One Room School
One Room School by James Marvin Phelps (CC BY-NC)

30 Historic Schoolhouses Across America

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One Room School
One Room School by James Marvin Phelps (CC BY-NC)

Super Old School

While many Americans had hoped to send their kids back to school in the coming weeks, most are discovering that plan is on hold — or will look very, very different this year. As parents everywhere settle into another round of Zoom calls, it may be worth remembering that the tradition of school has survived despite changing dramatically, from lessons to classrooms to lunches, over the years. Buildings used to be one-room structures that taught first through eighth grade. Boys only sat with girls as punishment, teachers often lived with their pupils' families, and everyone did his or her work on a slate. While times have drastically changed (especially in 2020), there are still historic schoolhouses all over the nation that only exist today due to communities' efforts to preserve them. Here's a list of 30, across the U.S., from newest to oldest, and the stories behind them.

Related: 15 Ways Classrooms Have Changed Over the Past 50 Years

Shiloh Rosenwald School, Notasulga, Alabama
Shiloh Rosenwald School, Notasulga, Alabama by Rivers A. Langley (CC BY)

Shiloh Rosenwald School

Notasulga, Alabama
Founded:
1913
Often referred to as simply the Shiloh School, it was one of a handful of schools built to educate the area's African-American schoolchildren, yet one of thousands that resulted from the collaboration between educator, author, and civil rights leader Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald, then head of Sears, Roebuck and Company, to build such schools across the South. The school had two classrooms teaching grades 1-6, split evenly, and its motto was: "Good, better, best never let it rest until the good gets better and the better is best. Don't settle for anything less." Today it is part of the Shiloh Community Restoration Foundation — which also includes a historic church and cemetery — and operates as a permanent museum exhibit.

Related: 23 Amazing Places That Celebrate African-American History

Junction School, Stonewall, Texas
Junction School, Stonewall, Texas by Larry D. Moore (CC BY)

Junction School

Stonewall, Texas
Founded:
1910
Located along the scenic Pedernales River banks, the Junction School also sits on the grounds of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. In 1912, former president Johnson was a precocious 4-year-old who liked to play with his dog, Bigham Young, and run off to the nearby schoolhouse to play with area kids — so often, apparently, that his mother convinced the school to enroll him early. In 1965, he would return to Junction School to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — a law that continues to shape America's education policies — while seated next to his former teacher at a picnic table. Visitors today can tour the schoolhouse, and sit at the same table.

Curious to know what President Johnson enjoyed for breakfast? Check out First Tastes: Favorite Foods of 21 U.S. Presidents.

Town House School
© 2020 Google

Town House School

Kennebunkport, Maine
Founded: 1900
An example of community restoration efforts that take place across the U.S., Kennebunkport residents and Friends of the Town House School raised $425,000 so that a large-scale renovation of this tiny schoolhouse on the coast of Maine could begin in late 2018. The school had closed in 1950 and has been used by the town's historical society since to house some of its collection. Since its renovation, it's now hosting history lectures that are free to Kennebunkport residents.

Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England

Roberts Schoolhouse
© 2020 Google

Roberts Schoolhouse

Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Founded: Late 1899
Tucked between two campus buildings on the Southern Miss campus is the wood-framed, one-room Roberts Schoolhouse, transferred here in 1981. The man it is named for, M.M. Roberts, provided the resources necessary to move the school to the university campus. Built just as the 20th century loomed, it served as a school for boys and girls in grades 1-12, until 1921. A 2018 Hattiesburg American newspaper story stated that children attended school from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day so that they could have time to perform morning and evening chores. Female teachers had to wear clothing that covered all body parts, were required to be single, could only ride in a car with a male family member, and could not stay out past dark, according to Debbie Stoulig, assistant to the dean at the College of Education and Human Sciences.

Related: 15 Ways Classrooms Have Changed Over the Past 50 Years

Old 1-room schoolhouse in Sula
Old 1-room schoolhouse in Sula by Patrick Herbert (CC BY-NC)

Sula Schoolhouse

Sula, Montana
Founded:
1897
This tiny rural Montana town along the Bitterroot River had a population of 37 in 2010, so it's not a huge surprise that its one-room schoolhouse closed in 1936. What is surprising is how much effort the community's historical society put into saving it, raising $9,000 in 2011 and accruing many volunteer hours — including some from Job Corps volunteers — to repair walls, floors, the ceiling, windows and more. Even more impressive? All that work was done before 2013, when the entirety of Montana's rural historic schoolhouses were listed as endangered places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Now open for public viewing, ongoing donations help keep the Sula Schoolhouse up to date.

Indian Stream Schoolhouse, Pittsburg, New Hampshire
Indian Stream Schoolhouse, Pittsburg, New Hampshire by Magicpiano (CC BY)

Indian Stream Schoolhouse

Pittsburg, New Hampshire
Founded:
1897
The picturesque, white-clapboard Indian Stream Schoolhouse was one of nine such tiny schools in Pittsburg. It was a working school for 42 years, closing in 1939 and remaining vacant for years. In the early 2000s, a group of former students and community members helped bring about its restoration, and in 2007 the renovation was completed. It currently operates as a local history museum, and its collection reportedly includes photos and experiences of former students.

Related: The Oldest Building in Each State

Fruita Schoolhouse, Capitol Reef National Park
Fruita Schoolhouse, Capitol Reef National Park by Caddymob (CC BY)

Fruita Schoolhouse

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Founded:
1896
Perched near a sheer rock face inside this Utah national park, Fruita Schoolhouse initially served 22 children who came from eight families. The National Park Service website notes that Fruita's students "were full of pranks. To delay the start of class, they often hid the teacher's alarm clock in the woodpile," and "a few enterprising students found that dropping a small piece of calcium carbide, taken from a lantern, into an inkwell produced a reaction that would cause the ink to overflow." Fruita school, still at its original site, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1964. It closed as a school in 1941, but visitors today can park along Highway 24 and peer through its windows where they'll find a still-furnished schoolhouse.

Related: Explore the Best National Parks in Every State

Croft Schoolhouse
© 2020 Google

Croft Schoolhouse

Charlotte, North Carolina
Founded:
1890
Unlike other forgotten or schoolhouse-turned-museum buildings, Croft is part of the thriving campus of progressive Pioneer Springs, a grass-roots, community school established in 2012 in the Charlotte's Historic Croft District. The site also includes a barn, historic home, and more than 7 acres of lush landscaping, paths, forests, and a pond full of diverse ecosystems, which helps place an "emphasis on getting students outside to learn." The school's founders note that the Croft — still used to house classrooms — opened in 1890 in order to educate rural families' children in this once railroad-centered community, and that the four-room schoolhouse, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, "remains a sheltered pocket of rural charm."

Oklahoma Schoolhouse No. 4, Eaton, Ohio
Olde Schoolhouse Vineyard & Winery/Yelp

Oklahoma Schoolhouse No. 4

Eaton, Ohio
Founded:
1890
This handsome brick schoolhouse served as such for about 30 years before becoming home to a seed company and then used as an agricultural building for a bit. Then it sat vacant for 35 years until two couples bought it and renovated it into ... a winery. Where kids once had recess, there's now a patio that hosts live music and local wine enthusiasts. The interior doesn't look much like a schoolhouse anymore, of course, but the exterior, which the owners have mostly left alone, still has that classic schoolhouse vibe.

Cook Schoolhouse
© 2020 Google

Cook Schoolhouse

Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan
Founded:
1890
This one-room schoolhouse is an award winner — the Michigan One Room Schoolhouse Association (MORSA) named it the state's 2019 Schoolhouse of the Year. Michigan, MORSA vice-chair Rochelle Balkam told a local newspaper in July 2019, "has more one-room schools still standing than nearly any other state, and we strive to honor that heritage." The site waymarking.com notes that this version of the classic red schoolhouse "was built to accommodate 60 students in grades one through eight, but per the annual report, only 30 attended the first year. The curriculum consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, English grammar, U.S. history and spelling. Later, physiology and civil government were added. Kindergarten was offered around 1920." Today the school can be rented for events.

Related: Things They Don't Teach in School Anymore — and What Kids Are Learning Instead

Oak Grove One Room Schoolhouse
Atlantic Archives-Richard Leo Johnson

Oak Grove One Room Schoolhouse

Statesboro, Georgia
Founded:
Late 1800s
Though it's been moved twice, the wood-clad Oak Grove schoolhouse in Statesboro now rests on the grounds of the Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University. University spokesperson Kathy Tucker notes that no one knows the exact date the schoolhouse was built, but that it was late in the 19th century. It now welcomes school group tours, where kids can experience what school was like for rural area students in the 19th and 20th centuries. Inside, visitors can find a human-size abacus, open-air windows, portrait of George Washington, and other period artifacts. Nearby is the restored Weathervane Barn, a museum that further illustrates rural life in the era.

Related: In Full Bloom: Photos of Gorgeous Botanical Gardens in All 50 States

Sturgis One-Room School House, Pocomoke City, Maryland
©TripAdvisor

Sturgis One-Room School House

Pocomoke City, Maryland
Founded: 1888
The county of Worcester claims the Sturgis is the only African-American one-room school in the county that retains "its original integrity." Grades 1 through 7 were taught by one teacher there for 37 years and, for some time after it closed, it served as a residence. After the Worcester County Historical Society purchased it in the mid-1990s, it was moved to its current location and restored. It now serves as a museum dedicated to educating local young people about the value of the school's "cultural and historical richness."

Strawberry Schoolhouse, Strawberry, Arizona
Strawberry Schoolhouse, Strawberry, Arizona by Gillfoto (CC BY)

Strawberry Schoolhouse

Strawberry, Arizona
Founded: 1884
Erected in a single day by a log-raising party in the fall of 1884, Strawberry opened as a school, social center, and church in early 1886. Its Arizona Historical Society plaque reads that it as "nicely furnished with wallpaper and wainscoting and well supplied with manufactured desks and blackboards." It closed in 1907 due to lack of students, and underwent restoration projects in 1967 and from 1979-80 — the latter accomplished by "old-timers who had either taught in or attended the school, their descendants, and hundreds of interested, helpful residents." 

Related: 31 Historic Places Across America That You Can Tour Virtually

Rockford School
© 2020 Google

Rockford School

Harrisonville, Missouri
Founded:
1876
The Rockford is a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse located on the grounds of D.W. McEowen Elementary School, a modern public school that has around 400 students. Closed in 1957 and used for a time as a hunting cabin, it now serves as a living history classroom for area schoolchildren, saved from demolition by a former student who wanted today's kids to know what school used to be like — and how different it was. That former student, John Foster, told RuralMissouri.org: "I wanted them to realize that we had farm chores to do. We walked to school or we rode our pony." His efforts, he further explained, were "about public education. We have to remember our roots and what made this nation great. Public education is one of the keys."

Cuttyhunk Schoolhouse, Gosnold, Massachusetts
cuttyhunkislandwritersresidency/facebook.com

Cuttyhunk Schoolhouse

Gosnold, Massachusetts
Founded:
1873
The island hamlet of Gosnold is the smallest of Massachusetts' 351 towns — too small for the historic, almost 150-year-old schoolhouse in Cuttyhunk to continue as an operating elementary school. However, the schoolhouse continues to operate as an educational institution — a STEAM Academy, teaching area kids about science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

Related: What Kids Carry in Their Backpacks Around the Globe

Forest Grove School, Bettendorf, Iowa
Forest Grove School, Bettendorf, Iowa by Farragutful (CC BY)

Forest Grove School

Bettendorf, Iowa
Founded:
1873
Forest Grove closed in 1957, and then it crumbled and rotted while vandals defaced it and the community neglected it — until one woman spearheaded its preservation starting in 2012. Raising around $200,000 through events, auctions, and other community fundraisers, Forest Grove School Preservation's organizers eventually brought it back to life, focusing first on the exterior and then interior. Though restoration and donation efforts are ongoing — new wainscoting and chalkboards were installed in 2019 — the school is a shining example of schoolhouse restoration, and organizers hope to open it as a museum in the near future. They even maintain a blog that updates restoration efforts and produced a video where former students and teachers recount memories.

Mason Street School, San Diego
Michael H./Yelp

Mason Street School

San Diego
Founded:
1865
Unlike so many other historic schoolhouses on this list, most of which are in rural communities, Mason Street is in the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, site of the oldest settlement in the city. It's a very urban area that consists of hiking trails, museums, Presidio Park, outdoor cafes, and the school. Built in 1865 at a different location, it's since been moved, razed, reconstructed, serving as a family home and a tamale restaurant before it was moved to its current location in 2013. 

Combs School, Homer, Nebraska
Combs School, Homer, Nebraska by Ammodramus (CC BY)

Combs School

Homer, Nebrasha
Founded:
1857
A 2013 Nebraska Life story noted that this little one-room schoolhouse in the northeast corner of Nebraska, just a few miles off the Missouri River, was one of 7,000 historic schools in the state around the end of World War I. But Combs School, many Nebraskans believe, might have been the first. It was moved a few times before arriving at its current destination, and again once more after its closure in 1964, where it now shares a plot of land with the 19th century O'Connor House. The school still has its old bell out front, and each spring hundreds of school kids visit — some in period garb, some not — to learn as kids did for more than 100 years in this school.

Related: The 40 Best Places in America to Travel Back in Time

Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse, Kinderhook, New York
©TripAdvisor

Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse

Kinderhook, New York
Founded:
1850
Many teachers are inspiring, but not many have inspired iconic literary characters. Originally known as the Kinderhook Schoolhouse, this school got its current name due to author Washington Irving modeling his "Sleepy Hollow" character Ichabod Crane after his friend Jesse Merwin, the man who would later become Kinderhook's school teacher, in 1809. The school, open during the summer and fall, is now run by the Columbia County Historical Society, along with two nearby historic residences, and hosts tours, exhibits, and school field trips.

Hurlbutt Street School, Wilton, Connecticut
Hurlbutt Street School, Wilton, Connecticut by DavidAFinkelstein (CC BY)

Hurlbutt Street School

Wilton, Connecticut
Founded:
1834
While other schools on this list took years to complete, the Hurlbutt — we're not sure if kids then found it as funny as kids would now — was built in a day. It operated as a school for just over 100 years, and its website notes that "many changes were made in the course of the years — from kerosene lamps to electricity, from hornbooks and slates to notebooks and lead pencils, from simply learning the 3 R's to understanding the atom." Today the green and white building profiled by Smithsonian in 2000 serves as a living museum where area schoolchildren learn about how school used to be taught and marvel at its old-fashioned features, including a pot-bellied stove and outhouse.

District No. 5 School, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
District No. 5 School, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts by Tim Pierce (CC BY)

District No. 5 School

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
Founded:
1828
A simple, red-brick building with a gabled roof and a few windows for 19th century students to gaze out of while daydreaming, this one-room schoolhouse is about an hour west of Boston. There was talk of demolishing it when, in 1973, the Shrewsbury Historical Society stepped in, procured the building from the town for a whopping $1, and held several fundraisers to raise money for restoration, which included installing period desks and chairs. That was 30 years ago, and the schoolhouse, which now operates as a museum, is once again in the midst of restorative work. Once complete, says the society's website, the No. 5 will "once again be a beautifully preserved historic site."

Related: How School Lunches Have Changed Over the Decades

Round Schoolhouse, Brookline, Vermont
Round Schoolhouse, Brookline, Vermont by Magicpiano (CC BY)

Round Schoolhouse

Brookline, Vermont
Founded:
1822
There aren't a lot of round historic schoolhouses scattered across the U.S., and this one's shape has a pretty intriguing story behind it. The one-room school had five equally spaced windows around it, and its schoolteacher, John Wilson, who had dictated the school's design, claimed it was so he could keep a lookout for an infamous crime-committing highwayman known as Captain Thunderbolt. Here's the rub: Wilson was Captain Thunderbolt, and he was actually keeping an eye out for approaching lawmen who'd become wise to his criminal lifestyle. After Wilson died, an undertaker discovered scars consistent with a convict's chains, as well as other telltale identifying marks, and Wilson's true identity was found out.

Claymont Stone School
Claymont Stone School by Jimmy Emerson, DVM (CC BY-NC-ND)

The Claymont Stone School

Claymont, Delaware
Founded:
1805
This historic school has two rooms — the second constructed in 1905, 100 years after the first — and is still located on its original parcel of land southwest of Philadelphia along the Delaware River. After the school closed in 1925, it went through iterations as a kindergarten-only school, a Women's Club of Claymont community library, and reopened as an elementary school in the 1940s and '50s. In 1995, fundraising started for restoration efforts. Today the school serves as a museum and heritage center that is also used as a community facility. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, its marker indicates that Claymont "may have been the first racially integrated public school in the state."

Sam Houston Historic Schoolhouse, Maryville, Tennessee
Paisley T./Yelp

Sam Houston Historic Schoolhouse

Maryville, Tennessee
Founded:
1794
Politician and leader of the Texas Revolution, Sam Houston, then 18 years old, was the schoolmaster at this one-room school, built from hand-hewn poplar logs with a stacked stone chimney, in 1812. Interestingly, the school's website notes that Houston taught pupils aged 6 to 60, each of whom paid $8 per term, "payable 1/3 in corn, 1/3 in calico and 1/3 in cash." In 1813, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and began his long career in the military and politics, but would later say of his time as a teacher that he "experienced a higher feeling of dignity and self-satisfaction than from any office or honor which I have held since." Today, the schoolhouse grounds also include a museum and gift shop.

Eureka Schoolhouse, Springfield, Vermont
©TripAdvisor

Eureka Schoolhouse

Springfield, Vermont
Founded:
1790
The Eureka is Vermont's oldest schoolhouse, and the hewn-timbered building remained a school for more than 100 years until 1900 when the shrinking population led to its closure. It was disassembled and stored in 1958, and in 1968 a local preservationist organized its restoration. It's now owned by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, and the local chamber of commerce includes it in a small historic site that can be visited late May through mid-October.

Related: 30 Great American Road Trips Through History

Concord School House, Philadelphia
Concord School House, Philadelphia by Smallbones (CC BY)

Concord School House

Philadelphia
Founded:
1775
The first English-language school in what is now Philly's historic Germantown neighborhood, Concord has seen its fair share of history, including the 1777 Battle of Georgetown. Its architect and builder, Jacob Knorr, was responsible for other nearby buildings that are considered American landmarks, including the John Johnson House — integral to the anti-slavery movement and Underground Railroad — and Cliveden, a historic mansion where much of the 1777 battle took place. Knorr is buried in the cemetery adjacent to the schoolhouse. Today, the Concord School House still has its original bell and belfry, stool and dunce cap, books, and schoolmaster's desk.

The Brainerd Schoolhouse, Mount Holly, New Jersey
The Brainerd Schoolhouse, Mount Holly, New Jersey by Apc106 (CC BY)

The Brainerd Schoolhouse

Mount Holly, New Jersey
Founded:
1759
This picturesque little schoolhouse located across the Delaware River in a suburb of Philadelphia is owned and maintained by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America's New Jersey chapter. Its brick façade, shuttered windows, and sharply gabled roof give it tons of charm, which visitors can see on days it's open to the public, when docents costumed in period garb conduct class trips, tours, and education workshops. While there, take the quick 10-minute drive over to Historic Peachfield, a restored 1725 country home, also owned and maintained by the Dames, that can be toured by appointment.

Related: 50 Facts You Learned in School That Are Actually Lies

York Corner Schoolhouse, York, Maine
York Corner Schoolhouse, York, Maine by Magicpiano (CC BY)

York Corner Schoolhouse

York, Maine
Founded:
1745
One of the older schoolhouses on this list, the Old York Historical Society says it is "one of the earliest surviving 18th-century schoolhouses in New England." It was used for more than 100 years, and moved from its original location 80 or so years ago to join the historical society's collection of buildings, which include a tavern and the "Old Gaol" — a prison constructed in 1656. 

Southernmost Schoolhouse, Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Photo by Richard Talipsky

Southermost Schoolhouse

Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Founded:
1725
This plain, rectangular, red-clapboard school, which is among the oldest surviving schoolhouses in the nation, opened nearly 300 years ago after its community members recognized "how excellent an ornament learning is to mankind," and authorized 20 pounds for its construction (it went over budget at 23 pounds). Its first headmaster lived in the school's cellar with his family until they were evicted, and a 2016 town exhibition noted a list of rules and the punishment — lashes — for breaking them. Some seem fairly standard — don't fight, don't tell lies — while others, such as boys and girls not being allowed to play together, are far outdated. The school is now part of the town's historical society, and includes many of its original "artifacts," including desks, school bells, and textbooks.

Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, St. Augustine, Florida
©TripAdvisor

Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse

St. Augustine, Florida
Founded:
1725
St. Augustine lays claim to being the oldest city in the U.S. and, while known for its Spanish colonial architecture, the nation's Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse is just that — wooden bald cypress and red cedar logs. Though originally built in the early 18th century for a family — one of whom became the building's first schoolteacher — it was transformed into a school in 1788 with the addition of a second story. Today it resides in the city's St. George Street shopping district and its exterior is bound by a large chain, added in 1937, to help hold the historic structure in the event of a hurricane. Visitors are welcome to tour the schoolhouse and surrounding gardens.

Related: 30 of the Oldest General Stores in America