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Education by Community Online Exclusive
The Little Red Schoolhouse in Newport
Text and photos by Laura Jean Whitcomb

On May 1811, Newport's two selectmen deeded a piece of land for a school. Jean Barrett, one of the caretakers of the historical Little Red Schoolhouse, holds the original document - preserved in a frame - that details the gift.

The Little Red Schoolhouse District No. 7 was built in 1835. It cost $140. In 1836, an outhouse was added to the back of the building at the expense of $1.50. Somewhere along the years, the outhouse was removed, but the rest of the schoolhouse remains in its original condition. Four rows of desks stand at attention in front of a clapboard blackboard with cursive letters adorning the top. Old inkwells, pens, eyeglasses, clothing and photos of past teachers in high collared blouses bring visitors back in time. The Little Red Schoolhouse, located on the intersection of Route 10 and Pollards Mill Road, is the perfect example of a one-room district schoolhouse.

The Little Red Schoolhouse closed in 1885 when Newport adopted the school union system. In 1895, an alumni group, The Red Schoolhouse Association, tried their best to maintain the school, even holding an annual meeting day in the summer. Former teachers and students would gather for a picnic and tell stories of what it was like attending school there. R.W. Allen, class of 1850, describes the school in a letter he wrote to the association: "In this school, there was but one professor, and that was the Master. He taught us medicine, mathematics, philosophy, literature, English (no Latin) and history. Our class room and lecture room was just the old Red Schoolhouse. We had no organized sports; every kid was out for himself. Our athletic ground was the woodpile...The pupils not only brought their own text books, but paper, pens and ink. The teachers did the same."

As members grew older, the association ceased its annual meetings, and the schoolhouse fell into disrepair until the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) saved it in the 1950s. A 99-year lease was registered with the town of Newport in 1952, and plans were made to restore the Little Red Schoolhouse as a museum. The foundation was repaired, a new roof was added and the schoolhouse received new clapboards and a fresh coat of paint in 1974. In 1979 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The DAR continues to maintain the school today, and opens the red front door to the public every Wednesday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in July and August. "We try very hard to keep the school to the original," says Barrett of Goshen. "It is very hard when it comes to repairs." The chimney is leaking a bit now, and the group needs to hire someone to repair either the flashing or the chimney cover. There's also a $4,000 fundraising effort to replace clapboards and paint the exterior in summer 2008. But the efforts are worth it.

"It's very nice to have something like this to look back on. We can see how they lived. The schoolhouse was the town center; folks would come down from Turkey Hill Road and Page Hill Road and have spelling bees," says Barrett. "When you come in and sit in here, you can feel the history."

R.W. Allen, in his 1915 letter, agrees. "This schoolhouse is a town monument, and has stood more than three score years and ten, through the cold winters and hot summers, and through the early wars that raged about it incessantly the first twenty years of its existence, by the barbarous 'Kids' that came down from the mountains to the lowlands to capture and carry away Knowledge."

When to visit
Visitors are welcome on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. in July and August.
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