SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – According to Don Whitney, local historian and lifelong resident of Springfield, the Spencer Hollow Schoolhouse opened its doors not long after the country’s first Independence Day.
“We don’t have a deed recording the exact date,” he said during an open house at the school, July 4, “but we believe the school was completed in 1781.”
The modest brick building on the outskirts of what is now the town of Springfield welcomed students from 1781 until 1926. Youngsters from first to eighth grade shared the same one room and the same teacher during their early school days.
The schoolroom has remained essentially unchanged over the years, furnished with a few ancient desks, a large wood stove, several slate chalkboards, and two upright pianos, one of which is looking for a new home.
“We’re keeping the other one though,” said Whitney. “That’s the one used for square dances when the school became the Spencer Hollow Club.” Describing a regular neighborhood tradition, Whitney recalled a band consisting of a piano player, a violinist, maybe someone on the banjo, and a square-dance caller assembled at the front of the room as the local dancers “made the floorboards jump.”
Over the years, members of the club sought to keep the school from falling into disrepair. Active restoration efforts started in 2007 were recently completed and were celebrated at the July 4 event.
“We had a lot of help from local carpenters, a plasterer, people painting, things like that,” said Whitney. “The building is sound. If we keep up with it, I’m sure it will be around for a long time to come.” Gesturing to the open classroom he noted the newly restored plaster walls, the lath ceiling, and a fresh coat of paint.
Whitney, who grew up on a farm not far from the schoolhouse, regaled old friends and drop-in visitors with stories and memories as they admired the restoration.
“There used to be rattlesnakes around here,” he said. “My dad and a friend killed one and then put it on the path to scare the teacher. They tied a string to its tail and wiggled it when she walked by.”
Laughing, he continued, “She didn’t even flinch. Those teachers were a tough breed!”