District proposes sale of Cobblestone Schoolhouse

A schoolhouse made out of cobblestone.
The Cobblestone Schoolhouse located in Guilderland Center.

On Tuesday, May 21, voters in the Guilderland Central School District will decide if a piece of local history – the Cobblestone Schoolhouse – will remain in community hands by selling the property to the Town of Guilderland for $10,000. Since the building is not being sold at market value, a vote is required.

Built in 1860, the one-room cobblestone schoolhouse is constructed on land originally deeded to the community by Stephen Van Rensselaer with a provision it be used solely for educational purposes, according to the Town of Guilderland. Much of the building’s original architecture remains intact today because of the school district’s diligent care efforts, including the bell that hangs in the cupola and the property’s original outhouse.

The Cobblestone Schoolhouse is a “remarkable place with so much history,” notes Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marie Wiles, but goes on to explain that “historical preservation” or “museum curation” aren’t part of the district’s business.

Incorporating the capital needed to maintain the building into the district’s yearly budget isn’t feasible – those funds are allocated towards educating and supporting students. At the same time, she says the district would “hate to see it fall into disrepair,” citing the building’s need for a new roof and windows.

“We are technically transferring the property to the town with a nominal cost,” Dr. Wiles explained. The sale will help the district pay for legal fees that were spent on clearing the property’s title and some improvements to the historic structure.

The district’s board of education unanimously passed a resolution on Feb. 15, 2022, stating the schoolhouse “is declared to be of no further use or value to the District and in fact, continued ownership of Property is fiscally detrimental to the District.” This effectively gave GCSD authority to list the property for sale or auction, which the district was prepared to do in early December 2023 after signing a contract with Auctions International. The auction was put on hold after Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy – who represents GCSD – expressed fervent interest in keeping the local landmark in the public domain.

Discussions soon followed, with Guilderland’s town supervisor Peter Barber indicating that the town was very interested in acquiring the property for community use. In addition, Assemblywoman Fahy was able to secure grant funds to make necessary renovations to the historic structure. The GCSD Board of Education also came to an agreement to sell the property to the town below market value.

While no official plans have been made yet due to the proposition vote, Barber has said he hopes to revitalize the building and replicate its appearance from the 1900s. He has reached out to GCSD about obtaining the schoolhouse’s original desks and chairs, as well as the “big pot-belly stove,” to recreate an early 20th century classroom. If acquired by the town, the schoolhouse will also provide Guilderland Center residents the option to walk to Keenholts Park, as opposed to driving, which is currently the only way for community members to access the park.

Residents can vote on the Cobblestone Schoolhouse proposition on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, which is also the school district’s annual budget vote. For more information on the budget vote and polling locations, click here.

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