Summer scoop

Averyville sixth-grader reports on collapsing 19th century schoolhouse

Rose Wenzler, 11, poses with the latest issue of the Averyville Press on Tuesday, Aug. 10. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The term “breaking news” had a new meaning in this week’s issue of the Averyville Press, which is written and distributed by 11-year-old Rose Wenzler. Last week, the front of a nearby 19th century schoolhouse fell down.

“Our neighbor, Janet Smith, she was driving by (on Friday, Aug. 6),” Wenzler said Tuesday, Aug. 10. “And she’s always passing the schoolhouse at least twice a day. And stopped at our house and she said, ‘You should go over to the schoolhouse. I’m not telling you any more. But you should do an article on it.'”

When Wenzler and members of her family arrived a short while later at the old Averyville School, less than a mile from their home, they found that the front of the building was on the ground in a heap next to a wild apple tree. This was the cover story for the Aug. 10 issue of the weekly Averyville Press, a six-page, 8.5×11-inch handwritten newspaper.

The story began with the headline, “‘Breaking’ News!” Next to it, she drew a schoolhouse and sad face.

“On or around Friday, Aug. 6, the front of the Averyville school house collapsed! We wrote about the school not long ago,” Wenzler wrote. “Last week we noticed it was looking extra saggy. We thought, ‘It’s going to fall down this winter.’ Despite all the nice summer weather it still fell down. The front, which collapsed, appears to be the old kitchen from when it was a camp. It is spooky. Plates on the table, dishes in the cabinet and even oven mitts by the stove. It’s like the family was coming right back and just up and left.”

The front of the Averyville School on Averyville Road in Lake Placid fell down around Friday, Aug. 6. This is private property but can be seen from the road. It dates to 1888. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

Wenzler included a brief history of the schoolhouse and the one it replaced, getting her information from the 2007 book, “The Plains of Abraham: A History of North Elba and Lake Placid,” collected writings of former town and village Historian Mary MacKenzie.

“It must have been wild being in one class with your brothers, sisters and cousins!” Wenzler wrote. “The building still has the school bell tower but looks very shabby. Be respectful and safe. This is private property.”

Wenzler will be heading to the Lake Placid Middle School in September as a sixth-grade student. She’s not sure how many issues of the Averyville Press she’ll be able to produce during the school year. She began the publication in April.

School history

When Lake Placid News reporter Michael Hirsch wrote about local schoolhouses for the April 14, 1983 issue, he spoke with MacKenzie about the history of the Averyville School.

The Averyville Press is delivered by its creator, Rose Wenzler, to neighborhood subscribers on Tuesdays, and distributed for free through a newspaper tube at the Gutmann family’s roadside vegetable stand on Averyville Road. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

The first Averyville School was built sometime in the first half of the 19th century, after Simeon Avery settled here in 1819, he reported. In 1888, Frank Alford bought the school and moved it to his farm to be used as a shop.

The same year, the yellow school now standing was built and was used until 1932.

Students on the May 1932 honor roll from the Averyville School were Ethel Alford, Eva Alford, Bertha Hathaway and Mary Sears, according to the LPN.

The May 20, 1932 issue of the LPN reported that the taxpayers of the Averyville school district had voted to discontinue the school there with the ending of the school term that June.

“Pupils of the six grades which had been taught there will attend the central school in Lake Placid,” the story read. “The Averyville pupils will be taken from their homes to the Lake Placid school in busses.”

The Averyville Press is delivered by its creator, Rose Wenzler, to neighborhood subscribers on Tuesdays, and distributed for free through a newspaper tube at the Gutmann family’s roadside vegetable stand on Averyville Road. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

The vote came a couple of weeks after Lake Placid school officials named Winifred Ryan as the returning teacher at the Averyville School (April 15, 1932, LPN). A 1926 graduate of the Lake Placid High School, Ryan earned a teaching degree at the Potsdam Normal School and began teaching at the Averyville School in 1930. When the school closed, she continued teaching in the Lake Placid Central School District until her retirement in the late 1960s.

The second Averyville School — the one there now — was sold at auction in 1936 to Lester E. Otis (April 30, 2004, LPN).

“He (Otis) has partitioned it off into rooms and made an attractive cottage which is used by the family on occasion,” read a story in the April 21, 1939 issue of the News. “The schoolhouse property is cultivated as a vegetable garden.”

In 2001, MacKenzie wrote that the schoolhouse had been a part of the Malone family summer residence property, calling the building “very shabby” at the time.

“An effort should be made at some level to restore this historic little building,” MacKenzie wrote. “There have been no additions made to it, and the bell tower readily identifies it as an old rural schoolhouse.”

After the front fell off the building on Aug. 6, Wenzler’s mother, Annie, placed a note about the incident in the Malones’ mailbox.

The front door is now boarded up, and boards are placed over the debris on the ground.