Granville seeks to transform historic school house into a community center
GRANVILLE — Some students these days bellyache about an hour’s worth of homework at the end of a school day.
While 84-year-old Bill Parrish didn’t walk uphill both ways to school during non-stop blizzards, he certainly had more chores to do than homework at the former Granville school house on Post Office Hill Road.
For example, it was his job for a year to stoke the gargantuan woodstove that still dominates the 136-year-old building, which ceased being a school in 1946 and has stood idle since being abandoned as the municipal library a quarter-century ago.
“I (fed the stove) every day, all day,” said Parrish, who still lives a stone’s throw from the building where he attended classes through the 8th grade before matriculating to Rochester High School. He dutifully fed the woodstove day and night during the frigid winter.
“It did a great job,” he said of the stove, which was surrounded by a protective jacket to make sure the children wouldn’t get burned.
“It was an experience.”
A group of Granville residents would now like a new generation of townspeople to experience the so-called “Corner School.” The group has begun a fundraising campaign to transform the building into a “Corner School Resource Center.” Diane Eramo is one of several locals participating in the effort make the Corner School a community space for gatherings, classes, summer programs for children, adult education courses and a display venue for Granville’s historic exhibits.
“We have a renovated town hall, but it’s town-owned,” she said. “We’re looking for something outside of that realm.”
It’s a vision that will require considerable financial support, Eramo acknowledged.
A couple of contractors have looked through the one-story building and have found more than $100,000 in necessary repairs. While Eramo said the building is in “decent shape” for its age, it needs a new floor, foundation work and some structural upgrades. It will also require some electrical updating, insulation work, some window improvements and Internet service. Project supporters would like the resource center to offer WiFi.
The town of Granville recently deeded the Corner School to the citizens’ group that is working toward its reclamation. The group has seven years in which to complete the needed repairs (or show substantial progress), or the town has the option of taking the property back or granting an extension, according to Eramo.
Supporters are optimistic about their chances of raising the needed funds to meet the seven-year deadline. They will be applying for grants and will be holding fundraisers and promotional events, such as the “Charter Day” slated for this Saturday, Aug. 3, from 1 to 4 p.m. on the Granville Town Green off Route 100. The event will feature a cupcake contest, an oral history recording, games for kids and a town photograph of local residents.
Fixing the schoolhouse will not only lead to a new, functional community asset, it will maintain the building as a time capsule for future generations to see how Granville educated its citizenry in days of yore.
As noted in a Granville history piece written by resident Kate Stauss, the town once had nine one-room schoolhouses to serve a population that had swelled to 830 citizens during the 1870s. The Corner School had an enrollment of almost 30 students into the 1930s. One teacher instructed the children in grades 1 through 8. There was no running water in the building; a large earthen jug, filled with water from the nearby hotel, stood in the school’s entryway.
Stauss explained that Granville’s population started to decline during the 20th century as the timber industry dried up and people chose to live in more urban areas. That led to the gradual closing of Granville’s one-room school houses, the last of which ceased operating in 2009. The town now tuitions its students to schools in other communities.
Parrish is among those hoping the Corner School will get a new lease on life.
“I am not a person who likes to see any of the old buildings taken down,” he said. “God bless them if they can (save the building).”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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