History of Clairbourn School

Clairbourn School has a long and distinguished history that compliments its bright future.  One hundred years ago, when the school was started in the home of the Bourne family, the area was populated with suburban estates, vineyards, and orange groves all located just beyond a few city centers. Since then, the school has grown from being a country school, serving a handful of local San Marino and Pasadena families, to a modern, respected, educational institution educating students from over 42 different zip codes.

Early Beginnings

In January of 1926, the Arthur K. Bourne family, who were heirs of the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, were motivated to open a kindergarten in their San Marino home library for their daughter Claire and her friends. By September, the enrollment expanded from the original four students to fourteen, and a first grade was added. One year later, the little school needed more space, and the school moved to 1261 San Pasqual Street in Pasadena where twenty-three children were enrolled in kindergarten through the third grade. At that time, the school was known as The Claire Louise Progressive Elementary School. As demand increased, they extended the grades. The rapid growth prompted another move in 1928 to 245 West California Street in Pasadena.

By the early 1930s, the school's popularity caused another expansion, and seventh and eighth grades along with a four-year high school were included. The official name of the school was also changed to Clairbourn, which combined, without any "e"s, the first and last names of Claire Bourne, the original student for whom the school was founded.

By 1931, Clairbourn moved again to a portion of land in San Gabriel which became its permanent home — an estate of 3.5 acres on Huntington Drive. By 1933, Clairbourn produced its first class of high school graduates.


The year 1939 brought many changes to the school. It was the end of the Great Depression, but also the start of WWII. Because of the war, Clairbourn's high school and middle school grades were discontinued, and a nursery school program was added. A property expansion followed in 1956 when an adjacent 5-acre estate came on the market. The estate was purchased and Clairbourn School took over the entire eight-acre block.

The School Takes Shape

By the 1980s, Clairbourn settled into offering preschool through eighth-grade classes and had become a popular and respected destination for families seeking a private school education for their children. The campus facilities, however, which still had older buildings from when the property was comprised of two residential estates, required a lot of work, to match the quality of instruction taking place. To bring the campus into the 20th century, Clairbourn's trustees established a master plan that included a renovated infrastructure of sidewalks, central lighting, irrigation, electrical and gas lines, as well as a new library, art studio, and music room. By 1986, all these improvements were in place.

Other key structures, such as a new fourth and fifth-grade classroom building and a multi-purpose building to house indoor sports and assemblies, soon followed in the late 1980s and early 90s.

West Campus Renovation Project

By the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, Clairbourn took on the task of replacing the remaining classroom buildings and activity spaces. This West Campus Renovation Project covered eleven classrooms from preschool through third grade. The newest addition to the Clairbourn campus came in 2007 with the construction of the Seiter Family Early Childhood Center — a state-of-the-art preschool building with a play yard.


After 2010, with the major campus components in place, Clairbourn moved on to enhance other areas around campus and added beautiful raised gardening beds which are used for after-school classes and classroom activities. Athletic facility enhancements were also added. The school's athletic field and swimming pool were renovated and a state-of-the-art batting cage, a climbing wall, and a gaga court were added. By 2015, the computer technology on campus was boosted to an even higher level with the upgrade of the computer lab complete with 3D printers, new computers, touch-screen monitors, and programmable robots.

By 2016, Clairbourn renovated its much-beloved library to reflect the way books and digital assets are used and then moved on to create an inviting and functional conference space, called the David Orndorff Conference Room, for parent CFA and school-related meetings. 

Recognizing the ever-changing technology and our commitment to providing the best learning environment for our students to thrive in the 21st century, we saw the necessity to expand our campus with a new I Lab. This space fosters students’ critical thinking and enhances their problem-solving skills. In 2022, students enjoyed a new specialist class, the I Lab, where they discovered robotics, programming software, 3D printers and more. But we didn’t stop there! In 2023, we continued our campus renovation by expanding our outdoor learning space. In addition to upgrading the preschool and lower school playgrounds, we also built a new deck and patio space for fourth and fifth-grade classrooms. In 2024, new bathroom facilities were added to the pool area to serve both the field and pool.

A long Tradition of Ginkgo Leaf Play

Trees are often used as symbols for schools, and this is especially true for Clairbourn. Today, we have in the center of the quad a stunning, mature Ginkgo tree that bursts into spectacular color every winter and covers the green lawn in its soft, leathery leaves.

A Bright Future

Thanks to the courage and commitment of all those in the past who envisioned what Clairbourn could be, the school is now a competitive and successful educational institution committed to high-quality education and impactful experiences in character-building and leadership.
8400 Huntington Drive | San Gabriel, CA 91775 626.286.3108 | info@clairbourn.org
Private School Education for Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary School & Middle School. Serving Families in the Pasadena Area and San Gabriel Valley. Clairbourn is a 501(c)3 charitable organization (K-12 Private Schools) and accredited by CAIS and WASC.