The history of the Old Jamaica Plain High School (originally West Roxbury High School) goes back to the year 1842, when the Town of Roxbury (which at the time, included Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and West Roxbury) established “Eliot High School,”. The school was named after Reverend John Eliot of Roxbury, who in 1689, gave 75 acres of land to the town for the maintenance, support, and encouragement of a school and school master at Jamaica or Pond Plain “in order to prevent the inconveniences of ignorance.” In 1855, the newly independent Town of West Roxbury took control of the high school until the town was annexed to Boston in 1873. During this time, the school became known as “West Roxbury High,” a name that appeared on this building, constructed in 1898. In July of 1923, the school’s name was changed to Jamaica Plain High School, to reflect its neighborhood. The building was designed by the firm Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul and is an exemplary example of the Tudor style in an academic building. The school department sold the building in the 1980s and built a larger, modern school in the area. This building was converted to apartments not long after, a use that remains to this day. Would you live in this old school building?
Waterford was once part of New London, but it separated in 1801 as the area desired its own town government which took agricultural interests more seriously. In the 19th century, much of the town’s economy was centered around agriculture, with many residents running sheep farms. During the 20th century, sheep farms were replaced by dairy farms. Between 1920 and 1960, there were about 100 dairy farms in Waterford. After WWII, suburbanization occurred and many wealthy residents of nearby New London moved to Waterford for more space. The oldest surviving public building in Waterford, Connecticut is this Colonial-era schoolhouse which was likely built in the 1730s. The Jordan Schoolhouse was built as a rural schoolhouse as farmers wanted their children to be taught writing, reading, arithmetic, and religion, even if they followed their parent’s footsteps in farming. The gambrel-roofed Georgian building was used as a school until the mid-19th century and it was converted to a private home for Asa and Eliza Gallup and their family. The schoolhouse was eventually moved to its current site on Jordan Green in 1972 and is operated as a museum space for the Waterford Historical Society.
When the first floor of the Old Town Hall was deemed too cramped for the students of Newington, NH, to receive their education, the town worked out a solution, build a new school. Town revenue from timber-cutting in the Town Forest (the oldest Town Forest in the United States) helped finance construction of the school. Additionally, many landowners and farmers were asked to gather and donate stones on their properties and in stone walls for the material of the new building, which many contributed. The school closed in 1959, not long after the Pease Air Force Base was expanded and destroyed much of the southern edge of town. The U.S. Government acquired many parcels of land in Newington and Portsmouth and redeveloped the site over time in the mid 20th century. In Newington, the government leveled 26 local homesteads an action that left a deep scar on the town’s collective memory. The town has used the building for years, but only recently acquired the property from the Federal Government when they de-accessioned some of their properties here. Hopefully this building will be restored and serve as an educational tool for the town’s later generations.
Before most small New England towns had single school buildings for elementary, middle and high school, small one-room schoolhouses like this dotted the landscape, especially in rural towns. Having smaller schools spread out allowed for a greater number of students to attend school without traveling by horseback long distances, and more local school buildings was a great solution. This c.1857 school building was in use until 1949, and it didn’t even have heat, running water, or electricity until the 1930s, making smart design a necessity to get the most out of the building. Large windows would provide natural light to flood the classroom and the steep gable roof would ensure snow to slide off the roof. Sadly, many towns have lost these buildings, but some have been restored or even repurposed as homes!
Built in 1934 as the fourth high school for the town of Tewksbury, this Neo-Classical school building has seen better days. The Center School was designed by Miller and Beal architects of Portland, Maine, and likely funded with assistance of New Deal program funding during the Great Depression. The next year, Tewksbury Stadium was dedicated in 1938, which was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The Tewksbury Center School retains many of the details that characterize its Neo-Classical Style including: the front gable entry portico supported by two-story Corinthian columns and pilasters, the wide frieze band with the band of dentil molding, the decoratively clad end bays framed by Corinthian pilasters, the broken pediment of the door surround, and keystones in the brick lintels. The town needed to expand at the end of the 20th century, and hired Architectural Resources Cambridge to design the John F. Ryan Elementary School, located behind this building. The Ryan Elemetary School is a pleasing design which is Post-Modern in style. The Center School has been used as offices for the School Department and was recently proposed to be demolished for surface parking, and a new school constructed elsewhere on the site. This seems very wasteful, and epitomizes the lack of regard for environmental or historical conservation in many cities and towns.
Continuing with the snecked ashlar buildings of Reading, Vermont, this schoolhouse is possibly the oldest extant such building in the state. Built in 1834, the South Reading Schoolhouse is located in a very rural village in Vermont, yet is very well preserved, showing the building much as it looked nearly 200 years ago. “Snecked Ashlar” describes a certain type of stonemasonry, brought over from Ireland and Scotland, in which a relatively thick rubblestone wall is veneered with large flat slabs of stone laid on edge. The slabs are tied, or “snecked”, to the rubblestone wall with “snecks”, small flat stones laid across the top edge of the slabs to tie them back into the rubblestone and produce a stable wall facing. It is particularly interesting to see such a large, two-story rural schoolhouse in the area, a testament to the importance of education, even for Vermont’s farming residents. The South Reading Schoolhouse was last used as a school in 1970. It is presently used as a community center for the village of South Reading and as a meeting hall for the South Reading Meeting House Association. A natural spring fountain can be found in the foreground of the schoolhouse today.
Driving through the quaint village of Wilmot Center in New Hampshire, I had to pull over to snap a photo of this little library building. When I got home, I learned that the building was constructed in 1854 not as a library, but as a schoolhouse! The vernacular Greek Revival school served as one of many district schoolhouses in the region, dispersed around small towns to be within walking distance of the sparsely developed parts of the state. With population growth in the 20th century and the proliferation of the personal automobile, these small regional schools became obsolete. Many of these buildings were converted to other civic uses or as personal residences, but most were demolished. The Wilmot Public Library located in the former schoolhouse in 1972 and is now connected to the town offices next door.
This two-story brick schoolhouse was built in 1907 for town growing along the river in Richmond, Vermont. The town’s history goes back thousands of years ago when indigenous people lived here during the Archaic period from 9,500 to 3,000 years ago. The Winooski River, which runs through the town today, was also a common highway for the Abenaki Tribe after 1,000 A.D. between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River. European settlement of Vermont did not begin until the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War in 1763. Richmond was eventually granted township status in 1794 when the Vermont Legislature combined parts of nearby towns to form the new town. The town grew mostly as an agricultural village until the 19th century, when the Winooski River was harnessed for power. The town grew over the years, surviving large town center fires and floods over the years. As was the case with many small Vermont towns, Richmond’s population began a steady decline during the Great Depression. The trend was reversed in the 1960s as a result of new regional employers coming into the area. The school here was outgrown and built a new school in town in that period of growth and converted to the Town Hall, showing a great example of adaptive reuse in small town New England.
Adjacent to the Washington Meeting House, the Washington Center Schoolhouse perfectly compliments the Georgian building, despite being constructed 100 years later. Constructed in 1883, this building served as the principal school house in Washington, and was known as the Center School. There had been an earlier school house near this site, a small brick structure, but by the 1880s it was both worn out and too small and replaced. Eventually, it was decided to build a new school in the general style of the other town buildings, and place its facade flush with the Church (next post). The building now appears to be home to the town’s police department.
Colonial-era one-room schoolhouses once dominated the landscape of New England, providing a learning space for young children. The number of these structures have plummeted due to changing development patterns and limited funding to preserve or adaptively reuse such buildings. In the town of Brookline, this c.1768 schoolhouse has been altered frequently, showing various styles and techniques in construction used during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The original one-room school house was enlarged in 1840 by an addition to the rear to fit additional pupils. In 1847 a shed was built for storing coal or wood and providing an entry vestibule. According to town records, in 1855 the ceiling in the schoolroom was raised, the windows enlarged, and the desks and chairs repaired. The double privy was built around 1898, probably replacing an earlier single privy. There is some evidence that in 1938 the school was used temporarily as a Catholic church and at some time following World War II as a synagogue. In 1966, the school was moved from its original site on Grove Street to its present location at Larz Anderson Park for the future preservation of the building by the town and local historical society. The schoolhouse is normally open for tours at various points during the year or by appointment.