Residents tour historic one-room Roxbury schoolhouse
ROXBURY - Children sat in the old-fashioned wooden desks on the side of an historic one-room schoolhouse Sunday afternoon.
“These are comfortable,” one young girl said. “They are much nicer than the ones we have at school.”
About 50 children, parents and other Roxbury-area residents attended the Roxbury Land Trust’s open house for the historic Good Hill Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse served children grades one through eight from the mid-to-late 1800s to the early 1900s.
The Roxbury Land Trust has been taking care of the schoolhouse since 1997 when actor and Roxbury resident Richard Widmark donated it and the surrounding four acres to the organization.
But Mary Daniel, one of the land trust directors, said few people know the schoolhouse — which is on the Widmark Preserve at the intersection of Schoolhouse and Tophet Roads — exists. The land trust holds an open house for the building about once a year to make people aware of it.
“This is a wonderful old structure and we’re just so proud to be able to open it up,” Daniel said.
The schoolhouse first appeared on tax assessor records in 1849, but the land trust believes it was built earlier than that. Daniel said now it is one of the last one-room schoolhouses around.
The land trust believes students began attending the school in the 1860s, but no records were kept until 1881. One teacher taught grades one through eight, but attendance was often low because laws did not require school attendance and parents did not stress education. School was only in session in the winter because children had to help on the farm in the other seasons.
The building still has the fireplace that kept the students warm, and the land trust has lit it during other open houses. The organization fixed the roof about 10 years ago and has replaced the floorboards over the years, but Daniel said the building is in great condition for being nearly 200 years old.
While the land trust estimates the schoolhouse closed in 1903 because of a shortage of students (only six attended then), Roxbury resident Sarah Lauriat believes her grandfather, Joe Dooley, attended in the 1920s. He passed away when Lauriat was 6, so she never got to hear from him what it was like, but knows that he, like the other students at the time, walked to school.
She had never been inside the schoolhouse before Sunday and said it was strange to stand in the place where her grandfather once learned.
“It’s eerie,” she said. “It's unique.”
“When I came that time they had a school registry and my grandfather and his brothers and sisters were all in the registry,” she said.
Katie Re Scheidt and her husband Eric brought their two kids to the schoolhouse as a fun afternoon activity.
“It’s just something good to do, something that shows them the history of the town,” she said.
But her 6-year-old son Gunther said he does not think he would want to go to school at Good Hill.
”It wouldn’t be that fun,” he said. “You just sit and write for six hours.”
Daniel said the land trust is grateful Widmark donated the schoolhouse and the rest of the 27 acres that now make up the Widmark Preserve, where hikers can walk and explore nature.
“I love sharing this,” she said. “I just think it’s so beautiful.”