By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.
This is the ninth article in an occasional series about Smithfield locations that have either been forgotten by time orare no longer remembered for what they once represented. The locations are selected from a list compiled by former Smithfield Building Official Al Bruno. Now 86, Mr. Bruno was originally featured in the January, 2017 edition of The Smithfield Times, and the first installment of this series ran in February.
Most everyone today refers to what was probably Smithfield’s last one room school as The Chamberlain Street School. However, an account written by the late Alan Sanderson leaves some doubt as to whether that was the name actually used by the town.
In a piece entitled “What was the real name of Esmond’s one room schoolhouse” that originally appeared in the April 21, 1988 issue of The Observer, Sanderson noted that school department records identified the facility as Esmond Primary and Esmond Annex as well as by the better known Chamberlain Street designation.
According to the story, the school at 13 Chamberlain Street occupied seven parcels of land acquired from Domenic Dorazio and Rudolph Blanchard in 1921. Two years later a local carpenter named Elisha Winsor was directed by the school committee to complete construction of the building which ultimately boasted a coal-fired hot air furnace and artesian well. It was the town’s only one-room school with a basement. Total cost for land, building, and equipment was $9,147.55.
The wood frame structure served the so-called Esmond Annex, that part of the village that extended from the Esmond Mills to the North Providence line. It was built to relieve overcrowding at the larger school on Esmond Street. Mr. Sanderson’s article includes reminiscences of his own days as a student there and tells of some of the teachers who staffed the facility. He was in the class that graduated in 1939, the last. The school was closed at that time to save money, he reports.
Al Bruno was eight year’s old then. So, his impressions of the school are few, consisting mostly of passing the place on his way to fish and canoe in the Woonasquatucket River which is beyond the end of the street. He remembers Alan Sanderson well. He was a neighbor of his both in Esmond and later when they both lived in Connecticut.
Today the building is a private home and has been for many years. Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Conti, it is exceptionally well-kept and landscaped and is known for their Christmas lighting displays.