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Smithtown, A History: Education and Preservation

The second in a two-part series we discover early schoolhouses in St. James, Nissequogue and Nesconset that are still standing today.

Last week we discovered a few early schoolhouses that are still standing in Smithtown. This week we look at other former school buildings in the township.

Hamlets such as St. James and Nesconset and the Village of Nissequogue once had their own schoolhouses. Eventually these areas became part of the Smithtown School District.

The Nissequogue School is the earliest standing in the St. James area. According to , the structure on the north side of Moriches Road was built in 1808. It’s believed that Peter Jayne and Ebenezer Jayne from The Landing built the structure that was used until 1936.

When the scrap-book was published in 1968, the Smithtown School District gave the school to the Village of Nissequogue and plans were made to restore it. Today the former school building serves as the Nissequogue Village Hall. A history marker outside honors the original subscribers showing that seven of the eight were descendants of Smithtown founder Richard Smythe.

Brad Harris, Smithtown Historian, said two private residences on Three Sisters Road in St. James were once used as schools. In 1880 Cornelia Stewart Butler financed the building of a new school in the hollow and had noted architect Stanford White, her brother-in-law, design the structure.

The smaller school it replaced was moved further up the road. Harris said at one time it was used as an actor’s playhouse when St. James was known for being an actor’s colony.

In 1905 the St. James Public School was built to replace the one on Three Sisters Road. Located at 542 North Country Road, the school remained opened until 1939. The building features a bell tower, and according to Images of America: St. James by Geoffrey Fleming, the bell could be heard throughout St. James.

When the structure was no longer used as a school, it was converted into an apartment building and the bell tower was removed, according to . Harris said in the 1990s Pat Mazzeo restored the structure to be used as an office building. While there is no longer a bell, the tower was returned to the old schoolhouse.

The early schools in the township were originally for grades first through eight including the Nesconset Schoolhouse located on Gibbs Pond Road near the Lake Avenue intersection. According to Then & Now: Smithtown, it originally was a two-room structure built in 1906 and in 1950 it was incorporated into the new school that still stands today. The concrete blocks used for the original schoolhouse were constructed right in Nesconset by early resident Louis Vion.

Scattered throughout the township, these schoolhouses are prime examples of buildings being restores and reused in Smithtown.  

KKM September 08, 2011 at 02:57 PM
I'm sorry... can you clarify. Which is the school house that you describe here: "In 1880 Cornelia Stewart Butler financed the building of a new school in the hollow and had noted architect Stanford White, her brother-in-law, design the structure." Where is that one now and what is it used for?
Rita J. Egan September 12, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Sorry it took me a few days to comment. The schoolhouse designed by Stanford White is one of the structures located on Three Sisters Road that is now used as a private residence.
Gina Doblan August 03, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I am lookin to buy a home on three sisters rd. I believe it was once a school. Do you have any pictures or further info?

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