Brookline Round Schoolhouse // 1822

Historic schoolhouses in rural New England are often one-room wood-frame buildings, but not in Brookline, Vermont! The Brookline Round Schoolhouse is constructed of brick and… you guessed it, ROUND! The iconic building sits on the same road as the Baptist Church in town (last post) and likely built from bricks made at the same brickyard. The school was built in 1822 to replace a log school house originally built nearby. The plan for the round design was apparently made by Dr. John Wilson. Wilson, known as “Thunderbolt”, was reputed to have been a robber and highway-man who came from Scotland to escape punishment. He eventually settled in Vermont and had many occupations but settled on saying he was a doctor and began practicing. He eventually took up teaching and somehow convinced the town he should design the new school building. Local legend asserts that Wilson designed the school house round so that he could see from any position, all possible intruders. At the interior, the single-room originally contained sixty oak benches and desks arranged in a circular position facing a teacher’s desk near the door. The building is capped by a conical wood shingle roof, which appears in great condition. The structure functioned as a school until 1929, when a new school was built which conformed to state codes. At this time the round school was turned over to the town for use as a Town Hall, a use it held until the 1980s.

3 thoughts on “Brookline Round Schoolhouse // 1822

  1. jpkntz2014 May 30, 2023 / 3:55 pm

    Wilson went to medical school in Edinburgh–in fact he was there when the alleged crimes of “Thunderbolt” took place. No proof exists that “Captain Thunderbolt” even existed, as the only account of him is from prison interviews with condemned highwayman Michael Martin, who was well-versed in Irish outlaw literature. Dr. Wilson may have been a difficult, disagreeable character, but the efforts to brand him as a criminal were small-town rumormonging at its worst.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Buildings of New England May 30, 2023 / 6:35 pm

      Very likely, people in small towns were historically (and still can be) weary of outsiders and often create their own narrative to support their beliefs.


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