St. George retakes ownership of historic schoolhouse

Observer contributed photo St. George’s historic one-room schoolhouse has been restored and has reverted  back to municipal ownership.
Observer contributed photo
St. George’s historic one-room schoolhouse has been restored and has reverted back to municipal ownership.

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Having been restored and relocated to the center of St. George, the town’s historic one-room schoolhouse is back under municipal ownership.

The St. George Selectboard made it official in May, accepting the deed to the building from the St. George Historic Conservation Trust. The trust formed in 2009 around the cause of saving the building, and it led a community fundraising and volunteer effort over the past nine years to ensure the building’s future.

“It was a big community effort,” said Lori Ring, president of the St. George Historic Conservation Trust, which raised about $130,000 for the project. “We did something the town didn’t have the funds for.”

The building was used for about 100 years, from the mid nineteenth to the mid twentieth centuries, for all of St. George’s school-aged children

“It’s a typical Vermont one-room schoolhouse. So few of them remain that there was a real desire to see it protected,” St. George Selectboard chairman Charles Scott said.

Sitting in the schoolhouse during town meeting day earlier this year, St. George residents voted unanimously to take ownership of the building.

The return of town meeting to the schoolhouse is one of the new uses for the building. Town meeting had taken place in the building until it became unusable in the 1960s. Since then, St. George has used a variety of locations to hold town meeting, including Champlain Valley Union High School and the Rocky Ridge Golf clubhouse.

“We had been  all over the place, so now we’re home,” Scott said. “We’ve had two town meetings in it, and we will continue to have town meeting in it forever, so it’s kind of exciting.”

In addition to hosting town meeting, the schoolhouse will also be used as a meeting space for local organizations and committees, for elections and to rent out for events. It also serves as a museum, with original textbooks, desks and chalkboards.

Elders in the area remember attending school there. According to Ring, former students recall hauling firewood, bringing community meals to the schoolhouse during school days and running in circles to keep warm during winter days.

“It was cold in there,” Ring said. “We didn’t find a speck of insulation when we tore the walls apart.”

The schoolhouse was relocated in 2011 to a spot in the town center donated by the town. The new spot was chosen because of its access to water and sewer service as well as parking.

The trust will continue on in search of other building and land conservation projects, Ring said.

“There are more buildings in town we could work on,” she said.