1785-2011: History of Root Schoolhouse and Root District Community Center
1785: Vermont’s first public grammar school is established in Norwich in 1785, a schoolhouse situated on the site of today’s Congregational Church.
mid-1800s: Norwich has twenty functioning one-room schoolhouses. Out of Norwich’s long history of schoolhouses, today only two remain in their original condition: Root and Beaver Meadow.
1937: Root School is built, replacing a school that had burned.
1939: Root School is awarded a “Superior” plaque by the Vermont Department of Education.
1940: Norwich has five functioning one-room schoolhouses.
1945: Its enrollment having dwindled to four, Root School closes.
1951: Norwich’s last functioning one-room schoolhouse closes in 1951, when it was decided that all Norwich children would attend the village school, now Marion Cross School.
1952: The Norwich School Board deeds Root School to the Root District Game Club for five dollars for use as a community center.
1952-2011: Root Schoolhouse is used as a hunting clubhouse, a horse riding clubhouse, and, since the mid-1970s, as the Root District Community Center, hosting many potluck suppers, as well as weddings, birthday parties, and other public events. Up to 75 people can comfortably fit in the 600 square foot main room, which has an adjacent kitchen area.
2002: A building assessment of Root Schoolhouse declares the structure to be in “excellent condition” but determines the instability of the building’s foundation, which had been steadily deteriorating for decades: “The walls [of the foundation] if not replaced will eventually fail. The only solution is to either move the building or jack it up and replace the entire foundation.”
2003-2005: Following the 2002 building assessment, the Game Club mounts a townwide campaign to raise money for building repairs, generating enough money to repair the roof, add a fresh coat of paint on the exterior (courtesy of the Boy Scouts), and sand and refinish the floors (courtesy of volunteers). Nevertheless, this major effort still falls well short of raising the money needed to repair the foundation.
2011: All public use of Root Schoolhouse ceases when it is determined that the foundation is no longer safe enough. Currently, the building sits empty and unused.
2011-today: Saving Root Schoolhouse
2011: Norwich real estate attorney Dan Grossman offers pro bono legal support for the effort to preserve Root Schoolhouse.
2012: Root and Beaver Meadow schoolhouse organizers collaborate with Norwich Public Library on a Dr. Seuss-themed fundraiser that fills Tracy Hall. A Valley News story about the event and the schoolhouses is on the front page the following day.
2012: The Norwich Women’s Club gives the Root District Game Club a $2,000 grant to work with a Norwich architecture firm, Smith & Vansant (which donates several hours of its services), to help examine the schoolhouse and develop plans for its future, including the possibility of hosting a nursery school. Preservation Trust of Vermont also gives the Game Club a grant of $250 for this project.
2012: A fundraiser in support of Root Schoolhouse fills Wilder Center.
2012-16: Dan & Whit’s and the Norwich Inn host four wine-tasting fundraisers in support of Norwich’s schoolhouses.
2013: Root Schoolhouse and Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse grace the cover of the Norwich Town Report.
2013: Root Schoolhouse is added to the National Register of Historic Places, along with Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse. These two schoolhouses, which were nominated by the Norwich Historic Preservation Commission, may be the first twentieth century Vermont one-room schoolhouses to be added to the Register. The Valley News reports the story on its front page. The news is quickly picked up by the Associated Press and covered by media outlets from coast to coast, including the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle.
2013-15: Root District Game Club, Historic New England, CATV, Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse Association, and the Norwich Historical Society collaborate on a documentary about the history of Norwich’s one-room schoolhouses. Ten students who attended Norwich one-room schoolhouses in the 1930s and 1940s are interviewed and dozens of historic photos are identified for use in the documentary.
2014: Root District Game Club receives 501(c)3 non-profit designation from the IRS.
2014: Root District Game Club receives a matching pledge of $40,000 from the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation.
2015: Back to School: Lessons from Norwich’s One-Room Schoolhouses, a documentary about the history of Norwich’s schoolhouses made in partnership with Historic New England and CATV, premieres in the summer to full houses at Wilder Center and Marion Cross School. In October and November, the documentary is broadcast on Vermont Public Television.
2015: The Norwich Women’s Club awards the Root District Game Club a grant to provide for the duplication of 1,000 DVDs of “Back to School: Lessons from Norwich’s One-Room Schoolhouses” to help raise awareness about Root Schoolhouse.
2016: Root District Game Club receives a donation of $5,000 from Mascoma Savings Bank to help rebuild the schoolhouse’s foundation.
2016: The Country School Association of America awards the Root District Game Club a $300 Award for Scholarship and Artistry for its role in producing “Back to School,” as well as a $1,000 Preservation Grant. This is the first known financial support received by Root Schoolhouse from a national organization.
2016: The Norwich Women’s Club awards the Root District Game Club a $2,000 grant to help rebuild the schoolhouse’s foundation.
2016: Historic New England awards the Root District Game Club a $1,000 Community Preservation Grant. Every year, Historic New England distributes six awards to historic preservation projects in each of the six New England states. Root Schoolhouse was the year’s lone award recipient for Vermont.
2016: The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation awards the Root District Game Club a Historic Preservation Grant of $9,300 to help us rebuild the foundation and correct the drainage problems that have contributed to its deterioration through the years.
“At the dedication exercises [at the opening of the rebuilt Root School] the Deputy Commissioner stated that he had received a request from a person in another state to name a school to visit which would exemplify the Vermont school improvement work. He went on to say that he had listed the Root school along with three or four others as being a fine example of this work.” — Norwich Town Report, 1938
“According to the Multiple Property Documentation Form for Educational Resources in Vermont, ‘few one room schoolhouses survive in their original use and fewer survive in their original condition’ … The Root District School is a wonderfully well-preserved example of a 20th century ‘Superior’ grade one room rural schoolhouse. Its interior and exterior integrity and its pristine rural setting are rare and significant in Vermont.” — Lyssa Papazian, historic preservation consultant who prepared Root Schoolhouse’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, 2012
“The walls [of the foundation] if not replaced will eventually fail. The only solution is to either move the building or jack it up and replace the entire foundation.” — Root Schoolhouse building assessment, 2002
“The framing for the first floor … is in excellent condition and well built.” — Root Schoolhouse building assessment, 2002
“The 1937 building is remarkably well-preserved on both the exterior and interior and retains integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.” — Lyssa Papazian, 2012
“It should be noted that in the 1950s and again in 1974 the 1937 school building was having foundation problems similar to the 1925 school that preceded it on this site, which had foundation problems within 10 years of construction. The foundation was repaired and partially replaced in 1975 but is again quite deteriorated and unstable. This history suggests a site or drainage issue that has not yet been addressed … [The building is] remarkably intact historically and architecturally though … the foundation which was replaced in 1975 is in very poor and unstable condition.” — Lyssa Papazian, 2012