Longfellow School, Rutland Vermont

Date added: July 09, 2024 Categories:
Front (west) and north elevations (1976)

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The Longfellow School (1890) was the first school erected in Rutland specifically to accommodate a uniform, graded method of instruction. Longfellow introduced new local standards in both interior planning and architectural design that served as a model for several city schools erected through 1907.

Rutland was among the early Vermont school systems to abandon the one-room, ungraded school. In the Civil War period the city expanded rapidly, and as a consequence experienced a substantial rise in its school population. The initial response to this influx of new pupils was the construction of larger school buildings and the assignment of students of similar age levels to separate classrooms. In 1887 the city switched to a formal graded system with a planned, incremental curriculum based on acquired skills. This method of instruction, while considered innovative in Vermont, had been developed initially in large metropolitan school systems beginning in the 1840s. The new curriculum called for four separate levels, Primary (grades 1-4), Intermediate (grades 5-7), Grammar (grades 8-10), and High School (grades 11-13), and a single teacher for each grade. The Longfellow School, built with eight rooms for the primary and intermediate sections, reflected basic changes in interior planning necessitated by this new system.

Longfellow represented advanced concepts in school design as well as curriculum development. At the time of its construction, new standards in school architecture were being formulated by both architects and educators. Several studies of proper classroom lighting, ventilation, and size published in this period recommended the use of high ceilings, large, closely spaced windows, and the installation of indoor plumbing, central heating, and mechanical ventilating systems, all of which were incorporated in the design for Longfellow School.

The school's rectangular massing, center entrance, high basement, and plan are typical of a building type that was developed as a specific response to these new demands for increased efficiency in schoolhouse design. Its basic interior layout consisted of classrooms arranged along the perimeter of a large, central stair hall, a scheme that allowed for a wide staircase with spacious corridor area and the maximum number of windows for each room. In the Longfellow School, one-bay-deep pavilions provided additional classroom lighting and ventilation. The basement level, raised a half-story above ground to permit better illumination of the interior, housed indoor toilet facilities, the central heating plant, and space for an indoor playroom.

The building was constructed in an era when the appearance of its schools was considered an index of a community's sophistication and a matter of pride to local officials. The excellence of Longfellow School's exterior design, and the impression of permanence and solidity it conveys, are reflective of this attitude. In this design elements from the three late 19th-century architectural styles are skillfully applied to a large, rectangular block constructed of machine-pressed brick and trimmed with dressed local marble. Above is a massive slate-covered hipped roof with wood-paneled gables. All original materials and exterior detailing, including an octagonal belfry, have remained substantially unchanged since the school was built.

Building Description

The Longfellow School is prominently located on a corner lot in a mixed residential and commercial section of Rutland City. Except for the Trinity Episcopal Church building directly opposite, it is the only remaining outstanding nineteenth-century structure within the immediate area.

Stylistically, the Longfellow School incorporates details from three architectural periods: the Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, and the Colonial Revival. The overall form of the 2½-story, machine-pressed brick building, a rectilinear mass 70' x 50' with broad hipped roof and massive chimneys, is suggestive of the Early Colonial Revival style. The exterior detailing, which is unaltered with the exception of minor changes to the wood paneled front entrance, includes the use of local rock-faced and hammer-dressed grey marble.

The symmetrical Church Street (west) facade rests on a raised basement accented with marble quoins, water table and lintel course. The Richardsonian arch with archivolt molding, recessed entrance with Colonial Revival wood trim and corbeled, four-bay projection above are flanked by recessed windows of four bays separated vertically by brick piers and horizontally by spandrel panels. All windows have six-over-six sash, though presently most are boarded over the sash. Above the wooden cornice with consoles is a prominent, steeply pitched, slate-shingled hipped roof with a deck. Two massive brick interior chimneys rise through the north and south slopes of the roof. Ornamented with applied Queen Anne panels and palmette motifs, the dominant center gable with four six-over-six sash windows, is surmounted by an octagonal, wood belfry. Two smaller hipped dormers with paired windows, flank the center gable. Both the gable and dormers are faced with slate shingles.

On the north and south elevations two matching, projecting two-story pavilions, four bays wide and one bay deep, have similarly decorated wooden gables. At the rear is a deeper two-story pavilion. Single hipped dormers on the north and south elevations and two at the rear are identical to those on the front elevation.

Longfellow School, Rutland Vermont Front (west) and north elevations (1976)
Front (west) and north elevations (1976)

Longfellow School, Rutland Vermont Front (west) elevation (1976)
Front (west) elevation (1976)