Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Couple of Old Stanton Schools

Stanton #38 School, 1928
When you're sifting through collections of old photographs and you come across a "new" picture of a house or building, there are a couple things that can make it really exciting. One, is it could be an image of something that you've never seen before. You may or may not know what it is, but this is the first time you've actually seen what it looks like, or at least seen a decent (or close-up) picture of it. This was the case with the photographs recently posted of the State Industrial School and of the old stone house across from Emily Bissell.

Some other things that can make a newly-discovered picture interesting are if it shows a structure you're familiar with in a different state or condition, or if it provides new information about the building. It's these last two that prompted me to want to share a couple of old photographs of some neighboring buildings in Stanton. Of the two buildings, one is long gone, as should be obvious from the picture itself. The other is still standing, although heavily altered and looking very different than it did 85 years ago, when the two briefly shared a bond besides their close proximity -- a bond I only became aware of because of one of the pictures.

The first photograph is the one at the top of the post, and it shows a building that has quite obviously seen better days. What's interesting is that those better days were not far behind it. The building is the Stanton District #38 School, which was located on the north side of Main Street (Rt. 4) just east of Telegraph Road (about where Gooddeals is now, next to the CVS). The top photo was taken in 1928, but the photo below dates from only two years earlier. Something obviously happened in that relatively short span of time.

Stanton #38 School, still functioning in 1926
The school was definitely old by the 1920's, perhaps nearing 90 years of age. A more in-depth history and description of the school can be found here, in a post done almost four years ago. The end of the #38 School's story always seemed fairly straightforward, even if it wasn't well documented. The school was old and small, the state was looking to consolidate the also old and small school districts into larger ones (with new and larger schools, as was getting ready to happen in Marshallton, too), so a new, big school was built in Stanton to replace the little, one-room schoolhouse. Now after seeing the picture at the top of the page and the one below, I think there might have been one more part of the story.

Stanton Friends Meeting House as #38 School, 1928
In browsing through newspapers from the 1920's, I've come across a number of articles dealing with the consolidation of the Marshallton and Brandywine Springs Districts, which led to the construction of the Marshallton Consolidated School in the early 1930's. There was a lot of debate and referendums about the consolidation, with vocal opinions on both sides. I've never, however, seen anything about the building of the new Stanton Elementary School in 1929. Perhaps, just perhaps, these three pictures tell the story.

Although everything I said about the school being old and small was true, it was still functioning just fine in 1926, and seven years earlier had gotten rave reviews as being nice and well-lit. By 1928, though, it obviously was not in use. It's kind of hard to tell, but when I look at the photo at the top of the page, it sure looks like there is soot and smoke damage. If there had been a fire at the school, it would explain the lack of a roof (which would have been wood and easily burned) and windows. If not, it would seem odd that the old school was abandoned before the new school was ready.

The photograph just above is also from 1928 (almost certainly taken at the same time as the top one), and is titled as being of the District #38 School. That building is more commonly known as the Stanton Friends Meeting House. The Meeting House, built in 1873, was officially "laid down", or discontinued as a place of worship, in 1921. I originally could find very little information on how it was used after 1921, except that the congregation of Stanton Methodist Church briefly met there in 1949 and 1950 after their old church burned down and before a new one was finished. It now seems that we can add another stop-gap use to its resume. (The building is still there, with a newer addition, and is in use as a dentist's office.)

I'll continue to try to find more information about the events of that time, but it looks to me like any plans to build a new school in Stanton may have been accelerated by the fire (or whatever happened) at the venerable, old one-room schoolhouse. Then, maybe for just a year or so, the school met at the then-unused Meeting House while the new building was being completed. And as a final note, I'll say that I'd love to know who the kids and adults are in the picture. The one person I do know of who should be there is Lora Little. I can't identify her for sure, but just to the left of the corner of the building, it looks like there is a woman standing directly behind one of the boys, with a hand to her head. I think this might be Miss Little. And as a really final note, on the far right of the Meeting House picture you can see the only photographic evidence I've ever seen of the house that once stood on the northwest corner of Limestone and Main Street, where St. Mark's Methodist Church (the former Stanton Methodist) stands now.

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