Gardiner Town Hall was once a one-room schoolhouse

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Anthony P. Musso

In 1875 a one-room schoolhouse was located in the hamlet of Ireland Corners, less than a mile west of the town of Gardiner. Known as District School Number 2, it was originally located along Marabac Road, just west of Route 208 in the southern part of the hamlet.

The Gardiner was established in 1853 by act of legislation and was made up of segments from surrounding communities in New Paltz, Rochester and Shawangunk.

The one-room schoolhouse was built in Ireland Corners around the same time and was active during a period which saw a number of financial and academic reforms take place in an effort to improve the state’s rural school system . The state legislature has taken several steps to modify and increase financial assistance to the system by enacting several procedures.

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In 1849 he passed the Free School Act, eliminating the assessment of rates that had previously been charged to parents whose children attended a school. In turn, the act also enacted a process to establish a general property tax to support local schools.

In 1853, the Union Free School Act authorized school districts to fund individual educational institutions within their geographic boundaries if it agreed to establish a department for school or secondary education. Other reforms were introduced, such as the installation of larger windows to improve natural lighting in the building, the raising of classroom ceilings to improve ventilation, and new building measures designed to minimize and/or or eliminate drafts in the structure.

Once the school was moved to Gardiner, it was located on property in the center of town and served as one of 10 buildings used to provide education for children in the community.

The school remained intact until 1893 when a second classroom was added to the structure to accommodate the growing number of residents moving to the town. Along with the extra space, the building has been upgraded with a corner bell/entrance tower and its exterior has been redesigned to reflect more of a Queen Anne-style appearance.

The updates and additions that were accomplished resulted in a one-and-a-half-storey wood-frame building that featured an L-shaped layout with the entrance positioned at its northwest corner. It had a steeply pitched roof, and its exterior featured clapboard siding and overlapping gables on the tower, which served as the focal point of the structure.

Inside the school, a vestibule gave students access to either of the two classrooms. The rooms both featured plaster walls, wooden paneling, window and door trim, and various moldings throughout.

“I attended the Gardiner School from first through eighth grade,” Meta Watts said. “There were four grade levels in each room and we all helped each other.

“Students were tasked with pumping and bringing a bucket of clean water and firewood for the stove for winter heating. When I graduated in 1953, we had the largest class ever with five students.

The school welcomed pupils from this last part of the 19e century until 1981. This period contrasts sharply with other one- and two-room schools in the area, which generally closed in the 1940s and 1950s when large school districts were created.

Following the building’s use as an educational facility, it was later acquired by the municipality, reconditioned and modified, and used as a town hall. It continues to serve that purpose today.

“When City Hall was renovated several years ago, my family requested that the school bell, which had been removed from the belfry and hung on a sign outside City Hall, be returned to the belfry,” said City Supervisor Marybeth Majestic. “Rusty McCord, resident and welder of Gardiner, offered his skills to spruce it up and my husband and children worked on the installation.”

The building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, is located at 2340 Route 44/55, Gardiner.

Anthony Musso writes Dateline for the Poughkeepsie Journal. To suggest a topic, email him at [email protected]

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