The Ferndale School is a one-story, one-room wood-frame schoolhouse located in the small hamlet of Ferndale in Sullivan County, New York. The school was built circa 1850 for District 6 in the town of Liberty, New York.
The hamlet of Ferndale, formerly known as Liberty Falls, is located south of the village of Liberty. The Mongaup River and the route of the former O. & W. Railroad run through the hamlet. The school is located at the intersection of Ferndale Loomis Road and Upper Ferndale Road.
Ferndale was settled in 1807 by Roswell Russell, who established a sawmill at the Falls. When Liberty Falls sought to change names in the early 1900s to avoid confusion with the village of Liberty, which had become closely associated with the treatment of tuberculosis, the Ferndale name came from the Ferndale Villa, a popular local resort built by Joshua Gerow. The once world-famous Grossinger’s Resort Hotel, which was established in 1919 and operated until 1986, was located at Ferndale.
The Ferndale School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “an intact representative of a nineteenth century rural schoolhouse in Sullivan County and for its association with the history of education in the hamlet of Ferndale.”
“The building was a typical example of a nineteenth-century common school. Schools built in rural areas during the first half of the nineteenth century were generally small wood-frame buildings, domestic in scale, featuring undifferentiated interior spaces. Beginning in the 1840s, numerous pattern books were published that provided plans for schools that incorporated features intended to enhance the learning experience and accommodate advances in education, such as more specialized or graded instruction. Henry Barnard, for example, published ten editions of School Architecture between 1842 and 1883, all featuring examples of model schools that local districts could draw upon. The typical 1850 school was a small building with a vestibule (used as a cloakroom) and one large classroom. A teacher’s platform was located at the front of the room and students sat at fixed stations. The school was usually heated with a stove in the school room and there were windows on two or three sides of the building. Restrooms were generally privies. Despite certain variations and improvements, this remained the basic model for rural school buildings until the late nineteenth century.
The Ferndale School follows this model. Its modest size, rectangular form, wood-frame construction, and regular fenestration identify the building as a traditional and easily recognizable icon on the landscape. On the interior, the school was a single, undivided classroom (typically, a partition would have divided off a narrow vestibule just inside the door; it is not known whether Ferndale had this feature). The school was heated by a stove and a small wood-frame building at the rear served as a woodshed. Bathrooms were probably accommodated by privies; however, there is no evidence of them today. While modest, the school was constructed with windows on three elevations to provide a maximum amount of light and good ventilation. As per contemporary practice, the teacher probably sat at the front of the room facing the students. There were no openings on the rear elevation (behind the teacher) so that the students would not have to look into direct sunlight.”
The school served the community through the 1950s, when it closed due to school district consolidation. As was common for rural areas of the era, the one room schoolhouse served students of all grade levels.
Remarkably, although one room schoolhouses are considered a product of a long-gone era, there are still approximately 400 active one-room schoolhouses in the United States.
Source: LaFrank, Kathleen. “Ferndale School.” National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. April, 2004.