Wakefield Heritage Commission members and volunteers pose with East Wakefield School alumni at Reunion Day at the school on Wednesday afternoon, July 18. (Photo by Thomas Beeler) (click for larger version)
July 25, 2018WAKEFIELD — Last Wednesday, July 18, the Wakefield Heritage Commission officially opened the restored East Wakefield Schoolhouse and invited all graduates to an all-class reunion.
The one-room East Wakefield School was built in 1906 and for a time was one of 10 schools in Wakefield. It served the East Wakefield community for 35 years before being closed in 1941 at the beginning of World War II. The growth of the Wakefield after the war led to its reopening in 1953, and it stayed open until 1969. All students now go to the Paul School in Sanbornville village.
The town continued to own the school and property. Most recently it leased the building to a church. The congregation shrank and the town repossessed the property in 2016. Selectmen considered putting the property up for auction last year, but the Heritage Commission persuaded the board to allow it to restore it and reopen it as a school museum, as long as its repair and maintenance would not cost taxpayers anything.
As it turned out, there were few issues with the building. According to Rick Poore, who is an expert on old buildings and organized the work, "The building was in good shape."
Last year, the exterior was painted and the grounds cleared. This year the interior was painted, some plumbing replaced and setup of exhibits has begun. The Heritage Commission is still looking for a teachers desk, a school globe, more student desks and any other school-related items that residents may have. The commission would also like to record memories of students. According to a handout provided to visitors, "Future plans include expanded exhibits, more photographs of the school, classes and students, additional roll up maps, air conditioning, a new flag pole, window shades, buff the floor, replace the sink and"– last but not least –"establish a Friends of the East Wakefield School group."
Last Wednesday's event marked the reopening of the restored building and an opportunity for those residents who went to school there the gather and share memories. The oldest alumna present, from the first period the school was open, was Dorothy Wentworth. Lists of students and the years they attended were made available, as well as two notebooks with photos in them. Alumni were asked to correct any errors in the list, identify the photos and the people in them, and offer comments on the school, the teachers and what a school day was like.
If you would like to donate items, help financially, become a docent or a "friend," please contact the Heritage Commission at 2 High St. in Sanbornville, call either Adele Schweizer at 522-3012 (or email her at email@example.com) or Pam Wiggin at 387-3698 (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
The school will be open to the public beginning Aug. 1. Hours will be Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m to noon for August and September.