Saturday, October 24, 2015

South School c.1830, Shutesbury, Massachusetts...

Saturday morning "Joyful Productivity" at Sirius Community brought us to the old South School around the corner from Baker Rd. to utilize the services of "Cranberry" the truck and "Chewy" the chipper to clear trees, brush, etc. from the grounds around this historic site on Schoolhouse Rd. Christopher is feeding brush into the chipper... JDHWB-R

SOUTH SCHOOL is an historic one-room schoolhouse located in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, owned by the Sirius Community. It was built c. 1830, although some records indicate that it may date to the 1790’s. It is currently listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Shutesbury is a hill town in the Pioneer Valley, part of the Connecticut River Valley in western Massachusetts. It was settled in 1735, and incorporated as a town in 1761. Early settlers were a farming community of small homesteaders. By the early & mid 1800’s the inhabitants included small farmers, mill workers and the owners of many small cottage industries, whose sons & daughters attended the 10 one-room schoolhouses in town. Most of the young “scholars” walked to school or rode horseback, or in a carriage. The schools were placed in local neighborhood “districts” to be within a 1-2 mile walk or ride of local residences. By the early 20th century many of these schools had been replaced by more centrally located schoolhouses which were facilitated by modern transportation.


Although the 19th century saw a gradual increase in population  growth in Shutesbury, by mid-century it had peaked. The Homestead Act of 1861 attracted many of the early New England settlers to the newly opened & more easily farmed lands of the western and mid-western U.S. By 1928, Shutesbury, like many hill towns in Massachusetts had declined in population to almost the lowest level since it’s founding or apprx. 200. By then, only 3 schools remained opened: the newly Consolidated School near the center of Town where 25 pupils attended, and which by then had two rooms, and two outlying one-room schoolhouses, the SOUTH SCHOOL and the WEST SCHOOL. These were both closed in 1928-29, but both remain standing today. These are the only two remaining schoolhouses of the original 10 built in the town during the 19th century. The WEST SCHOOL, built in 1840 is owned and maintained by the Town of Shutesbury.                                       

The Sirius Community owns the SOUTH SCHOOL and is currently restoring the building to be used for teaching woodcarving, woodworking, sculpture, & traditional crafts as part of the Sirius Community on-going programs. On view are old maps, photos from the early 20th century, general information about Shutesbury history, as well as large framed prints from the era, including the work of Winslow Homer illustrating the schoolhouse era. SOUTH SCHOOL is an apprx. 500 sq.ft. 1-1/2 story wood frame building with chestnut beams & cedar clapboard siding. A Condition Assessment report has been done of the building by a local architect with the assistance of a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Although the school building is in fair to good condition, the sill beams from the original 180 year old foundation have deteriorated and need replacing. The building was re-roofed by the Sirius Community several years ago; however, siding, door, and windows are in need of repair, painting etc.


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