The Old Stone School
Corner of Broadway and Buchtel Avenue
History of Schoolhouse No. 2 (The Old Stone School)
The first schoolhouse built in Akron was Schoolhouse No. 2, also referred to as the schoolhouse of Portage Township School District No. 2. It was erected sometime in the early 1830s.
Akron at the time was a tiny village in Portage County's Portage Township. There was already a school in operation in the Township located in the nearby village of Middlebury, known as Schoolhouse No.1. (The dates and location for this school is unknown.) Much later Akron annexed Middlebury, but Portage Township Schoolhouse No. 2 is still considered Akron's first school.
Samuel Lane, described the original Schoolhouse No. 2 as "a small frame school house standing on the northeast corner of Middlebury street [now Buchtel Ave.] and Broadway, afterwards replaced by a one story stone building, which is still standing." Lane made a drawing from memory of the school and says it dated to 1834. The schoolhouse may well be a few years older, as there exist school reports for Portage Township in 1833 showing the existence of school districts No. 1 and No. 4 which suggests their was also a schoolhouse No.2 and No.3 that year and possibly the previous year too.
The original deed for the Schoolhouse No. 2 property was lost by its school directors and a new deed was written in 1837 to give clear title and restate the property was given as a gift from General Simon Perkins to the school directors. In the text of the deed General Perkins wrote, "Said Simon Perkins did a long time Since give a writing to the citizens of Akron one or more of them agreeing to give the land above described for a cite for a School house for the benefit of the citizens generally of the South Town plat of Akron, and whereas said writing is not given up, nor is it known where it is but is supposed to be forever lost."
According to the Ohio school laws in use during the 1830s (known as the “district school” system) a single schoolhouse represented a school district having its own school directors (three elected school board members,) upwards of two appointed school officers and a school tax collector.
The Ohio School Law in effect during the 1820s to 1853s restricted to $200 the maximum amount of money that could be raised through taxation to build a schoolhouse. This miserly amount was only enough to fund a log house shack, known as a “shantee.” This makes the clapboard schoolhouse depicted by Lane, a rather remarkable schoolhouse because using sawn lumber would definitely be a budget buster; meaning someone or some group of citizens donated private funds to help build Akron's first schoolhouse in the early 1930s.
During this time period the State of Ohio provided school directors with a portion of the State School fund (based upon the number of students enrolled,) but his amount didn't cover even half the school teacher's pay. As a result parents had to pay tuition of upwards of $2 per child for the 10 to 12 weeks school was in session during the winter. Parents were also responsible to provide firewood to keep the school heated, and they had to help feed and house the school teacher during the winter months when school was taught. The reason school was taught in the winter was not due the seasonally light farm chore schedule, as so many today believe. The reason school was taught in the winter was due to the lack of paying jobs during this time of the year. This presented an opportunity to hire someone who would take on the task of teaching at a price the school directors were willing to pay, which was virtually nothing. As soon as the weather broke in the spring, teachers stopped teaching and took on a real job. Almost all jobs paid more than teaching.
In the 1830s, a common laborer on the canal was paid 25 cents a day for a 10 hour day. So a $2 tuition fee was equal to 8 days of hard labor, or roughly a thousand dollars today. With tuition so high, only a small percentage of the population could afford to send their child to the common schools.
After the June 1, 1847 local election to adopt the Akron School Law, the ownership and title of Portage Township School District No. 2 (and all other schools) was transferred to the new Akron Board of Education.
Because of the $200 tax cap on building schoolhouses, school directors could only build big, beautiful schoolhouses (or even a relatively small stone school) if they could A.) raise private funds to add to the tax collected, or B.) get a loan. However, the local bank refused to provide the Akron Board of Education with a loan in any amount. The bank's principles held different philosophical views than members of the common school reform movement and denied the loan as a means of trying to stop the taxation of property for the education of children. Because the school board was refused a loan by their native bank, no foreign banks would consider the loan. As a result the town's one room schoolhouses continued in use as primary schools until after the Civil War.
In 1867 the local bank was under new management and the first loans were given to the Akron Board of Education to build schoolhouses. This set off a schoolhouse building booms in Akron. That year, along with other school construction projects, Schoolhouse No. 2, got a make-over – this time in stone.
Unfortunately the new stone school was so small that within a little more than a decade the decision was made to close, decommission and sell Schoolhouse No. 2 to the railroad. Eventually the ownership of the building was transferred to the Summit County Historical Society and they still own it today. In more recent history 3rd grade students in the Akron Public School visited the "Old Stone School" as part of their local history class.
Cohill, Michael C. "History of Schoolhouse No. 2" Unpublished essay, Feb. 2006.