The “Old Brick Schoolhouse” on Elm Street (1830) stands on the probable site of the first school in Essex, erected in 1787. Expanded to the north in 1837, this one-story building served as the village schoolhouse until superseded by the large frame schoolhouse of 1867 (still surviving, and restored). Surmounted by a small belfry, the building has the simple dignity given it by good proportions and mellowed brick. It has been sensitively restored for use as a dwelling. (Living Places)
Evolution of the Old Brick Schoolhouse
The first school in the town was kept by Mrs. Erasmus Towner, and later the first male teacher in Essex was Enoch F. Henry, who taught in 1789 (History of Essex, New York).
It is uncertain if part of the current building retains some of the original structure and materials of the first Essex school, or if it began completely anew as a one-room schoolhouse in 1818 on the same site (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 21). A second room was added to accommodate additional students in 1836, effectively doubling the classroom space. The expansion was made because Essex was thriving and its population growing during the booming shipping industry.
The belfry was originally centered on the one-room building’s roof, but when the addition was made it was shifted over to be at the center of the new longer building (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 21).
The brick schoolhouse has simple wooden shutters with hand-crafted 18th century nails and hinges, and it is overall Georgian in character (Essex: The Architectural Heritage. 13-14).
During the first two decades of the 20th century John Bird Burnham’s Adirondack Mountain Creams were manufactured in the Old Brick Schoolhouse. Although Adirondack Mountain Creams were consumed throughout the United States, the popular Adirondack maple syrup derived confections was always manufactured in Essex, and for most part, the Old Brick Schoolhouse was the seat of their national operations.
In the early 1970’s the Old Brick Schoolhouse was renovated into a residential home as one of Essex’s first successful restoration projects (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 84).
Additional Resources for the Old Brick Schoolhouse
This map (with satellite image overlay) will help you locate the Old Brick Schoolhouse and see how its location relates to other historic buildings in the historic district.
References for Old Brick Schoolhouse
“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” Essex Community Heritage Organization, 1986.
“Essex Village Historic District.” Living Places. Ed. Julia Gombach. The Gombach Group, 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. .
Hislop, David C., Jr. Essex on Lake Champlain. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2009. Print. Images of America.
“Historic Essex.” Historic Essex. Essex Community Heritage Organization. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.essexny.org/>.
McNulty, George F., and Margaret Scheinin. Essex; the Architectural Heritage. Burlington, VT: Queen City Printers, 1971. Print.
Smith, H. P. History of Essex County: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Syracuse, N. Y.: D. Mason &, 1885. Print.