North Stonington schoolhouse allows students to experience history

New London

NORTH STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH)– George Washington, along with his wife Martha or rather the people portraying them, helped ring in the Presidents Day holiday at the recently reopened historic one-room schoolhouse on Main Street in North Stonington.

“You walk through a membrane of time and your whole body relaxes and you become embraced by the simplistic energy in the room,” said Marlisa McLaughlin, who along with her sister Alicia Smith opened the schoolhouse to the public on this holiday.

At a time when a teacher’s first duty of the day was to fill the oil lamps, the schoolhouse served many students starting in the 1800s.

“I thought it was just going to be like playtime or something and then I was like oh wow this is pretty impressive,” said Maddy Raiche of Westerly, RI.

The schoolhouse, built in 1822, was part of the historic grist mill property bought by Smith.

“She looked out the window at the schoolhouse and said I have a feeling that we’re going to revive our grandfather’s literacy movement through the schoolhouse,” said McLaughlin.

She and her sister Alicia soon went to work to do just that. The schoolhouse is part of their plan to start their own educational effort inspired by their grandfather Capt. James Arruda Henry.

“This is the kind of schoolhouse he got kicked out of and couldn’t read from,” said McLaughlin.

Not only did her grandfather Jim Henry teach himself to read when he was in his mid-90s at 98 he wrote a book called “In a Fisherman’s Language.” It was an autobiography of his life without literacy.

He is honored at the schoolhouse named after Marcia Thompson, a local teacher who taught in one these schoolhouses for fifty years.

Gigi Alvarado a student at Dean’s Mill School in Stonington talks about what she likes best about the schoolhouse.

“That you can use the chalkboards,” said Alvarado.

She would like other students to experience this online and on-site.

“Because maybe they don’t know what it’s like in old, old school,” said Alvarado.

The school is available by appointment.

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