Pitcher Inn Passport – School Room
We love giving tours of The Pitcher Inn. One of our favorite things to do – when availability permits – is giving tours of our fabulous guest rooms. Often, folks will form a deep connection with a specific room and plan their vacation around the availability of their home away from home. We adore this sense of ownership that our friends develop. It’s our dream to give the opportunity to all our followers, friends, and family. We’re starting this series to share the fascinating history and design of The Pitcher Inn. Follow along and find out all the details of your future favorite room.
THE SCHOOL ROOM
Designers: Dave Sellers and Duncan Syme
Contractors: Harold Austin Builders & Halsey Woodworking
At long last, you can go to sleep in class without guilt. In fact, our school room is designed to encourage just that by recharging your memory cells to those times when you were probably doing all you could to stay awake during class. Utterly impossible not to doze, sitting in those hard chairs while the sun was shining outside and the fishing poles calling for help.
This room celebrates the one-room schoolhouse, the foundation of Vermont’s education system for 200+ years. Warren had five of them, three of which are still standing on their original locations. The simple designs with high ceilings, walls of windows and the big bell on top have become signatures for Vermont. Granville, VT, which is located 20 minutes south of Warren, had one single-room schoolhouse (kindergarten to eighth grade) left in full operation until 2008. Sadly, this schoolhouse had to close its doors. In addition, the Shelburne Museum has one that has been fully restored and equipped on exhibit.
Here we have created an illusion of time and space in the design of the room by curving the interior wall, continuing the windows across it, and leaving a space between the interior wall and the new curved one. This simple move created space for an exhibit case, George Washington’s portrait and two diorama paintings. Sonja Gropman, an artist living in New York and Warren, executed both of these. She selected a style of primitive painting from records of 18th and 19th century children’s art. The winter and summer scenes are not unlike that seen out the window of the “Plunkton School” in 1850. By the way, the old Plunkton School is still standing at the four corners of the Plunkton and Fuller Hill Roads in East Warren.
Behind the copy of Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington (each schoolroom had one and the original can be viewed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts) you will find the TV. Opposite the wall of windows is the wall of blackboards, complete with the treble, bass clef, and lines so you can write your own music. (We haven’t been able to find the multichalk holder that teachers would use to set the lines for music scores, if you find one let us know.) These 3/8th inch thick slate blackboards came from salvaged Vermont schoolrooms. On the desk are several small individual slate boards that were used before paper was cheap.
The trim around the room has been copied from an authentic storage closet we located in Burlington, VT and installed at the edge of the blackboards. Above the trim is the alphabet and numbers copied from the “Palmer Method of Hand Writing”. An original copy is in the display window. Take it out and try your hand on the blackboard. Above the old school master’s desk with the glass globe and book from the Replogle Company in Evanston, Illinois are the pull-down study maps we all learned to love – look closely at Cuba.
Opposite the map is a mural in perspective, which extends the room into a fantasy library. The oak side pillars came from the private library of a torn down mansion near Charlotte, VT. Sarah-Lee Woodard and Edgar Stewart have created a caricature of Raphael’s most famous painting of the 1600s: “School of Athens” making it into the school library – look in the middle shelf for an art book that has a copy of Raphael’s original with Plato and Aristotle in the middle. Can you find Pinocchio, Geppetto, Tinkerbell, Mother Goose, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, Ratty and Mole, the Cheshire Cat and Alice? You will find them among steam trains or in King Arthur’s castle that looms in the distance. You will discover next to the mural, on the book shelf, that there is a copy of Edgar Stewart’s illustrated children’s book, and you have no doubt seen some of Sarah-Lee’s work when she led much of Ben & Jerry’s graphics into production.
The bedside tables are real Vermont school desks and the Abe Lincoln in the bathroom is the same vintage one you might have found in the hallways of the old schools. Look at the bathroom counter, it used to be a laboratory top in the old science lab at Norwich University. We are still looking for more old posters for our bulletin board, a flag stand (we have a 48-star flag) and lots of old school books. We found an early school clock and the same simple ceiling lights they still use in many schools. Note that the ceiling has intentional cracks and areas of repainting to simulate the old ceiling one would stare at during study time. There was magic in those old rooms as there must have been magic coming from the school teacher who held order in a room with kids of all ages while trying to inspire and feed the necessary learnin’ to the leaders of the future.
The one-room schools wouldn’t work without skilled, fearless and charismatic teachers who could command attention and deliver the three “R’s” and more. They were more often than not career teachers holding down the fort for 20-40 years. They became an institution in local life. Our list of Warren one-room teachers is becoming complete and will be memorialized by a plaque in the hall.
This room was a joy to design and see built. All the artists, craftsmen and mechanics contributed ideas and energy. Steve James, one of Hoover’s crew, masterminded installation of the casework. Rice Lumber milled out the ridiculous paneling shapes, Park Hasley built the cabinets, Master’s Electric figured out how to wire-up the place and Duncan Syme laid out the bathroom tiles for Keith to work them in.
-Maggie Smith, Owner, 1997
It’s fitting that I write this in springtime, as it’s my favorite time of year for the School Room. Ironically, it’s the time when children begin gazing through the windows of the classroom, dreaming of summer, that I most often find myself enjoying our own little classroom. Appropriately, it’s because of the beautiful view off of its private, little back porch, overlooking our garden.
Soon after buds begin bursting, the mammoth crab apple tree directly below School begins to blossom. And it is a sight. Although lovely when winter gives the beholder a clear eye to the Stable, garden, and Freeman Brook beyond, nothing compares to its vernal vision. A wall of white flowers screens the porch from view, each breeze bringing showers of petals down.
A truly magical time to enjoy the provided cafe table and chairs. Best with a beverage (be it coffee, tea, or champagne) and a good book or sketchpad, I can’t think of a better opportunity to start sweeping away the winter cobwebs from the mind.
Enough waxing poetic. Let’s head back inside:
One afternoon I was bringing a couple up to the School Room and while showing them about the cozy room, I realized that we’d somehow overlooked cleaning the blackboard after the previous guest had stayed.
Using the provided chalk, the last occupants had emblazoned – in beautiful cursive – “Let’s get funky!”
Being fairly new, I was absolutely mortified. Apologizing, I told them I’d have housekeeping come in and remove it immediately. The couple, giggling like – yes – schoolchildren told me to do no such thing. They loved it, and it stayed until they checked out having added their own words and art to the board.
I did let housekeeping know about the oversight, but that was as far as it went. I’m not one to tell tales out of school.
-Mimi Bain, 2019
PS: With Spring’s flowery explosion visible on the horizon, I’ll update this with a few shots of our lovely crab apple tree when the time comes.