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