Lydia D. Killefer School, Orange

Located in the city of Orange, California, and completed in 1931, The Killefer School was named for teacher and principal Lydia D. Killefer. Although the school was constructed in the Mexican American neighborhood of the Cypress Street Barrio, the campus initially only served the local Anglo community. The school was voluntarily desegregated in 1944; three years prior to the landmark Mendez vs. Westminister court ruling which required abandonment of segregation policies within California’s schools. The school is owned by the Orange School District and was officially closed in 1989. It currently stands vacant. In 2015, the property was included in the both the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historic Resources. The property was found significant as an outstanding example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, and for its noteworthy association with the civil rights movement leading to desegregation of California’s schools.

A private group is currently proposing redevelopment of the site. The preliminary development scheme included adaptive reuse of the Killefer School building for student housing. The project also included construction of 73 apartment-style student housing units within 8 new buildings, ranging 2-3 stories in height. Preliminary environmental review of the proposed project determined the bulk and mass of the proposed new development was incompatible with the single-story Killefer School building, was not in conformance with the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, and posed potential significant impacts to the historic resource.

Update as of November 2018: The development and adaptive reuse project proposed by Western Housing was eventually approved by the City of Orange but the application has since been withdrawn by the developer.

OrangeKrista Nicholds