The bell clangs three times at the charming, pristine one-room schoolhouse on the Boston Post Road near Harbor Island, and it could be 1816.
The water is pure blue behind the white house, and cherry trees sway gently in front of the building. Children would have been running and playing.
With the final clang, it's time to go inside.
The eight-panel green door opens and a smiling "teacher" greets us. She is Gloria Pritts, who has been historian for the Village of Mamaroneck for 21 years, and who not only assumes the role of teacher for visiting groups of children, but who had an instrumental role in bringing the school house to the public.
"It's a special place because children can come experience what education was like 200 years ago," says Pritts of the building that measures 18' x 24'. "And because there was a time when it wasn't a school, a lot of community volunteers came together to save it."
One of the first schools in Mamaroneck
This was the third school in Mamaroneck. The first was built in 1733. "It was later torn down," says Pritts. "There's no record of the building." The second was built in 1802 at 84 Weaver St., and later became a residence.
The "little schoolhouse," as it is affectionately called, was built in 1816 at Mount Pleasant and Mamaroneck avenues. When it became too small, it was sold in 1855 to Emily Chapman and Gotham Seaman. Literature says that with "the help of friends who brought their oxen and wagons, the schoolhouse was moved over railroad tracks" to 229 Waverly Ave.
In 1933, Pritts saw that the house was for sale. Dorothy and Louis Martin, a sister and brother who were descendants of the Seaman family, had lived there, and were in nursing homes.
Pritts met with them to inquire if Mamaroneck could reclaim the historic building. "They said they'd be happy to give it to the town if it could be moved off the property," she remembers.
With the help of Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck), and with the seed money of $30,000 from a grant that Pritts procured, local residents John Quadrine and Bill Fraser took on the job of moving and overseeing the renovation of the building.
Before the house could be relocated, the walls making it three rooms needed to be removed. For the house to pass under low wires on route, the roof ridge was cut across, with the two sides placed inside for the carefully orchestrated ride to its present location in 1994.
The house was completely renovated with historical accuracy. An old sawmill in Patterson, N.Y., replicated the boards that would have been used for flooring and paneling.
"The work was all done by volunteers," says Pritt. The building is owned by Village of Mamaroneck with the coordination of the Mamaroneck Historical Society.
Taking an 1816 class
For the past five years, various second-grade classes culminate their Colonial studies by visiting in the spring for a two-hour 1816-style class.
"This year, Rye Neck's Daniel Warren and Mamaroneck's Murray Avenue elementary schools came," says Pritt, who dresses in Colonial attire for the classes. "The teacher and children love it. Each child is given chalk and a small slate board to write on. We read from primers of that era."
The class has three parts. Pritt explains that in those days, it was thought that the students should learn to read their bibles, to write their names for deeds, and to do 'sums,' to figure out acreage and amounts of feed. One teacher taught grades one through eight in this one room.
"We're very fortunate," says Pritt, "to have the original schoolhouse with us."
With that, Pritt closes the shutters to the school, and gives one final clang to the bell before locking the door, and turning to the modern-day traffic rushing by on the Boston Post Road.
Katherine Ann Samon is the author of four books, including Ranch House Style, and is on the board of the Larchmont Historical Society. Her column, "Historical Wonders," about important buildings in Larchmont and Mamaroneck, will appear twice a month on Larchmont-Mamaroneck Patch. To learn more about the author, visit her Web site.