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Late in the 18th century, a small school was established in the area later known as Towners Four Corners, which is approximately the area around the intersection of NYS Routes 311 and 164. The land for the school was donated by Edmond Ogden, the husband of Sybil Ludington. Education in the "new world" was informal, and any semblance of formal schooling was generally only available to the wealthy. As Patterson's population continued to grow through the early 19th century, the need for a more formal educational system became apparent. The young government of the State of New York began to send money and books to local towns, and began a program for teacher training.
In September 1813, the appointed commissioners of the Common Schools divided the Town of Patterson into eight districts. The newly established districts identified schools that were operating within the Town by that year. The Town of Patterson in 1813 was very different from the Town as we now know it. The population was small and spread out. The students attending the one-room schoolhouses were the sons and daughters of the local farmers, and varied in age and level of previous education. Class size fluctuated depending on the season, and shrank during harvest time. Schoolhouses could be built wherever there were a sufficient number of children to be taught and a qualified individual to teach them.
As the town of Patterson grew, the one-room schoolhouses became inadequate to handle the growing number of children. A central school district was created in the 1920s, and in the late 1940s, most of Patterson's schools merged into the new Carmel Central School District. The building now housing the Carmel Central School District Administration Building was the first centralized school building in Patterson, the Patterson Union Free School. The one-room schoolhouses were abandoned to other uses.
William S. Pelletreau's The History of Putnam County, New York (1886) notes that some form of formal schooling was established in Patterson as early as 1787. Pelletreau also reports that the early population was growing quickly, and in the mid 1790s, the town was divided into five school districts. Then, in 1813, the following eight school districts were formed:In 1825, a ninth school district was created, partially shared with the neighboring town of Kent. The Beers map of Patterson, published in 1867, shows ten school districts.
|The 1867 Beers map of Patterson shows the town divided into 10 districts.|
All of the early schoolhouses were one-room structures. A State education fund provided money for books and school buildings, but parents were required to pay as much as 60% of the remaining cost of a child's education. Only those parents who could afford these costs were able to send their children to one of Patterson's schools. Parents were also required to board the teacher, whose salary was too small to provide for lodging. Each family hosted the teacher for a period of time that was in proportion to the number of children the family sent to the school. Parents were also assessed a quarter cord of wood per child, which was used to fuel the wood stove that provided heat to the schoolhouse.
Patterson's Little Red Schoolhouse is typical of the one-room schoolhouses that once educated the children of the Town. It had room for 18-25 students at most, and had no running water. A coal-burning potbellied stove provided heat during the winter months. Students either walked to school or came by wagon, or horse drawn sleigh in snowy weather. Students used small slate boards and chalk to write on since paper was not readily available. All eight primary grades were taught simultaneously in the same room since the school taught children of all ages. As Patterson's population increased, more school districts were added and some of the structures were enlarged. The Putnam Lake community had its own one room schoolhouse in its early years, when the community was largely comprised of seasonal residents. The schoolhouse was located on Fairfield Drive where the VFW post is presently located.
The idea of free public education was raised for the first time at the State level in 1843, but six years of heated controversy followed before the principle was finally established as public policy in 1849 by Gov. Hamilton Fish in his recommendations to the Legislature. Methods of funding and administering this policy continue to be a lively topic of debate to this day.
In 1853, Patterson voted to become a Union Free School District, and leased part of the unused land owned by the Patterson Presbyterian Church. A building was constructed and became the District School No. 1. The building remained in use for about a half century until it was closed in 1912 when classes were relocated to a new building on South Street, now the Administration Offices of the Carmel Central School District. The unused building was bought and renovated by the Patterson Grange in 1912 and has been used by them since then as their meeting hall. The new building would teach grades kindergarten through 12.
In the fall of 1896, Frederick C. White was principle. Miss King taught the intermediate department, succeeding Miss Chappel. Miss Jennette M. Purvis continued to teach the primary department.
|The tax collection notice for the Union Free School District 1, published in the October 1, 1908 edition of the Patterson Weekly News.||A special meeting of residents of the Union Free School District 1 was called on October 23, 1908, to consider a lawsuit against the school district. Charles H. Judd was the president of the Board of Education. Judd was a Patterson businessman, coal dealer, farmer, and builder. The Judd Building, later known as the Brunow Building, still stands on Front Street. The legal notice was published in the October 1, 1908 edition of the Patterson Weekly News.|
In September, 1897, the Board of Education of the Union School consisted of J. H. Thompson, Jr., president, F. S. Adams, secretary, C. H. Judd, O. W. Sloat, M. K. Lee, and Thomas Murty. The faculty consisted of Frederick C. White, principle, Mona E. Deuel, preceptress, Jennette M. Purvis, principle of primary department, and Kate A. Bascom, assistant in the primary department.
Frederick C. White was a graduate of Alfred University with valedictory honors, and had over three years teaching experience. Purvis headed the primary department for two years, and was a graduate of the Potsdam State normal school, as was Kate Bascom. Mona Deuel was a graduate of Plattsburgh State normal school.
During the fall, 1897 term, students in the geometry class used the Wentworth textbook. Students in the second year Latin class used the Harper and Tolman book on Ceasar. The previous term ended on a positive note: none of the test papers sent to the regent's office in June were rejected. Only six were rejected for the entire year.
District #3 was the Haviland Hollow School. The earliest documented school building was situated on Clayhole Hill, later known as Brimstone Hill. Unlike the other schoolhouses in Patterson, this school was a large two story building with two rooms on the first floor and one large room on the second. The school was known as The Academy, and was located on a farm known as the Brimstone Farm, owned by the Lanes. The area was known as Lanes Corners, and a post office and blacksmith shop were also located there. A typical class had about two dozen students, and a term lasted approximately 23 weeks. In 1827, F. Stone was the Commissioner of Schools, and P. S. Stevens was the Inspector for Patterson.
The second school as built in 1839 on property donated by John Laurance Sr. and his son, John Jr. The school building was situated on the present Stagecoach Road, near its intersection with Haviland Hollow Road, with Birch Hill in its rear and a small mountain stream nearby. Typical textbooks included English Reader, Elementary Speller, and Dabolls Arithmetic. Students sat on benches set around the room, with two smaller benches for the youngest children. The writing books were homemade, and teachers made their own pens from goose quills. The schoolhouse was abandoned in 1915 when it was deemed unfit for use.
|Top Row: Three views of the second Haviland Hollow Schoolhouse, which was built in 1839. All three photos were taken in 1915, shortly before the structure was abandoned as unsafe. The visible holes in the walls are an indication of how badly the schoolhouse had deteriorated. The third photo shows the last class to attend the schoolhouse, and was taken by Putnam County School Superintendent James H. Brooks. Birch Hill is to the rear. (Ed Scrivani)|
|Bottom Row: Three views of the third and last Haviland Hollow Schoolhouse, which was built in 1915. All three photos were taken in 1915, shortly after the structure was built. The first photo shows the first class to attend the new schoolhouse, and was taken by Putnam County School Superintendent James H. Brooks. The second photo shows the west side of the schoolhouse. The third photo shows the front of the schoolhouse, which faced east towards the Connecticut state line. (Ed Scrivani)|
The last Haviland Hollow School was built in 1915 on 3/8th acre of land purchased the previous year from F. S. Phelps at a cost of $200. The property was situated on the south side of Haviland Hollow Road, just east of Brimstone Road. Quaker Brook was at the southern edge of the site. Construction was supervised by William Axford, also a trustee of the school. The building was square and had a front porch. A large door was on its eastern wall, facing the Connecticut border. The new building was large enough to provide separate seats for each student. There were two large cloakrooms on either side of the doorway, and each cloakroom had shelves to store lunches. The girls' cloakroom was to the left and the boys' cloakroom was to the right. Two built-in bookcases featured glass doors that were covered with Japanese crepe paper. Blackboards extended across the room in both the front and rear. There was also a furnace for heat, and large windows for light. The building was painted light gray with white trimming. Several apple trees grew in front of the building, and one year the apples picked and sold from the trees were used to buy a clock and other items for the schoolhouse. The last teacher in the old schoolhouse, Miss Day, also became the first teacher in the new schoolhouse when it went into service on February 23, 1915. The schoolhouse was destroyed in an arson fire on January 13, 1928. Edward Shorts was convicted of setting this and other fires in the Haviland Hollow area. Its use as a school was expected to be ending in a short time anyway, as Patterson's small schoolhouses were being merged into the Graded School in the Patterson village. At a stormy meeting of District #3 taxpayers in November, 1932, the sale of the schoolhouse land was approved.
|The District 2 Schoolhouse can be seen at the extreme left, painted in its original white. The Stephens house is to the right. The building has been preserved and is now known as the "Litle Red Scxhoolhouse". (The Patterson Historical Society)||The Mooney Hill Schoolhouse and the class of 1912. (The Patterson Historical Society)||The District 6 class of 1914-15, taught by Julia M. O'Dell. (The Patterson Historical Society)||The Patterson Grange, formerly Patterson School District 1.|
The Little Red Schoolhouse was the Union Free School District #2, located near Isaac Beaches, who lived near Birch Hill, according to an early account. It is not mentioned where the classes were held, so it is not known if the existing school building is the original structure. Some accounts suggest that the Little Red School House was built in approximately 1850. It was originally painted white according to early photographs, and would be the last survivor of the eight original one-room schoolhouses in Patterson if it is the original structure.
A news account from July, 1897, noted that a band of gypsies had camped on the grounds of the school, to the delight of many of "our young women" who had their fortunes told.
The Stephens family lived across Birch Hill Rd. from the Little Red Schoolhouse until 1927. Daniel Mallory Stephens served as Patterson Town Supervisor and New York State Assemblyman. His wife, Grace, taught in the Schoolhouse from the fall of 1914 to the spring of 1915, and earned $400 for that school year. The Stephens married in 1914, and the $400 was used to buy furniture for their new home. Since the Schoolhouse had no running water, a pail of water would be brought from the Stephens home to the Schoolhouse. The Stephens' daughter attended classes at the Little Red Schoolhouse until 1927, when the family relocated to the Town of Southeast. Their son, Willis, served as New York State Assemblyman, and his son, Willis Jr., is our present New York State Assemblyman.
The Little Red Schoolhouse was last used as a school in 1929. The population of Putnam County had grown to 15,000, Herbert Hoover was the President of the United States, and the Great Depression was about to throw the world into economic chaos. District students were transferred to Patterson, Brewster, or Pawling.
The Little Red Schoolhouse is a 1½ story frame building built in the Gothic Revival style. It has a steeply pitched gable roof with overhanging gable ends, plain frieze and corner posts. There are simple windows on three sides. There are paired, pointed arch windows above the entrance. The single entrance had a shed roof porch while it was used as a residence. A brick chimney was removed before the Schoolhouse was moved to its present location.
Mrs. Wilbur E. (M. Frances) Gerow was teaching at the School at the time it closed in 1929. She also taught in Putnam Lake. Gerow was born in Liberty, New York, on May 27, 1874. She lived in Patterson most of her life, but moved to Danbury, Connecticut in 1946. Mr. Gerow died in 1948. The Gerows had three sons, but only one survived Mrs. Gerow at the time of her death on September 6, 1967, at the age of 93. She died in Danbury after a long illness. Her funeral was held in Danbury, but she was buried in the Maple Avenue Cemetery in Patterson.
In the 1950s, the Schoolhouse was converted into a residence for the groundskeeper for the Birch Hill Ski Area. A fire caused heavy damage to the structure in the 1980s.
In December, 1912, the District #11 Schoolhouse, known as the Fields Schoolhouse, was destroyed by fire while school was in session. The schoolhouse was located in the southwest corner of Patterson near the border with the Town of Southeast. At around 2:30 PM, the schoolteacher, Miss Palmer of Brewster, left the schoolhouse to investigate strange noises that were coming from one corner of the structure. She found flames consuming one side of the building. Hot coal ashes had apparently ignited dry leaves, which were then blown against the side of the schoolhouse by wind. The Miss Palmer rushed the children from the building, and ran with them to the O. H. Fields residence for help. Edward Fields responded to her calls for help, and he found that the fire was already beyond control. Other neighbors soon arrived to help. Norman Booth was able to enter the burning building via an open window, and was able to recover Miss Palmer's watch. John Simpson was able to save part of the school's library. But the children and the teacher lost their coats and books. The school was old and the financial loss was not considered great. The building was insured for $500. Mrs. John Simpson, one of the school's trustees, had one of the large rooms in her house converted into a temporary classroom, and school was to reopen in a few days. No immediate plans were made for a replacement schoolhouse, and an alternate plan to disperse the students in the nearby schoolhouses in Towners, Carmel, and Dykemans, was also considered. Putnam County District Superintendent James H. Brooks said that it would cost the district $1,500 to rebuild the schoolhouse.
Present area residents will recognize the name Fields from Fields Corners Lane and Simpson from John Simpson Road in nearby Southeast.
The first Towners school was established at the time of the War of Independence in the 18th century. The land for the school building was donated by Edmond Ogden, a lawyer, and best remembered as the husband of Sybil Ludington. The school was supported by fifteen patrons who paid the costs of the school. Formal schooling at the time was only available to those who could afford it. In 1813 a formal school system was created in Patterson, and the Towners school became School District 7.
In November, 1930, the Towners school building was destroyed by fire. Both of the Town's fire trucks battled the blaze, but the structure could not be saved. The fire was thought to have started in the area of the furnace shortly after midnight on a Sunday morning. The building was approximately 90 years old, and had recently been enlarged and renovated to accommodate two teachers. Conferences were held with school commissioner Brooks and New York State education officials to determine how to continue classes, since the winter weather prohibited the construction of a replacement building.
The last Towners School building was purchased by the Town of Patterson in 1969, and was used as the Patterson Town Hall until 2002. The building was largely unchanged in appearance during its use as the Town Hall, but has received a major renovation by the current owners, the Hudson Valley Trust. The structure was part of a Great Depression public works, job-creation effort sponsored by the Federal government. In September, 1934, the National Reemployment Service announced employment for 100 men. The first project was to erect a new school building for the Joint School District No. 9 at Towners at an estimated cost of $7,000. The project was to employ 6 men for 5 months.
A discussion of centralization with the Carmel Central School District took place in May, 1956, but no decision was made.The issue of centralization was discussed again at a meeting of the Towners School District No. 9 of Patterson in May, 1963. A merger with the Carmel Central School District had been mandated by the New York State Commissioner of Education in February, 1963. Despite the probable merger of the District with Carmel, a budget vote and an election of two school board members took place. A budget of $33,026 for 1963 was approved by a turnout of just ten voters. The Towners District consisted of 48 students, 17 of whom attended either Carmel High School or the St. James parochial school in Carmel. The new budget was lower than the 1962 budget of $37,508. While many attendees argued that merger with Carmel would improve the quality of education received by Towners children, other argued that school taxes would increase substantially. If centralization would take place, the tax rate would jump to $80.22 / $1,000 of assessed property. The tax rate would only be $66.71 / $1,000 if the centralization with Carmel did not take place. The Towners budget included $13,000 in tuition for those students sent to the Carmel school, and $3,000 for transportation. Board member Jean B. Abbott declined nomination for a new term, arguing that she was pro-merger, but that the district seemed to be heading in an anti-merger direction. With just ten people attending, the Board almost became a one-member Board until John Brennan agreed to fill Abbott's spot. The issue of centralization would be decided in a special vote to be taken on June 5.
The merger order was challenged by the Towners School District, which filed a petition protesting the order, as allowed by State law. Based on the petition, New York State Commissioner of Education James E. Allen ordered a meeting of the Towners School District for June 5, with a vote to be taken on the merger with Carmel. The Burdick District in Patterson was also ordered to consolidate with Carmel in February, but no petition was filed by the District. The Burdick District became part of the Carmel Central School District on June 30, 1963. Towners voters, however, voted against the merger order at the June 5 meeting, 56 votes against to 16 in favor of consolidation. Several families with children in the Towners school voted in favor of consolidation because they felt the quality of their children's education would be improved. But concerns of increased taxes was the major reason for the majority vote against consolidation. In July, 1969, The Towners School District was forced by the State to merge into the Carmel Central School District.
Coleman D. Peck was a 25-year clerk of the Towners School District and a lifelong Patterson farmer. Coleman was born in Stormville in nearby Dutchess County, and moved to a Towners farm with his parents in 1878. The farm would be his lifelong home. Peck's sister was married to Patterson merchant Peter O'Hara. Peck died on March 2, 1956 at the age of 79, and was buried in the family plot in the Towners Four Corners Cemetery on NYS Route 311. The area of Towners located along NYS Route 311 in the vicinity of the Maybrook Line railroad tracks is known as Peck's Corners.
|A postcard postmarked 1911 shows the B.H. Brewer residence and the Towners Schoolhouse. The postcard was published by
Towners merchant W. S. Crosby.
The next photo shows The Towners School at the intersection of NYS Rt. 311 and NYS Rt. 164, also known as Patterson District School No. 7. (The Patterson Historical Society) The photo probably dates from the 1930s. The Town acquired the Towners School at no cost when voters of the Towners School District voted to give the building to the Town after Towners was forced by the State to merge into the Carmel Central School District.
The third photo was taken on November 19, 1935 during the drilling of the well. The sign identifies the well driller as Associated Well Drillers and Patterson's Henry Ballard. The report indicates that it was a "self flowing artesian well flow 3 gal. per 6 lb. pressure". (Jeff Hyatt) The well rig is now in the possession of Mr. Hyatt who has restored it. It is on display at the Tilly Foster Farm Museum on NYS Route 312 in the town of Southeast, NY.
Three members of Ballard's work crew are pictured in the next three photos. The first is Ward Rogers followed by Lester Davis and finally Henry Ballard himself. (Jeff Hyatt)
The fourth photo was taken in 1969, at the time the Town of Patterson acquired the building to be used as the Town Hall. Town Clerk Joseph Pelosi is on the left, and Town Supervisor Donald B. Smith is on the right. Town Hall had previously been located on Main Street (NYS Rt. 311) in the hamlet of Patterson, but the growing town needed more space. Patterson eventually outgrew even the Towners building, and in March 2002, moved to its new building on NYS Route 311 at Front Street in the Patterson hamlet. In 2003, the building was purchased by the Hudson Valley Trust, a preservation and education group, to be used as its home.
The fifth photo shows the Towners School as it appeared during its use as the Town Hall, also known as the Lawlor Building, named after former Town Supervisor Larry Lawlor. The building was completely renovated by the Hudson Valley Trust in 2003 and is shown in the last photo. It is now the home of the Trust, which has donated space to several local non-profit organizations.
Students graduating from the small local Patterson schools in the early 20th century graduated to the Patterson Union School, although some also attended the Pawling High School. The Patterson Union School taught grades kindergarten through grade 12 through the early 1930s, and was located at the end of South Street in the village. The building still stands, and has been used for several years as the Administrative Offices for the Carmel Central School District. High School graduation exercises were held in the hall of the Judd Building.
In 1929, Patterson had six "graded schools". In December of that year, the Putnam County School Superintendent reported that 2,219 students were enrolled in County schools. Patterson's schools led the County in attendance that month:
Patterson's schools were the smallest in the County.
Even in 1938, taxpayers faced votes on school construction proposals to accommodate a growing population. In the fall of 1938, the Patterson Union Free District proposed the construction of an addition to the school building, to be partially funded by a Federal WPA (Works Progress Administration) grant. America was still in the grip of the Great Depression, and a world war was brewing in Europe. The District planned to spend $65,000, with the District share of $35,750 to be funded through the sale of bonds. Construction included the replacement of the original heating system, dating back to the building's original construction in 1903, and resolving a fire hazard created when the building was constructed with only one exit and only one stairwell to the second floor. The District also wanted to add an auditorium since the building lacked a meeting hall or place for school assemblies. The New York State Education Dept. was also requiring schools to provide physical education, and the District hoped to also use the auditorium as a gymnasium. The new room would measure 35 feet by 54 feet, and would be housed in a new one story building connecting to the north side of the present building. Putnam County Superintendent of Schools Storm and school principle Dwyer explained the project to parents and taxpayers at a special town meeting. The resolution was defeated 73-10 in the referendum taken in October, 1938.
|This excerpt of tax-exempt properties appeared in the October 18, 1929 edition of the Putnam County Courier. The list shows seven districts and the Patterson High School. The descriptions state "high school" for each district, which is an error.||A c.1912 postcard view of Patterson's "New School House". The postcard was published by John E. Carey.||Patterson High School, in an undated postcard. The back of the postcard states that it was "published by Harrie M. Wright, Patterson, N.Y.". Wright was also a jeweler and optician with a shop on Railroad Street (Front Street) in the early part of the 20th century. The building is now used as the Administration Building of the Carmel Central School District.||Patterson High School, in another undated postcard. This photo was published by local Patterson and Towners photographer W. C. Wood.|
After World War II, many of Putnam County's small school districts moved to centralize with larger districts. In May, 1947, three of the Patterson districts petitioned to join the Carmel Central District 2. A large majority of residents in each district signed the petitions. In the Patterson District, 196 of 255 residents signed the petition. In the Stephens District (Birch Hill and Haviland Hollow areas), 43 of 51 residents signed. In the Mooney Hill District, all 9 signed. Only the Towners District voted against centralization, with 22 residents signing a petition opposing centralization. The petitions were delivered to County School Superintendent Hoffman, who approved the requests, and forwarded them to the State. The centralization would take effect within 60 days. In August, 1947, the Patterson school announced that it would begin a kindergarten program, and it would be open to all children aged four years and nine months and older.
Children from Patterson faced some discrimination from their fellow students in the Carmel schools. Patterson was the smallest town in Putnam County, while Carmel was the largest, most populated, and most urbanized. Patterson was very rural and most Patterson families still engaged in farming. Carmel children taunted the Patterson children with insults because of their backgrounds. Patterson children, for example, were often called "swamp rats" because a large portion of Patterson is within the Great Swamp watershed.
The Carmel Central School District, in 1953, included a bond proposal in its budget vote, to provide funds to modernize the Patterson School. The bond was in the amount of $50,000, and was to be used to provide space for an assembly area where all students could be gathered for activities and programs. New York State set the minimum size for such a room at 30 feet by 50 feet. The bond would also provide funds for a remodeling of the basement to provide a health room, a teachers' room, additional restrooms, and a new kitchen. After the vote was taken and the bond was approved, the School District changed its plans. Sentiment had been growing in Patterson to bring the Patterson School facilities on a par with those of the Kent school. In December, 1953, the Carmel Central School District revised its plans, and proposed a major addition to the Patterson School. The cost of the construction was estimated to be $85,000 above the $50,000 already approved. The revised plan included increasing the size of the playroom/cafeteria by six feet, a new vestibule with a stairwell to the basement assembly room, a new kindergarten room and restroom at the southeast corner of the building, relocation of the kitchen, new restrooms on the basement level, a security system that included internal telephone and fire alarms systems, and replacement of the heating and ventilation equipment.
|An artist's sketch of the proposed 1953 addition to the Patterson School. The sketch was published in the Putnam County Courier on December 31, 1953.|
School district residents were asked to vote to approve the expenditure at a special meeting scheduled for Friday evening, January 8, 1954. Of the 1400 registered voters in the district, only 154 cast ballots. The project and bond were approved by a 4-1 vote, 121 in favor and 31 opposed.
In the 1960s, Putnam's eastern school districts discussed consolidation and merger. The State of New York had proposed a three school district merger involving Carmel, Mahopac, and Brewster. Officials in the districts were sharply divided on the issue, offering various reasons why it was or was not a good idea. Some cited a lowering of educational standards while others touted cost savings. Merger talks eventually failed. In July, 1960, a new merger proposal was presented at a meeting of the Brewster Board of Education. The new plan involved only a merger of the Brewster and Carmel Districts. Dr. Harold B. Wood, District Principle of the Brewster school, developed and presented the proposal. Under Wood's plan, senior high school students in both districts would attend the new Brewster junior-senior high school, and all junior high school students would attend the Carmel school. Dr. Wood also presented the idea to Carmel Supervising Principle Robert Kristeller before a meeting of the Carmel School Board. Kristeller stated that the proposal might benefit both schools, but the Carmel Board did not have a favorable reaction. The Board voted to delay action on the proposal until the newly formed Citizens Advisory Committee could study the plan.
|A list of school tax payments made by Putnam County in early 1965 to each of the County's school districts, shows three independent school districts still operating in Patterson.|
The new merger talks were also destined to fail. There was some question about the legality of the Carmel district assuming the debt of Brewster, even if the end result was beneficial to both districts. The Carmel Board also believed that the Carmel population would grow heavily in the future, and that Carmel alone would need a new school larger than the proposed Carmel-Brewster combination. The future would prove that prediction to be very true.
On June 26, 1965, discussion of a new elementary school for Patterson took place at a forum hosted by a civic group known as the Patterson Independent Citizens Association. The forum was held at the Patterson school, and it provided an opportunity for parents and taxpayers within the Town to express opinions on such topics as the existing school, a possible new central school for Patterson and Towners, the current school tax structure, and class sizes. The forum was headed by a panel which included Robert Kristeller, principle of the Carmel Central School District No. 2, and Robert Smith, president of the Carmel Board of Education.
In February, 1966, voters approved the purchase by the Carmel Central School Board of 50 acres of the Simpson Farm on Fair Street at a cost of $125,000, which would become the George Fischer Middle School. The vote was 606 for the purchase and 533 opposed. The Simpson Farm was owned by Emil Santanelli, who only a few weeks earlier had purchased the property from Mrs. Hall. Santanelli would retain ownership of the portion of the Farm not purchased by the School District. Voters also approved the purchase of 15 acres of the DeBourbon property adjoining the Patterson School at the cost of $30,000, to be used for an addition to the school. 771 voters approved the purchase, while 530 opposed it. The land purchases had already been presented to the voters as a package in December, but the proposal was defeated by 66 votes. The School Board decided to re-present the land purchases to the voters as two separate proposals. The Board still needed to survey the properties and solicit bids for the actual construction of the school buildings. The construction would be financed by a bond proposal that would need to be approved by property owners within the School District. The growing population of Putnam County created overcrowding in the schools, and construction of the new schools would avoid the need for creating double sessions to accommodate the number of children who were attending District schools.
It would take five votes before Carmel School District taxpayers would approve funding for construction of the middle school on Fair Street. In December, 1967, voters approved a $4,498,000 bond to finance construction, by a vote of 1,023 to 688. Federal and State aid would provide the bulk of the funds needed, and it was expected that the School District taxpayers would pay only $2,370,000 of the total cost.
|The Carmel Central School District released this architectural drawing of the new Patterson elementary school in January, 1970.|
The proposed new Patterson elementary school building would be approved on the fourth try on February 4, 1970. The previous vote, taken in December, was coupled with a school bus purchase bond, and was defeated by 32 votes. The District decided to remove the bus bond, and hold another vote on the school construction bond alone. The bond was approved by 126 votes, with 1,172 voting for the bond and 1,046 voting against. An unusually large turnout of voters braved rain, hail, and freezing rain. The vote approved an expenditure of $1.8 million for the school building construction and all furnishings, of which 58% would be paid by New York State, leaving School District taxpayers to pay the remaining $774,000. The proposed school would be built on land already owned by the District, and would be adjacent to the current elementary school building, which would be converted into offices for the District. The school would accommodate 850 students, as recommended by the District's educational consultants, Englehardt & Englehardt, Inc.
In June, 1971, the Carmel Board of Education created a controversy when it announced that the new Patterson elementary school would be named in honor of retiring Carmel School Superintendent Robert Kristeller. Kristeller had been with the Carmel School District for 37 years in various capacities. Patterson officials, the Patterson Chamber of Commerce, and Patterson residents immediately protested the decision. The Chamber hosted a town meeting at the Patterson School to discuss the issue. Chamber spokesmen stated that no slight to Kristeller was intended, but that the community wanted the school's name to be reflective of the town of Patterson. Petitions were circulated in the community demanding the restoration of the name "Patterson School". A few weeks later, in July, 1971, the Carmel Board bowed to pressure and voted to rename the school "The Matthew Paterson School", honoring the man after whom the Town was named. The decision followed a contentious meeting of the Carmel Schools Board, during which many Patterson residents and officials protested the attempt to remove "Patterson" from the school name. Local farmer and Patterson Planning Board Chairman Ernest Mendel told the crowd that the only reason the new school building even existed was because the State of New York had refused to allow an addition to be built onto the old building. Had the addition been possible, he said, the Patterson School would have retained its name. School Board president William Shilling of Carmel told the crowd that the Board simply meant to honor a "man who gave his lifetime to this school district." He also stated that the Board was attempting to unite the School District by avoiding the use of community or sectional names.
The new Matthew Paterson School was introduced to the community at an open house on Sunday, October 3, 1971. Robert Oram was named principle of the new school. An estimated 1,000 people attended the open house.
Patterson's Little Red Schoolhouse was originally located on Birch Hill Road at the base of the present Thunder Ridge Ski area, just east of Route 22. In the mid 1980s, the Santinelli family, the owners of the ski area then known as Big Birch, expressed the need to use the land for additional parking. The Schoolhouse was in the way. Rather than simply demolish the structure, the Santinelli family offered the Schoolhouse to the Patterson Historical Society, on the condition that Society assume ownership of the structure and take responsibility for moving it. Since the Little Red Schoolhouse was thought to be the last surviving schoolhouse of the original eight in Patterson, it was obvious that this piece of Patterson’s history needed to be saved. The Society, under the direction of then President Thomas Keasbey, undertook the difficult and complicated task of finding a new site for the Schoolhouse, arranging the physical move of the structure, and raising the funds needed to move the structure and pay for its renovation. The structure was in very bad condition after years of neglect. A fire had damaged part of the floor and rear wall, and the roof was deteriorating.
|Top Row: Fire causes heavy damage to the abandoned structure. As the structure is readied for moving, the extent of the fire damage can be seen. (The Patterson Historical Society)|
|Bottom Row: On a flatbed truck, the LRSH is slowly towed north on NYS Route 22 as a New York State Trouper directs traffic. In the center photograph, utilities crews raise wires for the turn west onto NYS Route 311. The Schoolhouse is towed south on Front St. The Brunow Building, the former Judd Building, is on the left. (The Patterson Historical Society)|
86 donors, from large corporations to local schoolchildren, contributed to the Little Red Schoolhouse fund. A suitable site was needed to provide a new home for the Schoolhouse. A small wooded area owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, owners of the Metro North Commuter Railroad, was located at the corner of Front and Lumber Streets. This site was attractive because it would situate the Schoolhouse in the center of the Patterson Hamlet. The site, however, was unavailable. The site of the old Patterson Town Hall on Main Street, just west of Locust Street, was considered and rejected. Finally, the Carmel Central School District agreed to provide some land near the District's Administration Building on South Street. The agreement allowed the Society to bring electric service into the Schoolhouse, but no water or septic. This site is the present location of the Little Red Schoolhouse.
The move took place in May 1987, and involved the coordination of many public and private agencies. The roof was first removed to reduce the height of the structure. Crews from Commonwealth Cable, New York State Electric & Gas, and New York Telephone were on hand to raise their respective wires as the flatbed carrying the Schoolhouse passed beneath them. The Patterson Highway Department supplied manpower to trim low-lying tree branches. The New York State Department of Transportation reviewed the route for traffic related issues. Deputies from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and Troopers from the New York State Police provided traffic control. Metro-North Railroad was notified that the caravan would be crossing its tracks. It took 90 minutes for Nicolas Movers of Hopewell Junction to transport the Schoolhouse 1.6 miles to its new home.
Immediately after the move, a substantial renovation effort was begun. The Schoolhouse had been damaged by a fire prior to its acquisition by the Society, leaving the floor and walls in poor condition. The roof was also in bad condition, but was salvageable. Many years of neglect had led to deterioration of portions of the clapboard siding. Funds were raised for the renovation and reconstruction of the Schoolhouse, and many community craftsmen volunteered their skills to the rebuilding effort. A new foundation was built to support the structure. The roof, which had been removed in preparation for the move, was reconstructed once the Schoolhouse was set atop the new foundation. The floors and walls were rebuilt to repair fire damage. Windows were repaired. Electric service was brought into the structure.
|The rebuilding process begins. In the first photo, workers rebuild the roof. In the second photo, the roof is in place and damaged siding is being replaced. (The Patterson Historical Society) The last photo shows the Little Red Schoolhouse as it appears today.|
The interior of the Schoolhouse was decorated and furnished to resemble a typical one-room schoolhouse of the early 20th century. Two individuals with ties to the Little Red Schoolhouse made significant contributions. Charlotte Whaley, one of the last students to attend classes in the Schoolhouse, presented the PHS with a school bell that had been used to bring classes to order. Grace Stephens, who taught in the Schoolhouse in 1914-1915, donated the desk that had been used by the teacher. Donations of student desks were also received. A replica of the coal-burning potbellied stove was built to duplicate the original.
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