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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

D is for the Doraville Schoolhouse

There was a one-room schoolhouse in a tiny hamlet called Doraville, NY. It was so small that, growing up in Binghamton, perhaps 26 miles (42 km) away, I had never heard of it until considerably later. But it holds a special place in the hearts of my in-laws.

Two of my mother-in-law's older siblings actually attended the school before it closed down during a school consolidation c. 1940. But then a kitchen was added on, and the building was used for years as community center for meetings, suppers and the like. As it was a very short walk from the former school to my mother-in-law's parents' house, it became the location for the Olin Thanksgiving for many years, into the 1970s.

At some point, the powers that be decided to tear it down so that some utility lines could be built, or some such. However, members of the community objected. They raised the requisite money to move the building from its original location to a spot in Harpursville, some 3.5 miles (5.6 km) away.

It wasn't just money that was needed; it was manual labor to cut the building in half, horizontally near the roof line, schlep it to the new location then put it back together. It's likely that the plans wouldn't have succeeded at all had the state not coincidentally built a new bridge; the old bridge might not have borne the weight. (The photos pictured tell the story of the move.)

Once moved, there was an effort to try to replicate the school as it once was. Under the leadership of my wife's uncle Don Olin, this was accomplished.

The doorway in this picture led to the kitchen that had been added in the 1940s.

So when the Olins had their family reunion in July 2009, they held it at the Harpursville Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, maybe 1 km (1100 yards or so) away, the family made sure the school was open for their perusal. The pictures here were taken by this blogger at that occasion with a disposable camera.

Unfortunately, Don Olin died last November. The restoration of the Doraville Schoolhouse is a lasting memorial to him. Here's more about Don.

And more on the Doraville Schoolhouse.

No, the outhouse, just behind the school, is no longer in use.



anthonynorth said...

Places like that should be cherished. Here in the UK we still have some village schools but pressure is on to close them all down and bus the young kids to the nearest town. A great shame.

mrsnesbitt said...

Oh the picture of the old heater reminded me of my early school days. Our classroom had an old boiler, I remeber the crates of milk next to it, nicely warming up to taste even more sickly! Those were the days!

Mara said...

Schools are such important places. The school I went to was divided in two: one half for a protestant school, the other half for a public school. When we wanted to have our reunion there a few years ago, we were told it had turned over to the public system completely and the same building two miles away was now a protestant school. Even though it was the same building, it wasn't our school!
Good to hear about that little school though, even if the building had to move!

Ackworth born said...

That old boiler takes me back a long time too although I saw one still in use in New Zealand only eight years ago.

jeanette from Sweden said...

What a nice old school.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Roger! This is a very interesting post. It's good the community raised money to save this building, for it represents a piece of history like the mud houses in my post. It looks a bit like the school/church in the "Little House on the Prairy" series. Great post, Roger!

RuneE said...

That was a very nice and interesting post. I enjoyed reading both about the school itself and even more about the work that has been done to save it. I'm glad it worked out so well. I recently made a post about one which has a trouble. I may post more later.

Linda Jacobs said...

It's great what can be accomplished when people work togethr!

Thanks for this interesting post!

Squirrel said...

Thanks, your photos of the school room desk reminded me of my own early school years. We had desks like those and they were so much fun because you could jiggle the person in from of you or pull them back away from their desk. And you could wiggle in your seat and get the one behind you. We were always pulling them back and forth, much to the teachers annoyance. They even had ink wells in them which we used to stuff all sorts of things. I wouldn't give up those memories for all the mondern desks in the world.

Mari said...

Cute school. I have noticed, that very many bloggers are teachers or retired teachers, little funny... Isn´t it`?

Q said...

It is always a delight when I read about people coming together to honor a building and history.
This school house is a treasure.
thank you.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

It's nice to see that someone is keeping the school in good repair. It looks as if children could still be still using it.

April said...

A wonderful piece of history!

hip chick said...

Oh how nice to have a place that holds such special memories.

Joy said...

What a lovely school house. The ornate heater must have been nice to huddle round in winter. The dunce's cap is a nice touch, wonder if anyone ever used it.

uncleawang said...

Thanks for the visit,by the way this is wonderful old school:)
Thanks for sharing.

Lin said...

What a pretty little building. Great story that it could be saved. Great "D" story!

Ann said...

So great that they are preserving the little school house.

I teach in a primary school with 600 students. Makes me feel good to read a post about schools.

Thanks for visiting.

Dragonstar said...

What a wonderful story! I'm so glad this little schoolhouse has been saved - there's so much history involved.

On behalf of the Team, thanks for posting this week.

jay said...

What a wonderful little building, and with such history! I'm so pleased to hear that it was saved.

Didn't you do well with your disposable camera!

Tumblewords: said...

Always a pleasure to see some history retained - too many people today have no concept of anything other than 'now'.

Joyce Powell said...

Hi, Roger,

Nice story but there is more to it. Don enlisted the aid of a number of his former schoolmates, none of whom had ever attended or maybe ever before visited the school. They came to help regularly. I think one may have come who lives in Vestal or Endicott. Since there was no insulation, the building was very hot in summer and cold in winter even if they had a little fire.

Work continued over a number of months, maybe a year or more, to bring it back to the way Don remembered it. After restoring the building itself, the next task was locating any original furnishings possible and/or finding suitable furnishings of the era. One peculiarity of the building was the wasps which seemed to be permanent residents and emerged whenever there was heat. Therefore they were omnipresent in summer and drowsy protectors of "their" turf when aroused the rest of the year. One learned to not swat at them to avoid an easily lost battle and they usually left people alone.

Don is such an interesting story in his own right. He had a remarkable collection of Indian artifacts gleaned from his plowed fields; he was an outstanding farmer dedicated to preserving the land and family farming; he had an unequaled eye for selecting and promoting outstanding dairy cows and hay and feed crops; raised the best sweet corn around; served as member and officer on every farm organization in Broome County and was the expert source for news stories on farming; and found time to serve on the Harpursville School Board of Education, part of the time as President; and served on several historical committees for the area. He also raised some really fine kids, six of his own and three stepdaughters. And I'm actually only skimming all that he did. He helped me get my first summer job after high school to help me pay for my own college education.

Thanks for sharing the blog and letting me add my two cents.

Love, Mom

Leslie: said...

I thoroughly enjoyed that story about the schoolhouse and kudos to those who managed to save it, albeit moved to another location. Excellent post for D-day. :D