Rides We Like: The Schoolhouse Tour
(2016) Current pedagogue status not withstanding, I would be lying if I’d say my wish to live in an historic schoolhouse would be unbiased. Furthermore, being a teacher of arguably the oldest-taught subject in Western education combines today’s approaches with a long line of those who have stood in front of pupils. On rides I’ve been able to cast a last-second glance over my shoulder when realizing I was passing an old schoolhouse. There are quite a few of them around here.
In past articles I have drawn covered bridges, old churches, and historical taverns to the forefront and discuss their roles in Bucks County. While there are still more landmarks hidden from plain sight, I’ve waited a while before shining a light on schoolhouses around the northern portions of the County. Some schoolhouses are as they were decades or even a century ago while others have been converted into living spaces. Schoolhouses can be regular fixtures in these parts; even the local township has commandeered an historic schoolhouse and added onto it with a police department.
These structures can have three telltale signs of their former role: The obvious is the rooftop bell tower formerly used to announce the start time to the daily lessons. The second sign could be the involvement of a stout flagpole out front. They’re usually of the manageable variety for school children of previous decades that were tasked with raising and lowering the flag. The completion of the identification is a sign proper that could state the name of the school and the years of operation.
The presence of these schoolhouses adds wonderment to rides around these parts for there are considerable distances between schools. I chuckle when rolling past each school for it is entirely possible of the old adages of walking uphill in the snow to school. Determination was certainly a trait of students in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Rolling on roads for enjoyment certainly were routes of simple pathways in those times. And though I’ve done light research on schoolhouses, there isn’t much to indicate where demarcation lines were drawn indicating which school students was expected.
Today’s route took me down three school roads. Smith School Road, Blue School Road, and Center School Road all indicate their bygone era of service. Regrettably I was not able to access a schoolhouse on Sweetbriar Road for tonight’s ride but that’s the thing: there are so many around here to explore. Central School Road has a contemporary school at its ending, so the route brought it back to the present.
I must say I’m intrigued about living in a schoolhouse. The wonder of knowing how many students attended these schools would follow me from room to room. I imagine creaky floors, dusty chalk, honey sunlight, and those seemingly reverse engineered desks that were simply chairs with surfaces hanging off the back. I would also imagine the pedagogue walking down the aisles with his chin tucked into his breastplate, hands behind his back, expecting nothing but correct answers and hard work. Outside the world of manual labor happened. I would probably ring the bell at 7:40 each morning to rouse the spirits of the old building.
I was only able to photograph two schoolhouses on today’s ride, but rest assured, I am aware of numerous other schools in the area. This county has further secrets to reveal through its structures, which I plan to explore this coming season. With the commencement of a new cycling season I would start the next schoolhouse tour with the similar anticipatory set - an indication class has started – by asking, “Are we ready to get started?” And then we will be off.
The featured image is of the schoolhouse on Smith School Road outside of Dublin, PA.