Antelope Valley Union High School District

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History

Info Courtesy of Lancaster Library, Palmdale Library , Museums USA , and the West Antelope Valley Historical Society.

Please visit the websites above for further information. They are great educational resources for AV History!

The Antelope Valley is a 3,000-square-mile high desert closed basin that straddles northern Los Angeles County and southern Kern County. One of nine California valleys with the same name, this one lies in the western Mojave high desert and includes the communities of Lancaster, Palmdale, Rosamond and Mojave. Populated by different cultures for an estimated 11,000 years, the Antelope Valley was a trade route for Native Americans traveling from Arizona and New Mexico to California's coast. Though the first wave of non-native exploration took place in the early 1770s, a later exploratory period starting inthe 1840s led to the valley's first permanent settlement during the following decade, fueled by California's Gold Rush and new status as American territory. The 1854 establishment of the Fort Tejon military post near Castac Lake and Grapevine Canyon created a gateway for valley traffic.

The earliest known high school was formed in the late 1800's on "Antelope Street" - which today is in the vicinity of Lancaster Blvd and Sierra Highway. It was a typical one-room which was also used for other town functions. Keep in mind, at most of the earliest valley schools, students would meet off-season of any local farming or harvesting activities and frequently would stay overnight for the duration until returning home the next week, etc. The Antelope Valley High School District officially opened in 1912 with AV High School, which will celebrate 100 years in 2012.

The District Administrative Offices building for the local high schools used to be shared with the Lancaster Museum and Art Gallery. The Museum has since moved during the summer of 2012 to it's present location on Lancaster Blvd and Ehrlich Ave.

The District Administrative Office site’s historical importance reaches back into the very beginning of Lancaster’s history.

A railway siding at Lancaster was created after the Southern Pacific Railroad came through the desert floor during August of 1876. A town was laid out at the beginning of 1884. The area where the Museum/Art Gallery is located was at first empty land behind the general stores, a blacksmith shop, various businesses, and private residences clustered on Sierra Highway (old Antelope Avenue) and Lancaster Boulevard (old Tenth Street). A house located on the southeastern corner of the Museum/Art Gallery’s parking lot served as the first school (c. 1885/86).

When the Western Hotel (located ½ block northwest of the Museum/Art Gallery on Lancaster Boulevard) opened (c. 1888/89), the Museum/Art Gallery land was used as corrals for the animals of the hotel’s guests and later the crews working on the Los Angeles Aqueduct (c. 1908-1912).

Different businesses were established at the site through the years but one of the most important was the old Valley Theatre. It was built by the Carter family in 1926. The facility could seat 500 people. Carter later rented it to Frank Gumm, the father of actress Judy Garland (Frances Gumm). It was at this location that Judy and her sisters entertained local audiences.

Later a Shopping Bag Market was built at the site of the present District Office. The old Shopping Bag building then stood vacant for several years. It symbolized a major challenge for City of Lancaster planners. At first it was proposed that this structure become the new City Hall. However, it was then decided to work with the Antelope Valley Union High School District and renovate this building into a modern structure serving as the District’s headquarters and a Museum/Art Gallery. "

Several developments were integral to the valley's growth starting in the mid-1800s, including gold mining in the Kerns and Owens rivers; cattle ranching; the start of a Butterfield stagecoach route in 1858; construction of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco telegraph line in 1860; completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad line in 1876; and ample rainfall during the 1880s and early 1890s, which attracted many farmers. The decade-long drought that began in 1894-the worst in southern California's recorded history-decimated the regional economy and forced many settlers to abandon their homesteads, but after the turn of the twentieth century irrigation methods and electricity brought back local farming. The 1913 completion of the aqueduct spanning 233 miles between the Owens Valley and Los Angeles also revived the valley's economy. Today the Antelope Valley retains elements of its agricultural past but its economic base is now supported by aerospace and defense industries.