Adirondack Exhibit Center

4195 State Highway 3

Star Lake, New York 13690

Star Lake Schoolhouse History

The old school in Star Lake has a long and interesting history. Originally built in 1892, the schoolhouse replaced the original Star Lake School of 1878. The original building was said to be about 10 by 12 feet, resembled a small shed, and soon became unusable. The replacement schoolhouse was built in its present location and was added onto in 1900. It served as a K through 8th grade for a number of years before teaching additional classes at the upper grades.

Old Schoolhouse 1892 Old Schoolhouse 1900

The picture on the left is of the "new" 1892 schoolhouse. The one on the right is the schoolhouse with the 1900 additions that were made. Click a picture to see a larger view; click "back" to return.

After Clifton-Fine Central School was built in 1952, the old school provided offices for the town officials. It was utilized for court functions, provided space for an information center, was used in the summers as a youth recreational center, and was used as a food pantry for welfare purposes.

In July of 2006, the Town of Fine no longer used the building and sought help from the community to come up with a new purpose for the building. See SOS History to continue with the story of the old schoolhouse as it became resurrected by the SOS to its present restored state.

Recollections of Past Students and Teachers

On June 26, 2011, at the Exhibit Center, the SOS held a celebration to recognize former students and teachers of the old Star Lake school. At the left is a list of former alumni and teachers of the Star Lake Schoolhouse. Please let us know of any additions or corrections, using the Contact page.

Stories and recollections of past experiences follow, written by former students, teachers, and others who have had the opportunity of seeing the importance and value of this structure.

Cecelia Henri

Gerald Marshall

Cecelia sent a letter from Florida telling us of her recollections of the old school. "When I started school there in 1936, we used only the right side of the building for K-8th and the other room for plays and shows that we put on. Mr. Gerard Marshall was my teacher until the 3rd grade, when Alice Blake took over and the play room became a classroom for the upper class taught by Mr. Marshall."

Paul VerSteig

Paul VerSteig writes: "My most memorable experience with the Star Lake school house was with Mr. Gerald Marshall, who was our Boy Scout Master. We used the school as our meeting headquarters. I learned many valuable lessons in life there. The school was always a warm and enjoyable place to be. We always felt safe and confortable there, probably because Mr. Marshall insisted that it be that way. I can remember sitting at the desks and using the chair in front of us to learn how to tie knots on, and we did them over and over to make sure we could almost tie them in our sleep.

Another memory was many years later when I was the summer recreation director during my college years. We used the school to meet in and teach arts and crafts. The town provided me with a school bus and I went to all the surrounding towns to pick up kids from Fine to Cranberry Lake and brought them to the Star Lake school. At that time, (1957-1959) there was a beautiful wrought iron fence with stone pillars surrounding the school playground, and inside the fence area, there were large maple trees to help shade the playground. That has changed, and I'm sorry to see it go; but now we must do something to preserve the old school or it too will be lost. Star Lake needs to keep a part of our past for everyone to use and enjoy. Remembering where we came from is important to me and I'm sure everyone who grew up with the old school house will attest to that."


Rogene Henrie

Rogene Henrie writes: I can't believe that some people in our area of Star Lake could see the only Landmark we have left in the hamlet, be removed. All other landmarks like the old horse barn are gone, the old Star Lake Inn on the lake is gone, the Presbyterian Church is re-designed, the old fire station was destroyed by fire, Tears Store was torn down, Ed Cleaver Grocery Store is gone, the Old Waldorf known as Harney Hotel and also known as the Bluebird Inn was destroyed by fire, and the Foley Hotel is also gone. The only two old buildings left in Star Lake are the old Lakeview Hotel and the old Post Office building that now houses apartments. 

I started teaching Kindergarten through the third grade in l943. Mr Marshall was principal and taught the 7th and 8th grades. Nettie Gale had the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades in a room in the back of the fire station. I have many pleasant memories in and of that old school house and I believe any senior citizen in his or her early sixties and early seventies should also have pleasant memories. Please try to keep this building on the same property in tip-top shape. It should be is the best looking building in Star Lake.

Burton Benson

Burton Benson wrote to us as well. "I was born and brought up in Star Lake. I went to the old school house in 1921; our teacher was Miss Gladys Daniels from Oswegatchie. That old school holds a precious spot in my heart. I am so happy that you wonderful people are going to save it."

Kathy Benson Elliott stated, "As children, we visited my Aunt Pearl Benson Richter at her cottage on the lake, and we all have a soft spot in our hearts for the area. My sister and I want to honor my dad for his 89th birthday by donating to the Save Our School House project. My dad thinks about it every day, as he has a print of Rosa Bonheur's "The Horse Fair" hanging over his fireplace at home in Rome that he remembers looking at as a student at the Star Lake school house. He has a rich storehouse of memories, should you desire such informtion.

Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons wrote  "Sorry to take so long to get you a copy of this photo you asked for. It was taken when Mom (Coretha Grant Wendt) was 18, after she moved to Star Lake and set up her beauty shop at 17.

Hope this helps you and the SOS group.

With warm regards to you and Margie, Gail



Jack Buckingham

I spent summers at the camp owned by my grandmother, Rebecca McCauley, in Post Office Bay, where the Russos now reside. Normally, I returned to school in Utica in the fall. In 1935, however, my parents subletted our home for the summer to friends involved in consolidating the accounting department of the New York Central Railroad. That project went on longer than anticipated and so my parents and I stayed in Star Lake for a couple months beyond summer. I was sent to Star Lake School at the age of eight, 80 years ago.

I remember being scared to death. The kids in my class were twice my size since their academic progress was often interrupted by having to work on the family farms. I also remember thinking that the teacher, Mr. Marshall, was a bit of a sissy. That opinion quickly changed one day when the boy sitting in front of me dipped the braid of the girl sitting in front of him into his inkwell. When Mr. Marshall called on us, we all stood and ink ran down the back of her dress. It was a brand new flour sack dress, common in the Depression, which she clearly treasured. The girl began to cry and a buzz went through the class. Mr. Marshall walked down to see what the commotion was about. He asked no questions. He immediately knocked the culprit to the floor and threw him out of the class.

I also remember that there was a barn where the golf course is now with horse drawn carriages parked around it. At recess one day, someone thought it would be fun to jump on a carriage and roll down the hill. He thought he could steer by tipping the horse yoke up onto his shoulders. That did not work. The carriage tipped over and everyone involved scattered in all directions.

Finally, I remember that Mr. Marshall asked us to have our parents save all food containers–cereal boxes, tin cans, and so on–from which he created a grocery store. We took turns being the storekeeper. Prices were attached to the containers and we used the cardboard on the back of pads to make money. Through the sale of items, we practiced our addition and subtraction. Then Mr. Marshall introduced fractions, by marking items “X packages for Y cents,” for example. Eventually, he had us calculate taxes as a percentage of the sale. It was an ingenious and very practical way to teach math! Jack Buckingham, Locust Grove, VA and summer visitor to his sons’ camp at 19 Pine Street, Star Lake.

David Hunkins

David Hunkins wrote a great deal about his early recollections of the Star Lake elementary school in the 1940's.  My first memories are having my sister Becky, who is a couple of years older being instructed by Mom (Alice Hunkins) to keep watch of me as we were to walk to the school each day. I remember my lunch pail was round and was made of chrome like metal and it was very shiny. It had a bale wire handle and I think it was a pail that something we had for food came in and Mom just used them for our lunches. It kinda resembled a standard paint can in design.

Anyway, going to school those first days, there were no buses for those that went to the Star Lake School as far as I know. When you reached the 6th grade, you were bussed to Newton Falls. At some point (I think it was going into 9th grade) students were bussed to Oswegatchie to attend High School. I suppose these class arrangements may have changed over different periods but from the mid ‘40’s until we went into the new Clifton-Fine Central School there in Star Lake, this is the way it was for schooling.

Star Lake Elementary Building Features

There was a large stone based fence on the street side with Stone piers for entrances to each entrance. The actual fence was black iron and heavy duty with a good height to it…..with the pointy tops….pretty standard for those years I would say. I believe some of the older pictures show it.

The Bath Rooms were common to both Class Rooms and each class took turns standing in line to go to the bathroom. Each Class Room had a door toward the back center that had steps down to the bathroom level and there was a space outside the bathrooms to stand in line. Except for the bath room level…there was no common part for the two Classrooms. You really did not sense that there was another room just through the wall.

There were two Class Rooms with separate entrances and playgrounds. The Class Room to the South was for grades up to 2nd grade. Some years there was a kindergarten and other years it was just 1st and 2nd. The outside playground was on the south side for these kids. The Black Board was on the common wall between the Class Rooms that presently is a missing wall and the seating for the students faced the Black Board in Rows. The Teacher had a desk in the left front NW corner. I believe that there were coat posts near the entrance door.

The North Class Room was a bit larger I think with the Black Board on the East Wall toward the back mountain opposite the street. The Seating was lined up with 3rd grade to the south end…then 4th and then 5th on the north end. The teacher’s desk was in the center of the East wall with the Black Board behind it.

Both of these Rooms had a Black Board that went along pretty much the entire Wall. With that size Black Board…the teacher could leave material up there for each class throughout the day between lessons. All the information we got from the teacher was spoken or on the Black Board…although we did have books to take home and study from in class.

The student desks types I think varied between the rooms. I know that the higher grade room had the desks screwed to the floor in rows. I am not sure of the desks in the lower grade room….they may have been movable.

The playground to the North was much larger for the bigger kids and we would play softball etc. during the recess times etc. That playground was about the size of land from the present School to the present Fire Hall. I seem to remember a swing set on the east side of the playground.

I do not remember how the place was heated…did not remember ever going to the Basement below or ever using the Emergency Door that is presently off the Bath Room lobby area there. The exterior shape etc. appears to be the same as when I went to school there.

Recollection of a Typical School Day

I do not remember that much on this. I remember being read to from a novel at the beginning of the day and after Lunch Break. The teacher would read with great skill through the action parts, sad parts, joyful parts, etc. with such enthusiasm that one could really be part of the story. We never wanted to miss a chapter if we missed school and it was something to look forward to a couple of times every day. The books were usually about some history portion of our region, so it was story-like; but also a bit of an education.

I remember having the teacher give us our lesson and then I would usually listen to the other lessons for the other grades as well. I think this really gave me a chance to hear things more than once--lessons ahead of me and lessons past--a great teaching pattern. The way the rooms were organized, you could pretty much hear and see what others were getting for information from the Teacher and the black board entries. You also had a thought about the other kids in the room as you saw them under lots of situations. I believe we had recess time in the morning and afternoon for about a one half hour each time, which of course was a special time.

My first teacher was Miss Corcoran, who would later be Mrs. Rogene Henri. She was so beautiful wearing wool plaid skirts and neat sweaters in the winter. I thought she was from a far off place beyond my imagination. It turns out she was from Colton, NY and at that time, Colton was truly an unknown place to me. She was not at the school for my second grade, so I do not know where she went. I know that she married Charlie Henri and was on our Clifton-Fine School teacher staff until she retired some years ago. I have always kept in contact with Rogene and she would drop me a clipping out of the paper over the years as I moved away, a very special friendship connecting in a time that we were both starting up something.

Mrs. Amo was my teacher for the 3rd, 4th and part of 5th grade as we moved to the new school in mid-year. Mrs. Amo was an excellent teacher, always paying attention to teaching and I remember her excellent reading skills when she read to us twice a day, and sometimes other times on special occasions. She also stayed on the Clifton-Fine Central Teaching staff until retirement some time ago. Imagine teaching three grades for all of the subjects and these teachers did not have any aids, etc. The only adult in these rooms was the lone teacher.

We moved out of the Star Lake Elementary I believe in 1952, as the new Clifton-Fine Central was complete. We were picked up by a school bus not far from our home on Young’s Road to go to Clifton-Fine.

In conclusion, it gives me great joy to tell someone about these memories. I hope it is something that you can relate from your early years in school. I probably will remember other things later on, but for now, this was a special time to share with you and thank you for asking for my memories of the Star Lake Elementary School.