Bethlehem Historical Association

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District School No. 1 (aka the Cedar Hill Schoolhouse)

River Road, Cedar Hill, Selkirk
Listed 1997

The District School No. 1 is architecturally significant as a well-preserved two room brick schoolhouse retaining much of its original form and setting. The school is an outstanding example of its type and stands as an important regional example of schoolhouse architecture in New York.

The nominated building was erected in 1859… The parcel on which the building was constructed was purchased from Barent and Anna Winne for $100. The school opened in the fall of 1860. Its first teacher was Mr. Philip A. Miller of Selkirk. The first class had 24 students in it. By 1863 there were 69 students enrolled… with a total district budget of $520.

As built in 1859 and later renovated in 1907, District School No. 1 displays a number of the characteristics associated with schoolhouse development and reform of the mid-nineteenth century. These renovations include the buildings two room plan, separate entry vestibule/coatroom, high ceilings (for increased ventilation) and large evenly spaced windows on three elevations providing bi-directional lighting. The building also displays a number of stylistic features associated with Italianate style. These characteristics include the building’s rectangular plan, overhanding roof eaves, and blind window and door arcades.

The architectural significance of the school is further enhanced by elements added as part of the 1907 renovation. Under the direction of regionally prominent architect, Marcus T. Reynolds, the school was enlarged and renovated. These alterations included the addition of a new entry and vestibule wing and the extension of the masonry block of the building to incorporate a second classroom. Most striking of these changes was the addition of a central domed cupola. This ornate element not only served as an architectural focal point, it also served as a ventilation tower to aid in the movement of air in the newly renovated building.

In 1962… the schoolhouse was closed… in 1964 the school was given to the town of Bethlehem… in 1965 the Bethlehem Historical Association was formed and the school was offered by the town as the home for the new group and museum. It continues to serve both these functions to the present day.

(The above is paraphrased from the house’s National Register nomination form.)