My first exposure to the one room schools of Exeter, Rhode Island, came from a family friend who showed me one of the schools he attended. I have to admit when I think of one room schools I think of the 19th Century American West a la Little House on the Prairie and not a school my father could have attended. But sure enough there I was on a little back road in Exeter looking at a dilapidated building while a man younger than my father is telling me how he used to have to walk down a hill to get water for his class.
I was shocked. I know a bit about history but I couldn’t believe that the same state that boasts the oldest schoolhouse in America (Portsmouth, 1716) still had one room schools well into the 20th Century. When I was asked if I wanted to write about the restoration of one such school I literally jumped at the chance. The article will appear in my local paper the July 14, 2011, Standard-Times.
The Woody Hill School served Exeter’s District 1 and was fully operational until they lost their teacher and the school had to close in 1942. There were several attempts to restore the school but after a time the building would fall victim to the perils of all buildings that sit too long without use or purpose. Although the article isn’t online you can see elements of the paper serving the North Kingstown, Exeter, and Jamestown communities by clicking HERE. The link will bring you to a cover snapshot of the paper and on the lower left you can actually see one of my pictures!
More information about the restoration can be found at the website and blog run by the Exeter Historical Association. Do you know anyone who went to a one room school? Are there any schools like that left in your neighborhood? Do you have an organization working to keep the school alive? Post some pictures and tell your story! If you came here after seeing the article in the Standard-Times be sure to let me know in the comments! Thank you!