Rides We Like: The Schoolhouse Tour (Two)
(2016) This is something I wanted to do since my last tour of the schoolhouses of Bucks County. Actually, this is something I became determined to do once I actively sought out schoolhouses on my rides and drives. As it turns out I forgot a few, overlooked a few, and flat out didn’t even notice some in plain sight. I've yet to be contacted by anyone suggesting some sort of database to record these as an historic trail. So tonight I decided to knock six former schoolhouses off my list. I apologize for anyone who may have seen some poor road choices to connect all six in an economical manner.
Naturally my first stop found me at the Plumsteadville Township Building on Stump Road (featured photo). Being that it was on a rather busy road, my first order of business was to snap a photo in the flashest of flashes. My second order of business was to make sure I made it to the next turn before a landscaping truck put me a couple of feet off the road.
The schoolhouse, according to the Township, is one of thirteen to remain in public use. This means I should continue to look for others. One of the helpful parts in identifying certain schoolhouses is an identical looking sign out front. Naturally the Plumsteadville Township Building prominently displays theirs, identifying it as the Plumsteadville School, 1858. Thankfully I survived my turn onto Potters Lane. Sit in for a while, it will take some time to get to the next two.
One of the issues with hitting all six in one ride is the awkwardness of their arrangement. This caused me to cross my path a couple times in the attempt to make the route as straightforward as possible. Yet it allowed me to see some roads I had not bounced down in many years.
This is the portion where I managed to feel at home. It was amidst tall country grass and tree lined portions of the path. An overgrown orchard even popped up on Bradshaw Road. Excitedly I saw a fox stop in the middle of the roadway to see me, it then pranced into the hedgerow and out of sight. This was a beautiful night to ride indeed.
I accessed Groveland and spooked a herd of cows after seeing some farmers loading up their fertilizer equipment. The next school was getting close now. For those that have read some other creakybottombracket articles, this is at the top of the infamous Tohickon Hill Road. I had no designs to descend it today, though.
A left onto State Park Road immediately reveals a beautifully maintained schoolhouse. It must’ve been hell for those students who had to walk up Tohickon Hill (and in the snow mind you). This school is neatly tucked away and easy to miss. Truth be told this is one of the recently remembered schools that got me excited to revisit this tour. It was complete with the aforementioned schoolhouse moniker out front: a tan sign with a Kelly green border and letters.
I descended into Ralph Stover Park but made the hard left and sprinted up the genesis of Stump Road. Coming from this direction certainly makes the climb easier instead of pulling out of the park’s parking lot. I don’t mind this descent as it feels like another part of the country. With the recent rains comes a flowing stream that’s usually parched when I’ve passed through. It is also where I observed a lone baby deer standing in the road. Initially I thought it was another fox. Curiously I could not see the mother. I hoped it was nearby. It is just beyond the next intersection where the third school is located.
This school, Smith School I believe, is one of my favorites to see. It’s the only school that I’ve observed that still features an outhouse. While I wasn’t able to get it in the photo, the wooden structure is still there. As with the other structures, it is hardly a gigantic building of today’s schools. Instead it’s a one-room affair. If a student needed to relieve him/ herself, the pupil must go outside. I’m sure there were fewer bathroom trips back then. Sit in again; it will be a few miles before the next house.
Blueberry Lane to Wismer to Ferry to McNeil brought me back to the cycling highway for Bucks County: Carversville Road. I must admit my plan of attack for the next school had me a bit nervous. It was rush hour, and I was considering a state road. It was the only way I could snap the fourth school.
On my commutes I peeked at this house many times before I realized I was looking at a school. This one is without a sign, but it has a denomination in the relief of the façade mentioning its years of service. Works for me. I rode down 413 with my head angled toward my left shoulder. Luckily I snapped the photo from a driveway and carried on. This schoolhouse is a little darker in its stucco, perhaps from the years beneath the many trees that surround it. It is probably the most private of the schoolhouses I observed today. Since I’m stubborn and don’t learn quickly, I continued up 413 to make a left in Gardenville and link with a recently- discovered potential schoolhouse.
It has the markings mentioned in the first article, save one. It has a flagpole out front, albeit without a flag. It has a belfry (with an actual bell). It was lacking a sign. Out of the six schools, this one was the least maintained and made me question whether it was a school or a church. It was within proximity of the Plumstead Friends Meeting House making it entirely possible to be a church of another denomination. There is no sign out front to label it as a school
I rather recently caught sight of the bell one drive home. This led to more glances and even some detoured morning rides. I concluded for the time being that it was a schoolhouse across the street from the Plumstead Quarry.
I turned down Valley Park Road excited to see the final schoolhouse. This was the most attractive of the six. It also has a large barn out back as well as a curious stack of firewood between two trees. The curiosity is that it has a window of sorts built in by the stacker. I’ve always wondered why. This school has both the façade relief stating the years of service as well as the tan and green sign. It’s a great sight when passing it because it usually indicates my ride has fewer than five miles at that point.
I felt it important to look for these schools as the education year comes to a close. I thoroughly enjoy scouting out old school locations while riding my bike. It makes me feel like my two worlds come together for just a few miles. Of the two rides, this was the most prodigious. The first ride saw only three school houses compared to this ride’s six. I’m already planning the next ride to explore four neglected schools, including the Wrightstown Octagonal Schoolhouse. That would bring the total schools explored to at least thirteen. Not bad math for a teacher of English.