If you’re looking for a light-hearted non-fiction book, this is a great choice. Mary Keithan started by taking a picture of an old schoolhouse near her home with her 8 by 10 view camera in 1990. That was the beginning of a quest to make a collection of photographs of Michigan’s one-room schoolhouses. There had been about 7,000 of them during World War One. Mary spent the next nine years driving down rural roads in search of abandoned schoolhouses and photographing hundreds of them. In this book she shares the pictures and descriptions of her favorites.
Many of them had a similar style and size, especially ones dating from 1913 forward, when Michigan listed regulations for its rural school buildings. But schools still managed to show individual character. The Lone Pine School in Crawford County (1907), made of logs, looked like it came straight out of a pioneer book. The Todd Town School was built of field stones that were hand-cut into blocks. The Peachbelt School in Allegan County, made by the Dutch, was decorated with embroidery brickwork. The Finnish Salo School in Houghton County of the Upper Peninsula had patterned asphalt shingles on its sides. The Sessions School in Ionia County (1847) was made of cobblestone. One elegant-looking school was the Dana School in Charlevoix County; it is now a historical landmark.
Some of the schoolhouses are in a state of disuse and decay. Others have been converted into homes or community centers. Yet others are now historic sites. Some have been made into old-style schoolhouses that modern classes can spend a day in. This book is an excellent tribute to the early days of education in Michigan.