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Across Longmeadow Street from Alex’s Bagels sits an unimposing small brick building – 417 Longmeadow Street. Originally a one-room schoolhouse, it has served Longmeadow residents in several capacities over the years. Research into Longmeadow’s Annual Reports opens a window into the history of this town building.


Early Longmeadow had eight different school districts, each serving students who lived in nearby homes. Students who lived in the northwestern portion of Longmeadow were educated in the District No. 2 schoolhouse. The earliest street map of Longmeadow shows a schoolhouse at this location in 1831. We know that there has been a brick schoolhouse on this site since at least 1839 when George Colton sold the land and building for a dollar to The Second School District.




Several of the early schoolhouses in Longmeadow were brick, but by the mid-1800s, the District No. 2 schoolhouse was the sole surviving brick schoolhouse still in use; the others had been replaced. By 1855, the School Department was complaining about the condition of the building – “As respects the school house we have not many words of praise to utter, and will refrain from any comment out of reverence for its age.” Children in District No. 2 continued to attend school in the old building until the 1873-1874 school year when the School Department reported that, “During the year, the school-house No. 2 has been thoroughly reconstructed, by rebuilding upon the old foundations, at an expenditure of $2,186.98.” It is likely that the majority of the current building dates to 1873.


Children in District No. 2 received a good education. School Department reports consistently praised Mrs. Caroline M. Wade, who taught at the District No. 2 school for many years, for her thoroughness and skill in educating her scholars. Registrations in the one-room school fluctuated each term. For the 1880 school year, there were 31 students in the Spring term, 35 in the Fall term, and 30 in the Winter term – all in a building comprising about 1,500 square feet. 


By 1900, the school was a primary school called “North School” and in it teacher Miss Anna French Gregg taught 20 students in grades one through three. This was the final year of instruction in the building. Registration at the newer and larger Center School, located on the Green, was increasing and, in order to avoid hiring another teacher at Center School, the School Committee decided to send the North School students to Center School for the following year. The North School building was in dire need of repair: “The North School building will, if continued in school use, require considerable repairs in the near future, among which will be needed a new floor, new ceiling and repainting, externally and internally. There has been considerable complaint of the cold in this building during the past winter, and probably not without cause. This building, with its antiquated methods of heating, ventilation, outbuildings, etc., bears an ill comparison to the new graded building at the center with its modern conveniences.”


 In 1905 the Selectmen retrofitted the former schoolhouse to serve as the Town Office. The town spent $1,253.50 to add a vault made of brick, steel, and concrete to safely store books and papers of the town. The building housed the Town Offices until 1930 when the current Town Hall was built on Williams Street.


In 1930 the building, no longer needed for official town business, was given to the Albert T. Wood Post of the American Legion for its headquarters. In recent years the Old Town Hall has also served the town as a multi-purpose facility. But this old building is once again in great need of repair and it is currently closed because it is unsafe. The Department of Public Works reports that there are structural issues with the north side of the building and that substantial work will be needed before the public will again be welcomed back into the building. Maybe one day it will be repaired and will be able to serve the residents of Longmeadow again.



-Contributed by Beth Hoff, Board Member

All houses benefit from a little decor updating from time time, including historic house museums.  To set the stage: more than ten years ago the wood shake roof on the Storrs House Museum was failing. And by failing, I mean leaking, which is obviously problematic. Then-President, Mike Gelinas, got to work writing a CPC grant for a new roof, and the roof was replaced. But the damage was done—the southwest bedchamber had ugly water stains on the ceiling and down the walls. Plaster repair and new wallpaper would eventually have to be done. The ambitious plan was multi-faceted: get paint analysis done on the woodwork, remove the old wallpaper, research period reproduction wallpapers, hire someone to install the wallpaper after plaster repair and painting was complete. To round out the project, we would commission a period-appropriate floor covering and window treatments. As you can imagine, most of this is expensive to accomplish (other than the volunteer labor in wallpaper removal and painting.)


Having some experience with plaster repair and reproduction textiles and wallcoverings from work on our own historic home, we had an idea of what to do. Some of you may recognize the feeling of “being paralyzed by the possibilities,” where it is difficult to take any steps because there are too many options to consider. So the years went by, we continued to explain to visitors that the stains were old, the roof was good, and that we intended to do something, someday…



Over the holidays, we decided to take action—maybe not the full scope of the wish list, but a first step. We moved out furniture and objects that could be moved and covered the remaining items. An initial team of two volunteers, then two more, stripped the wallpaper. This was accomplished over just three days, only occasionally slowed by the tantalizing discoveries of small pieces of earlier wallpapers. The plaster walls thus exposed were unpainted, indicating that they had always been papered. This was common in the 18th and 19th centuries—wallpaper was readily available.




I should explain that the wallpaper on the walls was a familiar pattern to us from previous explorations into wallpaper research. It is a pattern called “Stencil Square,” which was originally made in the 1820s and was revived in the 20th century. The original colorway (the term for the color palette found in surviving samples) was a dark blue and gray—the wallpaper in our room was a more subtle white and gold. We suspected that this was a mid-20th century paper because of the colors, but also because of the type of paper. Old wallpapers were block printed on rectangular sheets of paper, and later roller printing and long sheets were used. Our guess was confirmed when we found a small area of wallpaper that hadn’t been trimmed along the selvedge (in the past, you had to trim the extra selvedge before applying the paper to the walls).  This little half-inch wide strip revealed “Katzenbach and Warren” and the name “Stencil Square.”  Bingo! This company made a collection of reproduction wallpapers for Colonial Williamsburg in the 1950s. With that date in mind, I went to the archives to review the minutes from the society from around that time. In October of 1955 I found the notation “papered the Abigail Davenport Room, second floor, SW” and later, “paint, repair fireplace, and paper.”


Next steps include plaster repair, which, in spite of the aforementioned water damage, was in remarkably good shape. Early plaster was made up of local sand, lime, and hair.  The hair serves as a binder—think re-bar in concrete. Contrary to legend, it was not typically horsehair.  We learned from past repairs on our own house that the hair in old plaster in Longmeadow contained a soft, reddish hair.  Horsehair proved too stiff—it poked out of the plaster when applied to the walls.  A quick trip to Old Sturbridge Village provided the answer yet again (we are continually impressed by the level of knowledge of the interpreters at OSV).  It was oxen hair!  They generously gave us a bagful of the soft, red hair, which worked perfectly.  The hair in the plaster at the Storrs House Museum appears to be similar—anyone have some oxen who need to be brushed?


While we work on making the necessary preparations to the walls, we are also working on what period we will interpret.  We could use the original build date of the house, the 1830’s date of the furniture in the room, the 1850s when a son of Richard Salter Storrs comes back to Longmeadow to live in his childhood home, or perhaps when Sarah Storrs, the last Storrs to live in the house, takes over ownership of the house after her brother’s passing in 1884.  The 1880s are a treasure-trove of William and Morris-type naturalistic wallpapers, and are still quite available today.  Stop by to check on our progress!


-Contributed by Betsy McKee, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member


Sources:


Wallpapers for Historic Buildings by Richard C. Nylander,

Wallpaper in America by Catherine Lynn

Wallpaper in New England by Richard C. Nylander, Elizabeth Redmond, and Penny J. Sander

Longmeadow Historical Society Meeting Minutes

 

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Engraving by E. Newberry, 1789. New York Public Library


You’ve probably seen some of the coverage come across your news and social media feeds in the past week about the 250th anniversary of an infamous day in American history - the Boston Tea Party.  In preparation for the day, organizations like The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and Revolution 250 have been identifying participants of the day and placing memorials at their graves and preparing a December 16th recreation of the famous dumping of the tea in Boston Harbor.


We are always curious about how news of such important events was received here in Longmeadow, so we went off to our favorite resource for all things 18th century … the diary of Rev. Stephen Williams (1694-1782).  Though the event happened on the night of December 16, 1773, Stephen Williams does not hear of it until a few days later. On December 20, 1773, he recorded in his diary*, “This day we hear that the multitude have risen, and have taken all the Tea (belonging to the East India Company) that was on the ships in Boston Harbour – (broke the Boxes in pieces) – and flung it into the Sea. A strange affair indeed…” That was all. Over the next few days and weeks, he immediately returns to reflecting on matters closer at hand: weather, health of his family and congregants, and concerns over a proposed split from Springfield.



Rev. Stephen Williams (1694-1782)


It would be another two and a half years before some frustrated Longmeadow men staged their own “tea party” of sorts when they set upon town merchant, Samuel Colton’s, shop late on the night of July 24, 1776 - a mere three weeks after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They broke in to steal molasses, sugar, rum, and other items from the West Indies that they believed he had been overcharging for. Rather than throw it into the Connecticut River, they brought it to the home of another town resident who was trusted to sell it at a fair price. 


Merchant Colton fiercely defended himself against his neighbors’ accusations that he was more loyal to the crown of England than to his own country. He was deeply angered and hurt by their accusations against him as unpatriotic. Within a year, the robbers attempted to pay him back the cash from the sales of the items, but he refused to accept it, on grounds that the money had depreciated so much that it wasn’t worth half of what it had been at the time of the theft. Nearly 250 years later, the verdict is still out on whether Longmeadow’s “Tea Party” raid on Colton’s store was justified or not. 



-Contributed by Melissa M. Cybulski, Longmeadow Historical Society Board Member


* Spelling in Diary entry has been edited here for clarity


Sources:

Storrs, Richard Salter. The Longmeadow Centennial. Springfield, MA: 1883. (218).


Williams, Stephen. Diary for December 20, 1773. (Transcript Volume 8 229-230/ Original Volume 8 page 880).  Accesse

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