In 2013 both the Root Schoolhouse and the Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse were named to the National Register of Historic Places, a program of the National Park Service, signifying their importance as significant architectural and historic resources. Norwich’s well-known commitment to public education goes back centuries and has its roots in one-room schoolhouses such as these.
Vermont’s first public grammar school was established in Norwich in 1785. This schoolhouse was situated on the site of today’s Congregational Church. In the 1800s, Norwich had twenty schoolhouses; five were still operational as recently as 1940. The last rural schoolhouse closed in 1946, when it was decided that all Norwich children would attend the village school. Since the permanent closing of Norwich’s rural schoolhouses, most were sold to private owners or, sadly, deteriorated or were torn down. The two exceptions are the Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse, located on Chapel Hill Road, and the Root Schoolhouse located on Union Village Road at Goodrich Four Corners.
See link to Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse
See link to Norwich One-Room Schools Video
The Root Schoolhouse, located on Union Village Road near the intersection of Goodrich Four Corners Road, is one of the last two one-room schoolhouses in Norwich, Vermont. Built in 1937, this structure replaced a schoolhouse that had burned the year before. At the time, it was considered the only rural schoolhouse in Norwich to be in excellent condition, earning a “superior” rating from the state and additional praise from state education executives. Despite the new building’s quality, the Root Schoolhouse was closed in the fall of 1945, when enrollment had dwindled to only four pupils.
A 1952 agreement between the Norwich School Board and the Root District Game Club, a small organization of families surrounding the schoolhouse, transformed the building into a community center. Thanks to the stewardship of this small community for nearly sixty years, the Root Schoolhouse was available to the public, the site of many community meals, performances, and even wedding receptions.
Inevitably, perhaps, the growing list of the Schoolhouse’s maintenance needs now exceeds the resources of this small group of families living nearby, and the schoolhouse is presently unusable due to the deterioration of its foundation. This problem was first documented in a 2002 professional building assessment, which reported that the basement walls “if not replaced will eventually fail. The only solution is to either move the building or jack it up and replace the entire foundation.” Despite the Game Club’s efforts to raise money for repairs, the problem worsened over the next several years, and the Game Club ceased all activities at the schoolhouse in 2011.
A children’s dictionary has a definition of “support” that is perfectly suited to the Root District Schoolhouse: “to hold up in position by serving as a foundation or base for.” In more ways than one, Root Schoolhouse needs support, especially from people outside of the Root community interested in saving this building and once again making it available to the public. Equally important, it will take volunteers ready to share their skills, be they carpentry, fundraising, landscaping, legal, artistic… an opportunity to help awaits anyone who is interested.
Once repaired, the Root Schoolhouse can move forward as a community and educational center serving two communities: the Root community and all of Norwich. This is an exciting opportunity to re-imagine the schoolhouse as it was re-imagined in 1952 and transform it into a dynamic space appealing to people throughout the town of Norwich. Less than a ten minute drive from Dan & Whit’s on a major road, with a six hundred square foot room, a stage, and a separate kitchen this building’s potential is extraordinary.
If you are interested in joining this effort, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the website rootschoolhouse.org for more history and information about a documentary called Back to School: Lessons from Norwich’s One-Room Schoolhouses.