Community urged to help preserve old cobblestone school

Posted 1 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – This former one-room schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal, has been largely abandoned since decentralization in the mid-1940s.


For about 110 years, from 1835 to 1843, that little cobblestone school house that sits on the west side of Gaines Basin Road, just north of the canal, served to educate the children from Gaines District #2.

Back in the day, the town of Gaines had 12 one-room schoolhouses, roughly located 1.5 miles apart to make access easier by the students in attendance. There is good reason to believe the cobblestone building I am referring to replaced a log school house where young pioneers educators such as Nancy Bullard and Caroline Phipps taught. In fact, it is believed, Miss Phipps, beginning at the age of 14, taught there in the years of 1826-29, before enrolling for a year in the Gaines Academy closer to Gaines Village and The Ridge Road.

As you may know, Miss Phipps distinguished herself as a career educator and advanced learning for women. Her Phipps Union Seminary stood where the County Clerks Office now is from 1837 to 1875.

We in Orleans County who care about historic preservation, cobblestone architecture and the need to honor our past are mounting a grassroots effort to save and restore the 1832 cobblestone schoolhouse.

A work bee and open house is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, beginning at 10 a.m. and going to 2 p.m. Weather permitting we will be cleaning up the grounds and planting flowers.

Inside we will be sweeping the floors, taking inventory of artifacts worth saving and displaying, measuring windows that need replacing, etc. A portable sanitation facility will be available. Volunteers are encouraged to bring bottled water, brooms, work gloves, garbage bags, shovels, rakes and clippers.

Donations of photographs, desks, artifacts, wall hangers would be very much appreciated. Orleans County Historical Association is a 502c3 for tax-deductible contributions. Your treasures would be gently scanned and returned to you promptly and proper citation given the donor in whatever publication they appear.

While we work on prettying up the building, there are three solid efforts underway. An application has been made to the W.G. Pomeroy Foundation for funding ($1,250) for a historic marker to be placed out front. Also two applications are being made to the State and Federal Register of Historic Places. If you know someone who was a student there, a parent, grandparent, great grandparent or of stories to tell, please contact Al Capurso at 590-0763.

“The heritage we share is worthy of our best efforts to preserve it.”

Al Capurso