As mentioned in my Needles post, we were lucky enough to make it to another museum along Route 66 before the sun went down, the Goffs Schoolhouse Museum. While the building started out as a schoolhouse, today it showcases the history of Goffs and the Mojave Desert, both inside the schoolhouse itself as well as an extensive outdoor area.
Much like Needles, Goffs had a life centered around the railroad, as its location at the top of a hill proved vital to rail transportation. Founded in 1883, Goffs grew in its first decade, and by 1883 a short line railroad was added thanks to silver and gold mining in nearby areas. By 1911 there were enough railroad employees with families that a school was required. Students were taught in a rented building while construction began on a Mission style, one room schoolhouse, completed in 1914. Grades first through eighth were taught within the 800 square foot classroom, but it served the entire community as well, for events such as church services and dances.
The added short line from 1893 was abandoned in the 1920s, the first of several blows to the community. In the meantime, the Old National Trails Highway, the predecessor to Route 66, carved its way through the Mojave and into Goffs. Route 66 arrived in 1926, but the prosperity from the Mother Road was short lived, as Route 66 was realigned, bypassing Goffs, in 1931. Just a few years later, in 1937, the schoolhouse closed, going into private hands.
When the United States entered World War II it needed a location to prepare troops for desert warfare, and Goffs was perfect. Between 1942 and 1944 over 10,000 troops eventually headed for North Africa were trained in the area under General Patton, and the schoolhouse was used as a mess hall.
After the war, the schoolhouse became a private residence for ten years, but then was abandoned and fell into ruin. Eventually Interstate 40 arrived, and proved to be yet another nail in the coffin for the town of Goffs. It wasn’t until 1982 when a ranch couple, Jim and Bertha Wold bought the land, and made some improvements, making the schoolhouse once again a place to live. However, they sold the property in 1989. The following year Dennis and Jo Ann Casebier bought it. The Casebiers had a passion for the Mojave Desert, and arrived with a massive collection of documents and books on the region, laying the basis for what would become the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association in 1993. After the Caebiers donated the school and land to the Association, the school underwent an intense and extensive restoration in 1998. A photo album at the museum showcases the massive amount of work done. The work paid off, as the schoolhouse is a small but mighty place educating visitors about the area, and in 2001 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Outside the school house is a collection large artifacts, including mining and farm equipment, buildings, such as the “Teacherage” which was the home for the school teacher, built in 1915, and a replica of the Goffs Depot.
As mentioned earlier, Patrick and I are slowly but surely traveling the California portion of Route 66 to create a post that showcases the various landmarks along the way. Until then, if you want more Route 66 blog posts, click here!
Hinckley, Jim. Ghost Towns of Route 66. Minneapolis, Voyageur Press, 2011. Print.
The Official Guide to the Goffs Cultural Center & Mojave Desert Archives. Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association, 2018. Print.