Schoolhouse History

The Round Pond Schoolhouse Association (RPSA) is an organization whose purpose is to restore and maintain the Washington School in Round Pond. Our plan for this proud old building is to be a museum of Round Pond on the upper floor, the lower hall available for village activities, and the school grounds a quiet village picnic spot. The RPSA is supported by its members, either those who went to school there or those who became attached to the charms of the village. Anyone is welcome to become a member. We value historical interest, volunteer labor, enthusiasm and suggestions. We are a 501c3 (nonprofit) organization.

The Washington School was proudly built in 1885, better than it needed to be, and to the newest standards of schoolhouse architecture and design. When built, it was the flagship of the 21 Bristol schools. This school was valued at $2,400 at a time when the others were appraised mostly between $50 – $400. Every parent wished his child to go to the Washington School. It was a “graded” two-room schoolhouse, one room above the other; the lower held grades 1-4 and the upper classroom, the ‘grammar school’, grades 5-8 (and for a few years, even high school students). The classrooms were of a “healthy” height, airy and with ample space for each student. Tall windows poured in light (which could be regulated by internal shutters), the walls were painted yellow, which had been scientifically proven to be the best color for protecting developing eyes and inducing learning. Blackboards encircled the classrooms, a wood stove on each floor warmed the space with its overhead radiating exhaust pipe. There was a pump for fresh water on the pathway to the school, and an outhouse out back, which in 1926, by law, was connected to the schoolhouse – by air locked passageways. There was a schoolyard (and cautioned “not to play in” woods) for recess, and playing fields close by behind the Brown Church. Kerosene lamp sconces lined the walls for after school activities. It was built of good materials by skilled craftsmen (though the frugality in avoiding the potentially frivolous is charming to note); in short, it was all that a proud community could ask for in its school – one of honorable construction and not a penny wasted.

1885 was ten years after passage of the child labor laws when the populace had well-absorbed the concept that “education is the pathway out of poverty” – as well as a civic duty, and just two years before passage in Maine of the obligatory school attendance law with its penalties for school truancy. In short, the Washington School of Round Pond marks an important time in American educational theory. The choice of a majestic but simplified Italianate architecture, combined with sensible elements of Greek Revival, must have held some resonance of meaning, for it contrasts with the then fashionable Gothic Revival and Second Empire buildings being built throughout the village.

In 1954 the schoolhouse closed its doors as students were regionalized to the new Bristol Mills school. In 1955 the town sold the building for $1 to the fledgling Masters’ Machine Shop, which modified it to its needs. This young company did very well and quickly outgrew the building, moving out in 1964. The abandoned schoolhouse, used only for “storage,” slipped into gradual decay and vandalism. It was about to be given to the fire department for practice but was instead given by the Masters to the RPSA, an organization quickly incorporated for the purpose of saving it. We are proud to play our part in bringing this locally historic gem back to usefulness.