Strange School, Oneida Township, Eaton County, Michigan
Location: withheld since this school is still in use
Strange School (Oneida District No 3) is a pretty brick schoolhouse of yellow brick with red brick accents on a cement foundation in Grand Ledge, Michigan. No bell tower remains, but a chimney in the rear of the school still exists. It was built in 1879 at a cost of $992.54 and is still in use as of 2017. It replaced a frame schoolhouse that had been built in 1855, which replaced a log schoolhouse built in 1838 in the midst of a dense forest with no roadway within a half mile, and which was sold in 1855 for $1.08. The frame schoolhouse was sold for $3.59 and moved off the site when the brick schoolhouse was built. In 1880-81 a woman teacher was paid $104 for the winter term and in 1887 a man teacher was paid $120 for the winter term. In 1891, the school year ran from September to June for the first time. From 1967-1971 there were no students here, therefore no school, but in 1971-2 three students moved into the district and the school reopened for those 3 students.
The entrance to the school faces east. The 3 windows on the south side have been bricked over (an emergency exit has been created in modern times where one of them once was), and the gaps between the original 3 windows on the north side have had windows installed, making 6 windows now on the north side in two groups of 3 windows each. This switch from 3 windows on each side to all windows on one side was part of a Michigan school standard around 1920, and this school apparently conformed to the change. That standard asked for the light to come into the building from the left side of children's desks so the work of right-handed writers would be better lit.
The brickwork on the building is quite ornate. The front windows are topped with an arch of projecting red bricks, with central yellow bricks made to look like a keystone. The front door is similarly decorated with a semicircular arch around it's semicircular transom window. The arches on the 6-window side of the school were removed when the windows were rearranged, but those patches show the original location of the 3 windows on that side. The corners of the building and the front-door's vestibule are edged with red "embroidery" brickwork. The eaves under the roof of the building and the vestibule are decorated with a row of red bricks, then a gap, then a projecting pattern of red bricks made to look like dental molding. This pattern looks at first like a wooden overlay on the building, and the combination of these red patterns makes the building look Dutch to me,
In a place where children have come each day for over 120 years to learn, 20 children from Kindergarten through 5th grade now arrive each day. In the back of the room is a library and across the back there are three Mac computers. Bulletin boards stretch across the left side of the room and the back, and the right side of the room has six large windows.
Much of this information about Strange School came from the excellent Bess Britton One-Room Schoolhouse Collection at the Webster Memorial Library in Decatur, Michigan, to which I give credit and thanks.