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One-room schoolhouse near Townsend aims for national historic register

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Courtesy of Michael Emmons, UD Center for Historic Architecture & Design
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The Taylor's Bridge School near Townsend, Del.

A group from the University of Delaware is nominating a one-room schoolhouse in Townsend for the National Register of Historic Places.

They’re starting Tuesday with a presentation to the New Castle County Historic Review Board.

The Taylor’s Bridge School in Townsend was built in 1925 with funding from P.S. Dupont and the Service Citizens of Delaware.

P.S. Dupont rebuilt segregated schools across Delaware during the early 20th century, which University of Delaware staff say was a period of education reform.

Michael Emmons of UD’s Center for Historic Architecture and Design (CHAD) prepared the nomination. He says the education reformers designed schools like the one in Taylor’s Bridge specifically to facilitate learning.

“By bringing in light from the proper angles, having the requisite amount of light to make sure it’s not straining the children’s eyes, they’re trying to make sure there sufficient air movement, where the bathrooms should be located to prevent smells or contaminated air. So they really were trying to engineer optimal learning environments,” he said.

Taylor’s Bridge was one of the first schools for white students that Dupont rebuilt, after the original Taylor’s Bridge School was destroyed in a storm.

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Credit Michael Emmons, UD Center for Historic Architecture & Design
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The inside of the one-room Taylor's Bridge School

Cate Morrissey, assistant director of CHAD, says it’s rare that the Taylor’s Bridge School has survived nearly unchanged.

“The Dupont schools in general, I’m not sure that they really survived,” she said. “Some of them do get repurposed into other functions.

The Taylor’s Bridge School was decommissioned in 1948. It is now used by the Taylor’s Bridge Community Center.

Morrissey says there are five Dupont schools in Delaware already on the National Register. The Taylor’s Bridge School would be the first that was for white children.

If approved by the County, the school’s National Register of Historic Places nomination will be reviewed at the state level on October 24th, and then at the national level.

 

Emmons says that while preparing the Taylor's Bridge nomination, he found communities of people interested in preserving many of the surviving schools built during this era.

He created a facebook group called "Delaware Schools Historic Preservation Network." It's been live for a little over a month and has gained nearly 200 members. 

Morrissey says she hopes this group can advance efforts to document and preserve the remaining schools. She says there has been no comprehensive survey of "the Dupont schools" across Delaware.

Emmons and Morrissey say they have a meeting with representatives from the Delaware Historical Society planned for later this week to discuss possible next steps on school documentation. 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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