A one-room schoolhouse on River Road in Manchester.

It’s amazing to think there was a time when almost every American child learned in a one-room school. In fact, as late as 1913, half of the country’s schoolchildren were enrolled in the country’s 200,000 one-room schools.

In Vermont, there were more than 2,000 school districts in the mid-19th century, and at least as many one-room schoolhouses at that time. The buildings were built, owned, and operated by each individual town without state oversight, and the schools were practically everywhere.

The small town of Thetford, for example, had 15 school districts and therefore 15 school houses, according to Devin Colman, a State Architectural Historian at the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. He explains that the district model was discontinued in 1892, and towns began to consolidate the one-room schoolhouses into larger, more centrally-located facilities. As a result, the old one-room schoolhouses were abandoned, sold, relocated, and converted for other uses.

I grew up just down the road from a one-room schoolhouse on River Road in Manchester. The school was built around 1832 on land owned by the Walker family was eventually owned by Robert Todd Lincoln and Hildene, according to the Manchester Historical Society.

Though left in its original location, the building fell into disrepair over the decades and restored in the 1980s by Friends of Hildene and the historical society. It’s used today for educational programs.

Where to Find One-Room School Houses in Vermont

Colman says there is no official tally of how many one-room schoolhouses remain standing in the state.

Still, you can find one-room schoolhouses in many Vermont towns, from Addison to Norwich. There’s a rare round schoolhouse in Brookline. In Springfield, the 1790 Eureka Schoolhouse is owned by the state, and the Elmore School is the last operating one-room school in Vermont.

Even though one-room schoolhouses are from a bygone era, they are still very much part of our world here in Vermont. Like covered bridges, they are a  treasured part of our landscape that can certainly teach us a thing or two about history.

 

15 Comments

  • Erica,
    For the past decade I have been researching Vermont’s school buildings. I am trying to create a directory of all the schools that served Vermont students since the creation of the district system.
    I live in Milton, VT so I haven’t been able to visit Bennington county in person but I grew up in Arlington so I am familiar with the area.
    I lack info on Manchester schools and Bennington schools. I have the number of school districts from the towns but I lack the names of the schools and specifics on opening and closing dates.
    any leads you can give me would be appreciated.
    Charlie Farrell

  • Hi Erica,

    We recently bought the William Harrison house (1815) in North Chittenden. #129 West Rd.
    It is mentioned in the “Chittenden,Vermont A Town History” and was part of the original farm of Jeffrey Amhearst Bogue. (We live across the street, #124 West Rd, in the house that was built by William’s son, Samuel Harrison in 1848.)

    The District Number 1-Harrison School was moved to this property #(129) at an unknown date and was used as a pig pen/small barn. We are hoping to restore it to its original condition and were wondering if you could point us in the right direction to find more information about it and possibly find a grant to help us do the work.

  • I was trying to find a school my brother and I attended in the mid-late seventies. All I remember is that it had three rooms total for 6 grades and was located in Jamaica. It appears that it may have been converted to the Jamaica Village School. Does anyone know anything about that?

    • Hi Corinne,

      Sorry for not getting back to you sooner — I was trying to dig up some info. Try the Jamaica Town Clerk’s office at (802) 874-4681. Good luck! -Erica

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