Knox School 5 Restoration

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY

History of the Knox School No. 5

History of the Knox School No. 5

The first Knox School No. 5 was located on Suto Road, the same schoolhouse used by local students before the town of Knox became independent from the town of Berne in 1822. The school board relocated the school here in 1852. That building was sold in 1898 to a local farmer and placed with this structure, which was used as a school from 1899 until 1939. After it closed, it became a residence and then a meeting place for the Helleberg Coon Club. In 1999, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation purchased the property to include as part of Thompson’s Lake State Park.

Unless otherwise indicated, all original photographs courtesy of Daniel Driscoll.

The Restoration of Knox School No. 5

The Restoration of Knox School No. 5

In 2001, the Helderberg Kiwanis Club proposed a partnership with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to stabilize and restore the deteriorating Knox No. 5 schoolhouse. The club solicited local businesses for assistance, and community members began researching the school's history. Work on the building began in May 2003 and continued through the fall of 2008. In 2005, the Knox School No. 5 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Restored according to historic preservation standards, the school now looks much as it did in the 1920s and 1930s.

School Board Minutes 1898

School Board Minutes 1898

The school board minutes from 1824-1905 survive, offering important information on the functioning of the area's schools. This page from an 1898 meeting includes the decision to build a new school and sell the old building to William Secor.

“It has been resolved that the new school house be built on the old site with the exception of additional grounds which Wm. J. Secor has agreed to give, and it was resolved that the new school house be built with its front to the road. Resolved that the old school house be sold by the chairman of this meeting tonight. The old school house was sold to Wm. J. Secor for ($30.) dollars. This meeting has adjourned until the first Tuesday in August 1898, Wm. H. Ketcham dist. clerk.”

Restoration: 2002

The Kiwanis Club and the New York State Preservation Office assessed the schoolhouse to identify needed repairs. A chimney and flooring added in the 1980s were approved for removal during restoration.

Restoration: 2003

Volunteers cleared weeds growing around the school and the woodshed and replaced the woodshed's wood shake roof.

Restoration: 2004

Club members removed layers of rotted flooring inside the school. One of the layers showed marks where the desks had been screwed into the floor. Pictured is John Elberfeld, a Kiwanis member.

Jane McLean donated material for a new floor in memory of her mother Isabel B. Nicholas (1923-2005). Isabel was an itinerant music teacher who taught generations of New Hampshire children to dance the Virginia Reel on similar wooden schoolhouse floors.

Restoration: 2005-2006

Volunteers jacked up the building and rebuilt its rubble foundation. An earlier repair had caused the building to slide one foot off its original foundation.

Restoration: 2006

Additional funding from Selkirk Cogen, Home Depot, and fundraising by the Helderberg Kiwanis Club, allowed volunteers to replace the damaged siding and install plywood underlay flooring.

Restoration: 2007-2008

Restoration: 2007

Volunteers replaced the windows and restored and primed the bead board walls with white paint to match the walls visible in a 1929 photograph.

Restoration: 2008

Volunteers hung windows, a new door, and painted the interior and exterior of the building according to descriptions provided by former students. After putting the final Douglas fir flooring in place, the Kiwanis Club moved the furniture and wood-stove into the building.

Pauline Williman and William Salisbury, former students

Former Students

Pauline Salisbury Williman, a member of the Helderberg Kiwanis Club, and her brother William Salisbury were former students at Knox No. 5.