Hilltop view of Mentryville, 1885-1891.
The small building at center-top is the Felton schoolhouse, which was initially oriented parallel to the road, as shown. At some point it was turned 90 degrees to face the road, and a foyer was added. (Possibly after the big 1893 earthquake, but we don't know.)
In "Pico Canyon Chronicles" (Reynolds 1985), historian Jerry Reynolds dates this photograph to 1883. But in the same text he says the schoolhouse was built in 1885, so one of the dates is amiss. He writes:
"One of the first tangible results of (a mid-1880s boom stemming from new demand for low-cost gasoline and oil) was the creation of the Felton School District and erection of a one-room, board-and-batten, little red schoolhouse in 1885, named for the president of Pacific Coast Oil Co. (Charles Felton)."
It's interesting to note that Reynolds says the schoolhouse was red. We don't know his information source, but clearly, from the photo, it's not the institutional light gray or cream color it later became during the Standard Oil Co. regime. According to 1960s Mentryville resident Darryl Manzer (2014), in the 1800s it, like other buildings in the canyon, was the dark brown hue of unfinished redwood.
As for the outside date of the photograph, local historian Stan Walker notes:
" The 'Big House' (aka Pico Cottage) has not been built. The large, 20,000-barrel-capacity tank on the right was built in 1883. ... The 1891 survey map ... shows the school house, but with a fence around it and another building. That dates this photo as between 1885 and 1891."
He adds: "I can see 9 people looking at the photographer, so this must have been a big event back in those days."
Reynolds (op.cit.) provides this description of the structures shown here:
"The Felton School stands alone, upper center. Across the road to the right is the Miller home below the storage tank. Then comes Pardee, Shyrock, and Cam Lewis houses. Below in the trees is Alex Mentry's second home. In front of his residence are croquet courts, left. Partially hidden by the hill on the left side of the road is Matt McCormack's home. He was Asst. Supt. of Pico. Next above resided J.A. Floyd and then Walton Young."
Above and below: Roughly the same view in the 2010s. Photos by Stan Walker.