Cook Schoolhouse named ‘One Room Schoolhouse of the Year’

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 23, 2019

 The Michigan One Room School Association, or MORSA, recently awarded the 2019 One Room Schoolhouse of the Year award to the Cook Schoolhouse in Grosse Pointe Woods.

The Michigan One Room School Association, or MORSA, recently awarded the 2019 One Room Schoolhouse of the Year award to the Cook Schoolhouse in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Photo by Sean Work

 Members of the Grosse Pointe Woods Historical Commission pose for a portrait in front of the Cook Schoolhouse July 11. The Cook School, first known as the Fractional District No. 9 School, was built in 1890 near the corner of present-day Mack Avenue and Lochmoor Boulevard.

Members of the Grosse Pointe Woods Historical Commission pose for a portrait in front of the Cook Schoolhouse July 11. The Cook School, first known as the Fractional District No. 9 School, was built in 1890 near the corner of present-day Mack Avenue and Lochmoor Boulevard.

Photo by Sean Work

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GROSSE POINTE WOODS — During the late 19th Century and the early part of the 20th Century, the state of Michigan had more than 7,000 one-room schoolhouses where students learned core subjects under the guidance of their teachers.

Many of these treasured relics have been maintained and serve as historic sites, including the Cook Schoolhouse, which the Grosse Pointe Woods Historical Commission has preserved in the city of Grosse Pointe Woods.

The Michigan One Room School Association, or MORSA, recently awarded the 2019 One Room Schoolhouse of the Year award to the Cook Schoolhouse. On the evening of July 11, former Commission member John Parthum — also a member of MORSA — presented a plaque to the commission and a $250 grant for the Cook Schoolhouse account.

“We were so delighted to award the Cook School the William Winglar-Larry Schlack One Room Schoolhouse of the Year Award,” Rochelle Balkam, vice chair of MORSA, said in an email. “Our organization has traced the stories of many hundreds on our new website. The state has more one-room schools still standing than nearly any other state, and we strive to honor that heritage.”

MORSA’s mission is to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation for one-room schoolhouses, and to encourage the preservation of one-room schoolhouses through conferences, newsletters, awards and more. MORSA also coordinates and furthers the programs of other historical societies and historians as they relate to one-room schoolhouses, and it acts as a statewide communications network.

“Cook School is exemplary of the goals that we on the board foster. John Parthum spearheaded the project and was the commission representative at the conference to accept the award,” Balkam said. “The award recognizes the school which meets our criteria.”

Over the years, Parthum, of Grosse Pointe Woods, has conducted research on the schoolhouse, which has a historical marker. In 2016, MORSA held a meeting at the Cook Schoolhouse, and not long after, Parthum filled out an application to be considered for the One Room Schoolhouse of the Year recognition.

The Cook School, first known as the Fractional District No. 9 School, was built in 1890 near the corner of present-day Mack Avenue and Lochmoor Boulevard. The historic school welcomed students living in Grosse Pointe and Gratiot Township, which is now Harper Woods.

According to the application Parthum submitted, the school was assumed to be built by local farmers and residents. The building was made from brick, wood and plaster, and the school was used from 1890 to 1922. In 2006, the schoolhouse was moved to the parking lot of the Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall complex at 20025 Mack Plaza, where it has stood ever since.

The schoolhouse had six windows and now has eight. The wood floor, covered with cork tiles and later carpet, was returned to the original wood floor. The earliest photos indicate the porch steps were wooden.

There were two cloakrooms in the front hall, one for boys and one for girls. A rope was used to ring the bell, and there were outhouses in the back. A wood-burning stove originally provided heat, and the shed was used for the storage of wood.

The website waymarking.com, shared information about the Cook Schoolhouse.

“Property for the school was obtained on January 13, 1890 when the School District No. 9 purchased one third acre of the original Louis Cook farm for $160 from Louis and Matilda Cook,” the website states. “The school was built to accommodate 60 students in grades one through eight, but per the annual report, only 30 attended the first year. The curriculum consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, English grammar, U.S. history and spelling. Later, physiology and civil government were added. Kindergarten was offered around 1920.”

According to the website, “The building was extended 10 feet sometime between 1892 and 1898 to accommodate up to 75 students. The school system was consolidated into Grosse Pointe Rural Agriculture District #1 in 1922, at which point the school board purchased an REO vehicle and the children were transported to Kerby school. One of the first teachers (1894-95) was Genevieve Vernier. She was paid about $30 per month. Many of the streets in the City of Grosse Pointe Woods are named for families whose children attended Cook School.”

According to Parthum, the Grosse Pointe Woods Community Center oversees and uses the building, and the schoolhouse is rented out to residents for events and parties. The schoolhouse is used by city commissions and committees for meetings, and the Grosse Pointe Historical Society uses it for book talks. Because of this, the schoolhouse has been updated with restrooms, lighting, insulation and upgraded electrical work.

For more information on the Michigan One Room School Association, visit the website one-roomschool.org.

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