comeback orleans

Old cobblestone schoolhouse has new purpose and historical marker

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 October 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – Al Capurso is pictured with a new historical marker that was unveiled today by the former one-room schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal. The schoolhouse was built in 1832 and is one of the oldest cobblestone buildings in the area.

It has been largely abandoned since decentralization in 1944. The marker also notes that Caroline Phipps taught at the school. She went on to be a distinguished educator and ran the Phipps Union Seminary in Albion from 1837 to 1875. That spot later became the County Clerks Building.

A swing is pictured next to the former schoolhouse.

The restoration project has been backed by the Orleans County Historical Association and includes a new roof on the building and new windows, as well as the historical marker.

Here is how the building looked last winter.

Here is how the historical site looks today.

Gary Kent led the efforts to trim some of the branches that were hanging across the building. Those branches needed to be removed for the roof work, which was completed by Young Enterprises. Mike Tower fixed the rafters.

Bill Lattin worked on the window sashes, Bob Albanese helped clean up the grounds, and many volunteers pitched in to remove junk from inside the building.

Bob Barrett of Clarendon restored the teacher’s desk and chair that remained inside the school. He even reconstructed the drawers in the desk.

Capurso, who is now the Gaines town historian, would like the site to become a meeting house and museum.

He said that Gaines once had 12 one-room schoolhouses. They were roughly located 1.5 miles apart to make access easier by the students in attendance.

The windows used to be boarded up, but now plenty of light can get inside the old schoolhouse.

Next year, Capurso said he would like to see work on the ceiling, walls and floor. He is pleased with the progress so far, and thanked the community for its support.

Today’s program included remarks from Capurso; Bill Lattin, who is retired as county historian; Matt Ballard, the current county historian; Dee Robinson, former Gaines town historian for more than 30 years; Town Supervisor Carol Culhane; and Ted Swiercznski, who attended the school and has been active in local politics for several decades. Another former student of the school, Angelina Daniels, also attended today’s celebration.