Abandoned New York: Fort Edward School

Union School Building in Fort Edward, NY. Early 20th century. Click for source.

Union School Building in Fort Edward, NY. Early 20th century. Click for source.

The Village of Fort Edward is located on US Route 4 between Hudson Falls and Glens Falls in Washington County, NY. The Hudson River forms the western boundary of the town, and Delaware and Hudson Railroad (now the Canadian Pacific Railway) runs through town. Historically, Fort Edward was known for being a portage between the Hudson River and the Champlain Canal. You wouldn’t know it today, but Fort Edward was once the third largest city in North American after Boston and New York City (18th century).

In the 19th century, paper mills, foundries, and sawmills sustained Fort Edward’s economy. Some companies included International Paper, Marinette Paper Company (bought out by Scott Paper Company then by Kimberly Clark), then Irving Tissue. Read more history at Lakes to Locks. General Electric (GE) opened a plant in 1942 to produce selsyn motors during WWII, and post war produced building capacitors. The plant closed in 2013 when operations relocated to Florida for cheaper labor. (Unfortunately, GE polluted the water and air in Fort Edward for decades.)

You can see the former prosperity of Fort Edward as you drive through the village. Due to the suffering economy and other typical factors of the late 20th century, finding an abandoned school was not surprising.

Fort Edward School, 1915. Click for source. (And thanks to Suzasippi for sending the image!)

Fort Edward School, 1915. Click for source. (And thanks to Suzasippi for sending the image!) Note that in this postcard image you can see the adjacent buildings (still standing).

Built as Union School, the building housed the grammar school and the high school until 1923, when the new high school was completed. Later known as the Florence E. Powers School, it housed the elementary school until a new elementary school wing was added to the high school in 1970.

Agway occupied the building until it moved further up Main Street, and since then it appears that the building has sat empty, decaying, and in need of major repairs soon. Take a look around with me.

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Changes to the Union School: Corrugated metal façade and paved up the to the foundation.

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Union / Powers School.

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Altered windows, boarded up windows, and soffits in need of repair.

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Agway ghost signs. The corrugated metal will make you cringe, knowing that it covers the historic windows beneath.

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Neglect is evident in the brickwork.

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The holes in the roof need to be repaired in order to save this building!

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Another view of the side. Look at the brick detail!

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Through the front door.

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Adjacent to the school – an old freight depot perhaps?

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Another freight building / storage building.

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The entire complex is abandoned.

Internet searching revealed little, other than as of 2013, the Renaissance Plan for Fort Edward included a plan to develop the Agway Complex into a multi-use complex. Hopefully that comes to fruition.

Readers, what do you know about this Fort Edward school? I’d love to hear more.

Preservation Photos #221

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The Barton Academy and Graded School is still in operation as an elementary school. This 1907 building is seen here on a crisp, sunny winter afternoon in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

Preservation Solution? Reversible Exterior Window Shades?

What do you do in the dog days of summer? Hide from the sun, of course. Remember the end of the school year during review and finals when classrooms would be sweltering? Large pull down shades could help control the temperature and industrial size fans, but it was still hot.

Quite often when historic school buildings are renovated for modern use, the ceilings are dropped and windows altered in order to provide better climate control. So, what would you think if you saw this building?

Black River High School in Ludlow, VT

At first glance it looks like the upper sash of these windows have been blocked, presumably because ceilings are lowered. Black River High School in Ludlow, VT

Every window has the same alteration.

Every window has the same alteration.

Closer viewing.

Closer viewing.

Another angle for inspection.

Another angle for inspection.

Except, the material seems to just be pinned or screwed in from the outside. And in fact, that’s just what they are. After peering into a window, it was evident that the ceilings had not been dropped and the upper sashes remained.

Closer view.

Closer view.

Interesting, yes? The questions I’d ask is (1) Why on the outside, rather than the inside, as the facade is drastically altered still; (2) How long ago were these installed?; (3) How easy can they be removed?; (4) Is the purpose for climate control?

What do you think? Is this a good preservation solution? If it’s completely removable and reversible, does that change your mind? Does this have the same effect on the exterior that dropping the ceilings has on the interior?

And for more imagery fun, if you haven’t seen the new instagram account @preservationfail, check it out. Would you call this a preservation fail?

Abandoned Vermont: Putney Schoolhouse

Schoolhouses are easy to recognize, especially one room schoolhouses that appear to have a bank of windows. This brick building in Putney, VT struck me as just that.

Sitting along the edge of the road.

Sitting along the edge of the road.

A stone wall runs along the property.

A stone wall runs along the property, up to the woodshed.

The front door.

The front door. And, look at the brick and granite.

The telltale bank of windows behind the plywood.

The telltale bank of windows behind the plywood, and rear windows for additional light. The windows appear to be intact, based on what little could be seen behind the plywood. 

Rear and side of the schoolhouse, more windows and a connected woodshed.

Rear and side of the schoolhouse, more windows and a connected woodshed.

The woodshed.

The woodshed, much less elaborate than the brick structure.

Two windows on this side.

Two windows on this side, and a good view of the slate roof. 

View across the road from the schoolhouse.

View across the road from the schoolhouse.

You can clearly see the potential in this building, even on a rainy summer afternoon. If you have information, please share.

Craftsbury Standard School & Playground

Historic schoolhouses are commonly found throughout Vermont, some converted to residences, some as museums, some abandoned, some creative rehabilitations, and some remain in educational use. In the 1930s schools faced state regulation, and had to comply with standards in order to become a Vermont “Standard School.” These regulations were for the quality of education. Schools were also required to have a certain amount of light (which is why you see the bank of windows on schoolhouses). When schools met these standards they displayed a plaque (see image below).

Very few have historic playgrounds in the school yard, most likely because of change in use and change in playground regulations. What an exciting find to see this playground at a school in Craftsbury, Vermont.

Historic schoolhouse in Craftsbury, VT.

Historic schoolhouse in Craftsbury, VT.

With a small playground on the property.

With a small playground on the property.

A Standard School.

A Standard School.

The playground has three apparatuses: jungle gym, swings, and a merry-go-round.

The playground has three apparatuses: jungle gym, swings, and a merry-go-round.

The jungle gym seemed so small; it must be for younger kids!

The jungle gym seemed so small; it must be for younger kids!

Swings.

Swings, with a great view over Craftsbury. The metal poles are stamped with presumably the name of the school (too faded to read clearly) and “Craftsbury Vermont.”

It's a bit low to the ground, but it's still completely functional.

It’s a bit low to the ground, but it’s still completely functional.

A bicycle rack!

A bicycle rack!

The date of this playground equipment is likely the 1920s/1930s. I’ve yet to find a giant stride; have you?

Giant Strides on the Playgrounds

The giant stride is a long-since-removed playground apparatus that dates from early 1900s. Simply put, it was a tall pole with ropes/ladders attached to it. Children could grab hold of the handles and run in circles, so fast that their feet would leave the ground. For safety reasons, it was mostly removed from playgrounds by the 1960s, though some remain.

Another Giant Stride - at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

Another Giant Stride – at a playground in New York City, ca. 1910-1915. Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (click).

In graduate school I researched the manufacturing and development of the giant stride, and was fortunate to find a few images of giant strides. I’m jumping back into that research. Readers, have you come across any giant strides or remnants of giant strides? If so, would be willing to share those photographs? If so, please let me know. Your help would be very much appreciated. Here’s what one might look like today:

A giant stride on a Colorado playground. Click for original source.

A giant stride on a Colorado playground. Click for original source.

Previous playground posts on PiP:Playgrounds of YesterdayPreservation Photos #25Woodford PlaygroundPlaygroundsPreservation Photos #57.

Preservation Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz: brick bonds. Found in Middlebury, VT.

Consider this pop quiz week, kids. If you have recently had midterms, I hope they went well. Try this one without worry of affecting your GPA. PiP is a learning environment.

On that note, describe this brick wall: bond, design, and anything else about bricks. Have fun.

Preservation Photos #139

The Wells River Graded School, constructed 1874, in Newbury, VT.

Read more about the Wells River School (the Old Village School) here and see the National Register nomination here.

Preservation Photos #125

The Monroe Elementary School, constructed 1926, is the home of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. Photo taken June 2006.

From the National Park Service:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) is one of the most pivotal opinions ever rendered by that body. This landmark decision highlights the U.S. Supreme Court’s role in affecting changes in national and social policy. Often when people think of the case, they remember a little girl whose parents sued so that she could attend an all-white school in her neighborhood. In reality, the story of Brown v. Board of Education is far more complex.

In December, 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court had on its docket cases from Kansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Virginia, all of which challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools. The U.S. Supreme Court had consolidated these five cases under one name, Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka. One of the justices later explained that the U.S. Supreme Court felt it was better to have representative cases from different parts of the country. They decided to put Brown first “so that the whole question would not smack of being a purely Southern one.”

Learn more about the school and its relation to Civil Rights here. Read the building history from the HABS documentation here.

This Could Happen to You

Sprawl and poor development decisions pop up everywhere; infill that adversely effects its surroundings can happen almost anywhere, even in a historic district in picturesque Vermont.

Let’s use Fair Haven as an example. Traveling through Fair Haven, VT on VT Route 22A or VT Route 4 you’ll pass well kept historic buildings; the highways lead to a large open town green surrounded by historic commercial blocks, civic buildings, and significant homes overlooking the green, including two historic residences constructed of marble. This area is the Fair Haven Green Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Standing on the edge of the town green.

While driving into town from Route 4A West, something jumped out at me. See below.

Fair Haven, VT. Dollar General has moved in next to the public library.

What? Dollar General sits next to the Fair Haven Free Library, a 1908 Carnegie Library. And on the other side is the Fair Haven Grade School – in another historic building.

Fair Haven Grade School, Dollar General, Fair Haven Free Library.

This is located in the Fair Haven Green Historic District – a nondescript modern strip mall type shopping building sandwiched in between two architecturally significant buildings and adjacent to many more. It’s like a slap in the face – and it’s not even my town!

It gets worse. Take a walk further down the green and this is your vantage point:

The Dollar General sign must be at the very edge of the property line. Talk about ruining the view shed. Click and zoom in for the full effect.

Taken out of context, this library now looks like it’s the owner of the Dollar General sign. How did this happen? Granted it is just a sign, but in a state that outlawed billboards and in a historic district like Fair Haven, it’s unfathomable. You could say that a sign isn’t a billboard, but if you consider relative size to the building it’s in front of, that Dollar General sign might as well be a billboard. And to clarify, I’d have the same opinion regardless of the sign in front of the building. This is not an issue of Dollar General, although I was ready to be up in arms about yet another Dollar General. However, Google Maps shows the street view as a Ben Franklin store in the same building with an equally large sign in the same location.

Unfortunately, I cannot find any information about the development of this lot. The questions to ask are: (1) How did this happen? (2) Was it a question of zoning? (3) Why did no one stop it? (4) Why wasn’t a better infill design chosen for this lot? (5) Has the Town fixed the problem so this doesn’t happen again?

I’d consider this a cautionary tale, especially as small scale sprawl continues to be a threat. Since it’s not a strip mall, it’s easier to slip through the cracks. Chain stores are not necessarily the main issue here – poor “architecture” is the bigger problem of the moment. Be on the lookout, because poor development results in adverse effects to historic properties and districts and a decrease in quality of life (it’s all connected).