Cliff’s Schoolhouse Looks For New Owner

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Somewhere out there, someone is needing to own and curate a little bit of Eastern Shore history.

How about a mint-condition 135-year-old school complete with a pot-bellied stove, lesson assignments on the blackboard and the sounds of children playing “Red Rover” and “Simon Says” echoing down the decades?

Local non-profit Preservation, Inc. hopes to find a new owner for Cliff’s Schoolhouse, Kent County’s only existing one-room school. Preservation Inc. was the driving force behind saving the GAR Charles Sumner Hall.

Built in 1878, the quintessential “little red school house” on Quaker Neck Landing near Pomona was one of several small schoolhouses serving children of local farming and watermen through seven grades. In its day, the schoolhouse would rely on neighbors for water, the older children trekking buckets to and from local houses

In its day, the schoolhouse would rely on neighbors for water and emergency care if a student fell ill and twice a year the site for community social events.

Some years before her death in 2003, Thelma Vansant reminisced about her first teaching job at Cliff’s School in 1928 writing “We had few materials furnished. I bought extra crayons, colored paper, and pencils. We often made do or improvised.” Despite the hardships—cold winters, impassable muddy roads—Vansant said “the first big thrill of my first year was to have my six little first grade boys reading by Christmas. The older children joined in helping the younger ones.”

Since its closure in 1939, the gable-roofed, single room structure has been owned, managed, and renovated by several non-profit groups. Currently, Port of Chester Questers, with assistance from the Retired Teachers Association, manage the historical one-room building, opening it weekly to the public, and caretaking the grounds.

Preservation Inc., a driving force behind saving Sumner Hall GAR building from demolition, will make a presentation to the County Commissioners at Tuesday night’s meeting with the hope that the county might consider becoming the schoolhouse’s new proprietor. Terms are negotiable.

“The yearly taxes and maintenance fees run about $2,000 a year,” says Chris Havemeyer, founder of Preservation, Inc.

 

For serious inquiries, call 410-778-1399

 

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Letters to Editor

  1. Chris Kelsch says:

    Is it not feasible to move this treasure to actual school grounds? were kids could SEE it everyday?…or to a nice spot in wilmer park??….I understand location is important, but if anything could be done to move it close to were the public could get to it easy, maybe THAT would drum up activity?…just an idea?

  2. Marge Fallaw says:

    The old schoolhouse at Cliffs (or Cliffs City, as some have dubbed it) is neither at or near Pomona (named Bakerville in the l877 atlas of Kent Co.) nor Quaker Neck Landing. It is near the southwest end of Quaker Neck Rd. A “School No. 1” (built for white children only, as was Cliffs School) was shown on both the 1877 map and the 1860 Martenet map of Kent Co., considerably up Quaker Neck Rd. (NE, toward Chestertown), at the northern end of Johnsontown Rd., adjacent to the onetime Friends (Quaker) Meeting House and burial ground. When I was doing field work in the area during the early 1980s School No. 1 was being used as a dwelling; I don’t know whether it still survives. (The numbering system was for schools only within what was then the county’s 4th District, Quaker Neck now being in the 7th). According to the atlas, “School No. 2” was on Quaker Neck Rd. closer to Chestertown, near Lovers Lane (and quite close to Wilkins Lane). After the atlas was published, I believe there was a school (for white children) built at Pomona, for which I vaguely recall only concrete steps leading up from the road to it survived. A school in/near Pomona for “colored” children was also built later facing QN Rd. near the upper end of Church Lane; by the 1980s it had been converted to a dwelling.

    I should also note that Cliffs School is not the only surviving one-room schoolhouse in Kent Co. that hasn’t been converted to a dwelling or substantially altered. The schoolhouse built for the black children of Worton Point, near St. George’s United Methodist Church, survives. After it was no longer used as a school, it served as the hall for the church until the present church building was constructed (after a fire destroyed the previous one, I think). For some years it has been stabilized and used as a museum.

    Chris Havemeyer, Preservation Inc., the Retired Teachers Association and the Questers chapter deserve a great deal of credit for recognizing the value of saving Cliffs School, the process of which began back in the 1980s after it was discovered during area survey work what a jewel and unusual survival it was. I certainly hope that a responsible entity will continue their work.

    • I reside in “Old Edesville Colored School K-500” and love discovering items in the attic pertaining to its history- a school, church social hall, and now residence. Moved from its original location in 1906, it still boasts original hardwood floors and original crown moulding (preserved in the attic by the “newly” installed ceiling). I even have a map of the 5th district, Published by Lake, Griffing and Stevenson in 1877, that shows the school in its original location on Shipyard Lane.

      Kent County is full of undiscovered history!

  3. Joyce Carnley says:

    Hoping this beautiful little historical school house will find owners that will realize how much more valuable it is than $2000 a year. I lived in Quakerneck when a child and passed this place many times. Please save our history.

  4. Darby Hewes says:

    Whoever buys the schoolhouse should purchase the adjacent historic church as well. The combination would make a destination, which the school alone does not have.

  5. Debra Hanover says:

    The school house could be a lovely donation to the town of Chestertown, Maryland.

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