Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, many one-room schoolhouses -- some wood-framed and others made of brick -- dotted the landscape in every Ohio county.
To this day, just about every county has a handful of the structures still standing. Some have been preserved, serving to show today's youth what education was like in "the old days." Others are used for various purposes such as wagon sheds on farms, and some are rotting away.
Recently, I read that a group called the Preservation Alliance of Greater Akron is working to restore an 1870 vintage one-room schoolhouse at West Market Street and White Pond Drive in west Akron.
Overseeing the project is Mark Gilles, an Akron architect who once was involved in some preservation projects in Aurora.
The structure has been used continuously since it was built -- as a school, library and community meeting place. The project could take two to three years to complete.
Unfortunately, no one-room schoolhouses in Portage County have been preserved to demonstrate their original purpose, although there probably are a few that have been converted into homes or sheds.
The two schools my mom attended near New Philadelphia prior to going to Welty Middle School are still standing. Fribley is used as an implement shed on a farm and Bucey is a house now owned by a guy who I went to church with as a youth.
The school my dad attended was used as a wagon shed out behind a barn when I was young, but I'm pretty sure it isn't there anymore.
Last week I mentioned the Little Red Schoolhouse near Willoughby South High School, which is used as a history center.
I have photographs of more than a dozen one-room schoolhouses which have been preserved. The one pictured with this column is the old Valley School, which stands on the Guernsey County fairgrounds. Sadly, it was heavily damaged by a windstorm last summer, is now off limits to visitors and likely will have to be demolished.
The structure stands on a hill overlooking the grandstand. It was moved to the site and restored by the Guernsey County Retired Teachers Association in the early 1990s, and was open during the county fair and other special events.
Other small schoolhouses which I've seen at fairgrounds are at Western Reserve Pioneer Village on the Canfield grounds and one at the Noble County grounds in Caldwell.
Century Village in Burton and Chesterland Historical Village probably boost the closest preserved one-room schools to Aurora. There's also one in Kirtland.
Others I'm familiar with that have been preserved are in Hartville, downtown Akron, the Algonquin Mill Festival grounds near Carrollton, near Deersville in Harrison County, Malta in Morgan County, the Ohio University-Belmont campus near St. Clairsville, Walnut Creek in Holmes County, Route 4 north of Marion, on the Bowling Green State University campus and a couple in Medina County.
A one-room schoolhouse was simple -- a small rectangular structure with rows of wooden desks, three or four windows on each side, bell tower, potbellied stove, a blackboard across the front of the room, outside well, and boys and girls outhouses in the back.
Some of the textbooks available for learning included McGuffey Readers, Harvey's Grammar, Cornell's Physical Geography and Barnes History.
Many of the one-room structures succumbed to larger and more modern schools in the 1920s and 1930s, but some survived into the 1940s and '50s.
Many schools in areas where there are heavy concentrations of Amish families still have one-room schools dotted on the landscape, although they look a little different than the old-fashioned styles.
THE NEWER 'OLD' SCHOOLS
As consolidations occurred in the 1930s and 1940s, one-room schoolhouses gave way to elementary buildings with four, six and eight classrooms, and "junior highs" and high schools with many more rooms.
For example, Aurora students moved into the building which now serves as Town Hall -- built in the late 1800s -- and then into the building now housing the school district's central offices on East Garfield Road in the late 1910s. That building soon will reach the 100-year mark.
My alma mater -- New Philadelphia High School -- is celebrating its 100th year in 2013. It survived a devastating fire in 1990, was renovated and still stands proudly just northwest of downtown, and is a place dear to my heart.
The New Philly school district has one building older than the high school. Front Elementary, where I went to kindergarten, was built in 1906. It's a plain square brick building which was heavily damaged by fire in 1977, and has housed the district's administrative offices since the early 1980s.
New Philly's Tuscarawas Avenue elementary building dates to 1914, but was closed a few years ago. The property and building have been for sale ever since.
The school I attended from first to sixth grades in New Philly was built in 1892 and survived until a new school was built in 1971. It was razed in 1977.
I've seen some historic photos of it in the early 1900s when it had a stately bell tower, but that was gone by the time I was born, and the building had a plain, flat roof.
One of the "newer old" buildings that was demolished recently was the old Ravenna High, which was opened in 1923.
In my 26 years in Portage County, other schools have met the wrecking ball, including in Atwater, Brimfield, Hiram, Randolph, Suffield and Windham.
A few buildings in Portage that no longer are used as schools still stand, including Depeyster in Kent (now the district's central offices), Mantua Village, Mantua Center, Shalersville, Emma Willard in Brady Lake, Deerfield, Palmyra and Paris.
Some have been converted to other uses -- such as doctor's offices at Mantua Village -- while Palmyra and Paris are rotting away. Part of the roof has collapsed at Palmyra.
Probably Portage County's most majestic remaining "newer old" school is Davey Elementary in Kent. Built in 1922, it was the original Theodore Roosevelt High School, then housed middle school students from 1959 to 1999 before becoming an elementary school.
There are many other school buildings around Ohio that I have fond memories of which have been torn down, including some where I covered athletic events.
Some of them are in Cambridge, Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, Old Washington, New Concord, Zanesville, Stone Creek, Magnolia, Waynesburg, Midvale, Mingo Junction and Strasburg.
Some of the buildings I was familiar with were built and demolished in my lifetime, thus lasting less than six decades. One was Sandy Valley High School, built in the early 1950s.
I have tons of photos of schools around Ohio -- some of which are still in operation and some which have been abandoned or converted to other uses. It's sad to see some of them waste away.
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