By: Anne C. Hall, New Hartford Historical Society
Although New Hartford was incorporated in 1738 (the first town meeting was in 1736), it would not be until 1755 that the first school was built. In the interval, and no doubt for many families afterwards, children were taught at home or in small groups meeting together. In 1756 a census recorded 260 white inhabitants in the town, African-Americans and Native Americans were not counted; by 1774, there were 1,001 white inhabitants. The need for schools was quite apparent.
The first school was built on Town Hill. This was followed shortly thereafter by a school in the southeast section (this was either Nepaug or Merrill), a school in the West Hill district, and then the North End. Additional schools were later located in Pine Meadow, Greenwoods, Bakerville, Nepaug or Merrill, and Hendersonville. Hendersonville was located in the valley that is now under the Nepaug Reservoir. Pine Meadow and Greenwoods were comparatively late additions, built after 1800 in response to the growing population associated with the factories.
A high school was established in 1837. This was Academy Hall, located next to the North Congregational Church. The building was torn down in the 1950?s.
All of these were classic one-room schoolhouses. The original Town Hill schoolhouse was twenty-five feet long and sixteen feet wide. The exception was the North End school after the 1880′s. It was moved from its location just above Highland Avenue to Main Street in 1886 when the Academy Hall high school was closed.
The picture to the right was taken in the early twentieth century is probably the Merrill schoolhouse, and shows a shed as well as a privy.
Anne Hall grew up in New Hartford, studied abroad and is now happily living in New Hartford again. Anne works as an architectural historian and general history researcher. As a volunteer, she writes a weekly article for the Blog section of the the New Hartford Historical Society. We are very pleased to have Anne’s permission to re-run some of those articles on NewHartfordPlus. You may contact Anne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and writing “History” in the subject line.