Rebecca R. Noel
As elsewhere, America's school buildings (or their absence) have reflected American goals for pedagogy, citizenship, and schooling generally. Over the years, the prevailing design evolved from one-room schoolhouses to temple-like academies to flat-roofed utilitarian structures that maximize light. This entry summarizes that progress. School architecture in colonial America was very limited. Town schools met in spare rooms of meeting houses, town halls, or shops. Dedicated school buildings appeared after U.S. independence. Built vernacularly, without architectural plans, most school buildings resembled cheap churches or homes. In rural districts—subsections of a town—neighbors would erect a simple schoolhouse, often on land unsuitable for fanning or close to the road, which gable ends fronted. A counter ran around three sides of the interior wall, which students could use as a desk on benches facing outward. Center benches accommodated smaller pupils and higher winter attendance. Rural southern “old field” schools similarly occupied overworked farmland and ...