The Peter Parley Schoolhouse (also known as the West Lane Schoolhouse) in Ridgefield, CT, is an excellent example of a well-preserved one-room school building in Fairfield County. The little red schoolhouse was originally built in 1756 and either replaced or enlarged in the early 1800s. As Ridgefield in the early days was primarily an agricultural community, many children split their time either helping family on the farm or in school, with work almost always coming before education. The school is named for its most famous student, Samuel Griswold Goodrich. Goodrich went by the alias Peter Parley and was born in Ridgefield, attending the school between 1799-1803. He was a prolific writer, with over 170 books to his credit, and is believed by many to have written the first American textbooks. Samuel wrote about his experiences as a student there, giving locals and historians a look into early life in the town. In the early 1900s, the town consolidated schools and this building was closed. The town seemed to simply close the building and it saw some neglect over time until the Ridgefield Historical Society assumed a lease of the property, recently restoring it.
The Freetown Village School was originally built in 1794 as a lawyer’s office. At that time, it was half as wide as its current configuration. Around 1800, the office became a private academy for children of sea captains and ship-builders in Assonet. In 1858, the Town of Freetown purchased the building and turned it into a public school. By 1906, the school was enlarged and given the Colonial Revival detailing we see today. Like many smaller schools in New England, this school building was outgrown after WWII, and converted to other uses for the town, with uses from committee meeting space to storage. The schoolhouse was finally abandoned at the end of the 20th century, and stood empty. The roof developed leaks and water infiltration became a serious problem. In 2011, the Town approached the Massachusetts Historical Commission for an Emergency Grant, and was granted $30,000 for the preservation and restoration of the decaying building. The roof has been replaced and structurally repaired, but more work is to be done. I can’t wait to come back and check up on this beauty.
The Everett Schoolhouse opened in 1860 as Boston’s most modern school at the time, serving students in the South End and Roxbury. The school was located on Northampton Street, just off Tremont Street, and stood four stories with lawns surrounding it. The building was architecturally beautiful, with brick walls and stone trim and basement, large double-hung windows, and a slate roof capped by a bell tower. The building was so special, the opening ceremonies were documented in the New York Times in 1860. The school was named after Edward Everett (1794-1865), a Boston-native who served as a U.S. Senator, the 15th Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, and United States Secretary of State. He also taught at Harvard University and served as its president. My favorite tidbit of history on Edward Everett is that he was a great orator, and was the featured speaker at the dedication ceremony of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in 1863, where he spoke for over two hours—immediately before President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous two-minute Gettysburg Address! The Everett Schoolhouse in Boston saw thousands of children graduate before a fire on the top floor of the building in 1965 and subsequent water damage from fire hoses necessitated its demolition.
In western Millbury, the Grass Hill school was constructed to provide a place of learning for children in the agricultural section of town. The district school, a remnant of the system of autonomous school districts that characterized the educational system of Massachusetts in the 19th century, this is a larger example of many of them. West Millbury had many wealthy farmers and they financed a district school here as far back as 1814. After two earlier, smaller school buildings, this two-story school was erected and was one of the most substantial. At one time, students in eight grades taught there, all at the same time, with grades 1-4 downstairs and 5-8 upstairs. As there weren’t many students, each grade only took up one or two rows. The building remained as a school for the town until 1968, and the building was leased to the Millbury Historical Society long term. They just completed a massive restoration project for the building, it looks great!
Located across the street from the Canton Congregational Church (last post) you can find the cutest one room schoolhouse in central Connecticut. The schoolhouse, built in 1848, was one of nine one-room schoolhouses in Canton at the time. The perfectly proportioned classically designed school features two front doors, one on each side of the recessed entry, with the right door for girls and the left for boys. There were also two outhouses behind the building for students and the teacher. This building served the community as a school until 1942. In the years following, the building was used as a meeting place for women from the congregational church, a community library, and a small public space for members of town. It is owned by the Congregational Church, who maintain it to this day.
Built in 1872, the old North Canton Schoolhouse really brings us back to how life was like in the 19th century. The saying “when I was a kid, we would have to walk to and from school in the snow, uphill both ways” comes to mind when I think of how students would have to walk long distances to attend rural schools. The school was originally built at a nearby fork in the road, but moved in the 1920s when the street was widened. The building was used as a school until 1942, when a newer, central school was built in the center of town.
Canton, Connecticut, the only town in the state named after a city in China! The land which we now know as Canton had long been inhabited, specifically by the Wappingers, a group in the larger Algonquin speaking tribes. Canton was incorporated out of Simsbury in 1806, and named after the City of Canton in China (now known as Guangzhou), though I am not sure why. The town quickly developed two main villages. Collinsville sits on the Farmington River and its power was harvested for industry; while the center village grew differently as an agricultural village of farms. At the center of town sat a green for civic and town functions and gatherings. The town constructed a school here as far back as 1759, when the rural village was still a part of Simsbury. This is the fourth building on the green and it was built in 1872, and can be classified as Italianate in style. The building was occupied as a school until 1949, and it was used for other city uses until 1971, when the building was rented to the Canton Artist’s Guild and the building was renamed Gallery on the Green. The building remains community-focused and holds exhibits of local artists! Much of the rest of Canton Center lost all of its bucolic charm when the main road became commercialized, prioritizing speeding cars over a walkable village.
Situated on the iconic Town Green of Lancaster, MA, this gorgeous Colonial Revival school building elegantly fits into the surrounding context of stately civic buildings in the small town. The Center School, (now known as the Prescott Building), was designed by architect Herbert Dudley Hale of Boston, and built in 1904 for use as the Town of Lancaster’s first high school. The building committee formed to oversee proposals and funding of the school settled quickly on the desire to see it built in the Colonial Revival style to compliment the other Town Green buildings at the time, most importantly the Charles Bulfinch-designed church at the northern end (more on that tomorrow). The Center School had been used continuously as a public school until 2001, when it outlived its utility as a modern and codified school facility. The building stood vacant for a number of years until it was restored and re-utilized as town offices next to the town hall.
Perched high on a hill, next to the Stone Church (featured previously), the old Stone School in Newmarket is one of a handful of iconic stone buildings in the town. Built in 1841, its stonework executed by William and Robert Channel, local farmers and stonemasons, who likely got their skill from building stone walls on farms. The building was used continuously as a school until 1966, when it was given to the Newmarket Historical Society, which now operates it as a local history museum.
This beautiful Italianate building was constructed around 1880 for the newly established Tabor Academy, which was founded in Marion, Massachusetts by Ms. Elizabeth Taber in 1876. After Ms. Taber funded the constructed of a town library and museum and oversaw construction of the new academic building for her school, she endowed money for Tabor Hall, which was to house the school’s Principal, some boarding students, and most importantly, herself. The structure was located on Spring Street, just north of the library, until 1937, when the “Tabor Swap” was finalized. The swap was a deal between the academy and the Town of Marion, who exchanged properties in 1937. The town received the library building, the academic building (soon after converted to Town Hall) and land where this building once sat. The town erected Sippican Elementary, a public school on the land, and Tabor Academy moved this building a block over.