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More history of education in Northfield (Pittsford)


In the last article, I discussed Districts One and Two and as I mentioned at one time there were 13 Districts in the town. When Henrietta was separated from Pittsford, the Districts were renumbered and we then had nine Districts and schoolhouses. Some of those remain while others have been destroyed by housing developments.

District # 3 was and is located at the corner of East Street and Thornell Roads. The land for this school was granted by John Gardner and his wife to the Trustees of District #3. The small brick building of Greek Revival style was built in 1845. It is a one story, center entrance building with gable end facing East Street. The entrance has a four-pane transom over the door.

This District was sometimes called "Johnny Cake School" because of the old name of the area. That label was attached, some sources say, because so much corn was raised on the farms in that area and the farmers' wives used much of it for Johnnycake. It was also reported that those generous farm ladies gave much of that delicacy to workers on the Erie Canal.

That school was closed in 1946 when centralization came to Pittsford and the building was sold at auction to William Patterson who converted it into a single-family home. The coal bin was made into a kitchen and the one toilet room was converted into a full bath. It continues to be a residence and still resembles its original usage.

District # 4 was located on Clover Street about where Hastings Circle cul-de-sac runs off Clover near Lock 32.This land was granted to District four by Daniel Kingsley and wife. Kingsley owned property on each side of Clover St from about French Road South to the canal.

This building was frame and had a basement, which housed the coal furnace. The basement had a door to the outside. There was one front entrance, which was used by both boys and girls and opened into a wide hallway that held coats, lunch pails, and boots in the wintertime. I am told by one of the former students, that the playground had swings and the very best slide in the town.

Classes from 1st grade to sixth were taught in this District, as were most of the others in town. There was an area for a library near the wide hallway and in close proximity to the entrance to the basement. Older students were asked to tend the coal furnace - either by adding fuel or by "shaking" it. A Mr. Dehmler, who lived nearby, was the custodian during the years of late 1930's until the closing of the District.

Of course students walked to school and some came from as far away as Long Meadow, French Road, and all the way to the Brighton line on Clover Street and up to Stone Road. A 4-H program was offered one day a week after school, taught by a volunteer mother of one of the students.

District # 5 is located also on Clover Street. It is # 3107 Clover Street about 100 yards north of Calkins Road. "just south of the bend in the road." It is a frame building, much changed from its original use. It has been converted into a single family home and has a prominent chimney on the front, large windows, and a garage. All of this remodeling was done in 1945 when it was no longer needed as a school. The woodshed was made into the kitchen and a wing was added to the rear. This building today is a very charming cape cod looking home.

District # 6 is far different from the other schoolhouses. First of all, it is in the village, located on Church Street. It was built in 1846 to serve the students who lived in the village in order for the children not to have to walk all the way to District #1. It has a very interesting history relating to the stonemason who constructed it.

Samuel Crump and his bride had traveled from England to Rochester, NY, where Sam had relatives, for their honeymoon trip. While here, the couple decided to stay and Sam, who had been a successful stonemason in his native land, was looking for work. He read in the Rochester paper that the Village Trustees were looking for a contractor to build a school. Sam decided that he was just the man to do that so he walked out to Pittsford and presented his case to the Trustees, who hired him on the spot. Not too many people at that time knew how to work with cobblestones, so it was quite unique.

The building is, of course, still there, owned by the Masonic Lodge and carefully maintained by that organization. If one looks closely at the sign above the front door, the words District 6 can just be distinguished. The Masons realizing what an historic treasure they had, excavated and poured a concrete basement, which was a considerable expense.

After the school was complete and children were enrolled in it, Sam decided that he liked this community so well, that he made it his home. He became a leading citizen, a merchant, building that brick edifice at the corner of Monroe Avenue and Main St, with a home next to it and a big barn behind it. That barn, which is no longer, became very important during the Civil War. Sam was a staunch abolitionist and the only documented engineer on the Underground Railroad here in Pittsford.

Sam would receive notice somehow that some runaway slaves were coming to his home. Sam's wife always had extra food in the house just for this reason and after feeding these folks a hardy meal Sam would hide them in his barn. The next morning the runaways would be hidden under merchandise in his wagon and Sam could take them to the Port of Charlotte where they could board a boat to Canada and freedom. (a little like the Fast Ferry?)

The small cobblestone structure needed an addition on the rear and this was built of frame construction. That portion has been removed and it became the front of a home on West Jefferson Road. District #6 was used until the large, new school was built on Lincoln Avenue in the late 19th century.

I will discuss Districts 7, 8 & 9 in another article.