Today when we think of schools, we think of massive standardized learning centers; centers which have the capacity to hold hundreds and even thousands of students and to teach a regulated curriculum. School budgets are voted on from year to year, and millions of dollars allocated to our children's learning. Those who teach in these schools are extensively trained and tested, and receive good salaries, pensions and benefits.
There was a time, however, when a school was a small, simple, one or two room structure heated by a pot-bellied stove. Only a handful of students could be accommodated, and they were composed of every age group. There was no school tax or budget. The students would bring wood to school each morning to heat the stove, and each family provided the proper learning materials. There were no standardized requirements for being a teacher, you only had to be “qualified”( in other words “good enough”) for the local townspeople. The salaries they made were just enough to survive on, and no benefits were given. There were no janitors or maintenance men to clean or fix the schoolhouse. Those responsibilities fell to the teachers themselves. The winters were cold and the summers were hot. This was the era of the one-room schoolhouse.
Long Island at one time had hundreds, if not thousands of schoolhouses dotting the landscape. Many have since vanished, lost to rot and decay, the wrecking ball or fire. However, some still remain today, many more then one might imagine, if you know where to look.
Roanoke School (Formerly Centerville School -the name was changed in 1900.) Riverhead NY.
On May 29, 1863 a group of men met to plan the building of the school. Five meetings later, on March 11, 1864, the plans were finalized and construction began. In 1914, an addition was added to the front, and in 1917, indoor toilets were installed. Yet another addition was a small room on the west side, which served as a free library. In 1951, the school’s 8th grade class was forced to go to Riverhead HS, as there was no space left. In 1956, the school was consolidated with Riverhead School District #2, but the building was still used with fewer grades. The school closed in 1961, after 97 years of use, and still stands today as a private residence.
Cutchogue School, Cutchogue NY
This school was built circa 1840 and moved to the grounds of the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Historical Council’s Village Green in 1961. Before being restored, it was used to house migrant workers. The original room-wide black painted wood chalkboard was discovered during restoration. The building currently houses a large collection of schoolbooks from the time period.
Greenport School (Stirling Area School)
This school originally stood on North Road. It was moved to a site on the firehouse grounds in 1898, and its current location sometime in the early 2000’s. It was built circa 1832 and was known as District #4 in 1834. In 1895 District #4 was consolidated with Greenport District #16, later known as #10 The schoolhouse closed in 1932 when a new building was built. At this time it became the property of the village and was used by the Girl Scouts in the 1930’s. In the 1960’s the Girl Scouts found a new location, and the structure was used by the Exempt Firemen for their meetings. Exempt Firemen are Fireman who have been active volunteers for at least five years.
Oysterponds School, Orient, NY
This school was used from 1872 until 1905 with little or no alterations until the exterior was significantly modified in 1905. In 1965, the school was moved to its present location. It currently serves as an art studio for Mr. Robert Berks, a sculptor who is known nationwide for his bust of John F. Kennedy, which is on display at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Red Creek School, Southampton, NY
This small school was erected circa 1850 and was originally located at Red Creek, north of Hampton Bays. It was transported to the Historical Society grounds by barge.
Watermill School, Watermill, NY
The present-day structure has been enlarged and added onto from its schoolhouse days, and currently serves as a bus depot for the Southampton School District. The original school building was built in 1870, and served the community of Watermill until 1923 when the town voted and decided to send their students to the Southampton School District.
Hayground School, between Watermill and Bridgehampton.
This was Hayground’s fourth school building, used from 1912-1946. After its closure, it was used by the Knights of Columbus, and currently serves as an antique shop.
Wainscott School, Wainscott, NY
This one-room schoolhouse was the only one of its kinds still operational in New York State until 2007-2008 when a new school annex was built next door. It was built in the early half of the 1950’s and housed grades one through three. This was Wainscott’s fourth school. Wainscott’s first schoolhouse burned, the second one (built circa 1825) is no longer standing, and the third (built circa 1882) was a residence which now sits vacant.
Wainscott Third School, Wainscott, NY
This small building was erected circa 1882 and used until the previous schoolhouse was constructed. This school once served as a residence, and now sits vacant on a lot, hidden behind a pile of dirt, next to an active home construction site. The interior still boasts the raised tin ceiling, and when you walk in it is clear that this structure was once a school. The future of this building is uncertain.