-making departments. West King Street was closed between "E" and "F" Streets so the school's playgrounds, including football fields, baseball diamonds, tennis and handball court, could be expanded. By 1952, the safety of Central School was in question, and by 1958, the school was abandoned and condemned. Eventually, the Tulare Public Library was built on the site of the old school where higher learning still continues today.
For additional information, visit the Tulare Historical Museum, 444 West Tulare Avenue, Tulare California 93274 or call (559) 686-2074.