Historic building eyed for destruction

Large piece of Granville history to be demolished

There were two classrooms, two cloakrooms and two teachers in the old school house on Quaker Street in Granville, and some grades consisted of only a handful of students.

Everyone started the day by singing a patriotic anthem and saying the Lord’s Prayer, and then the teachers gave lessons to individual class levels. The students all knew each other well and their instructors gave them ample preparation for moving on to high school.

In the near future, possibly as soon as next week, this quaint relic of days gone by will be demolished, along with two other buildings on its plot, to make room for a new business.

Martha Race, who attended the school for eight years, remembers her time there well.

“It was a great experience going there, because it was almost like you were being tutored,” she said. At age five, she started first grade along with the four other students in her class. And that class was more than double that of Madeline Quinlan, who said she passed from first to eight grades with only one other student by her side.

“You got individual attention; when my friend Rose and I had trouble with algebra, the teacher sat down between us and explained it until we understood,” Quinlan said, naming Laura Waite and Helen McDonough as the school’s two excellent instructors.

“It’s a really sad reflection of the town that it’s going to be swept away for a commercial building,” said Edith Sparling, Granville’s town historian. She said the school was in use at a time when Granville was nationally known as an education center for aspiring teachers, and at nearly 200 years old, is now one of the oldest in town.

Quinlan said students got their exercise and education in one package, as they all walked to the schoolhouse from as far away as East Potter Avenue. Some families, like her own, didn’t have the option of driving because they had no car. In the winter, parents would bring in hot lunches for the pupils, and the boys had the responsibility of bringing in coal for the big furnaces that heated each room.

“It’s all good memories. I thought we got a good education down there,” Quinlan said.

The building was originally built from 1828 to 1830 as a Quaker meeting house after the local ‘Society of Friends,’ split into two factions — the Orthodox Quakers and the Hicksite Quakers. The meeting house functioned as such until the late 1880s, when the Quakers ceased to use it and the Granville school district took it over, Sparling said.

“It does seem sad that nothing’s going to be done to save it,” Sparling said. Race shares this sentiment, but seems to accept what is going to happen.

“It’s a modern world and everything changes, so there’s not much you can do, I guess,” Race said, mentioning that there aren’t many original schoolhouses left. “It’s sad in a way, but that’s what happens.”

Quinlan agrees.

“I suppose it’s in real rough shape; it probably hasn’t been used in how many years. Who would be able to keep it up?” she said.

Matt Hicks, Granville town supervisor, said the state does not consider the schoolhouse to be a registered landmark, and that the plot is in the new owner’s hands.

“Once they buy the property, it’s kind of up to them what they do with it. There’s no jurisdiction we can take,” he said. The developers who purchased the Quaker Street plot, Tom and Jerry Burke, own or operate at least 35 Dunkin’ Donut franchises, according to The Business Review.

Sparling sees a solution that could appease all sides.

“If the owners were willing to move the building to another lot, that would be the best answer. To move it to an area where it can be preserved for what it is — one of our earliest educational buildings,” she said. Her experience as a historian elsewhere has proven that this method is quite doable, especially for such a small, compact structure.

Sparling hopes Granville residents will take action.

“If a petition would be possible, if there’s any hope that would succeed, I’d like to see someone start it, she said. She also asked what will happen to the little graveyard that adjoins the meeting house, which is a historical burial ground she thinks should be preserved.

Hicks has already made efforts to protect the graves.

“We’ve contacted them to let them know that we’ve got that cemetery, and we’ll need to have access to that to maintain it and maybe put up some sort of boundary,” he said.

But Sparling thinks the buildings and the cemetery go together and cannot be separated. She is not confident the incoming business has any concern for the history it’s erasing.

“I don’t think their primary concern is saving anything right now,” she said. Additionally, Sparling questions the whereabouts of a bell that used to sit on top of the schoolhouse.

“The bell disappeared and nobody seems to know where it is. What happened to the bell?” she asked. A demolition permit has been signed and work is expected to happen as soon as next week.

Repeated attempts to call and email Tom or Jerry Burke were not returned as of Tuesday.

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