Rocky Store School (New Baltimore Town Hall)
One of the most important buildings in New Baltimore, the Rocky Store building was the last one-room school district in Town and, subsequent to its closing in the early 1960s, the first municipally owned Town Hall.  The Coxsackie Union-News reported it in February, 1960 as the last one-room school in the County.

Rocky Store School
The Town of New Baltimore was created in 1811.  Two years later, the founding fathers established a school system composed of 9 districts.  One of them was to serve young people in the eastern middle part of the Town, the area covered generally by the future Rocky Store school.  The system expanded over the years to include 17 districts.  Over the years, all but one building were one-room facilities.

The past is murky as to the exact locations of instruction for Town students in those early days.  We do know that at least from the late 1880s into the 90s, the original Rocky Store school was in use near the corner of today’s Route 51 and Dean’s Mill Road.  We do not know whether the number of students outgrew that building or if it was just deemed unsuitable but, in 1892, the motivation toward a new building was generated.

Construction was completed for that fall school session.  The facility was modern for its day, with a double outhouse, screwed-down desks, and a new bell.  The bell still is present and operable.  There is a double outhouse that is probably original.  There are several of the original desks on display, along with copies of period photographs and a teacher’s desk and maps from another Town district. There were individual cloakrooms, now removed, for boys and girls - one on either side of the entrance we know today.   However, the attached 1960 photo shows coats hanging on the wall in a corner of the

classroom so the cloakrooms were removed while the school still was active.  The Town is planning to restore more of the interior to its original appearance.

Children in grades one through eight (the number of grades served was reduced as time passed) were educated initially in the building, and the class rosters contained such familiar and historically prominent names as Albright, Hallock, and Dietz.

Over the years, the revolving classes of Rocky Store students and their teachers settled into a routine of learning ABCs and sums and about history and geography.  Students would obtain textbooks from graduates in their grade or from the teacher’s catalog.  They would walk to school in the winter’s ice and snow to be warmed by the coal stove that stood in the room.  Trips to the outhouse in the back yard could be similarly adventurous in colder months. When the young people finished studies in the grades allotted to Rocky Store, they could advance to further schooling in Ravena or Coxsackie.

The students participated in ball games in the school’s front yard where long hits were chased down the hill toward where the Town garage is now.  Competitions with other schools were common. The school also was used during its life as a school and after for community events, such as church services, community sing-a-longs, 4-H Club meetings, Heritage Society of New Baltimore lectures, and, for a time, weightlifting classes.

As the 1920s dawned, however, many rural school districts were facing shrinking enrollments and tax bases, increasing pressures for the consolidations that the State had been promoting for some years.  With the arrival of the Depression and the availability of the lucrative aid, school consolidations started in earnest in the 1930s.  Local mergers occurred continuously throughout the middle of the century.  The forerunner of today’s Greenville Central School District was created in 1930 and was the first consolidated district to include New Baltimore schools.

After an August 1945 special referendum by eligible voters, about 20 Rocky Store 7th and 8th graders were going to the Coxsackie Union Free School for the 1945-6 school year.  High school-age students were already there.  A principal motivation for the move was to free time for the one district teacher to attend more to the younger children.  It was to be a contractual relationship for the time being, with Rocky Store maintaining its independence.

By mid-1947, though, the centralization issue was coming to a head.  The New York State Education Department had developed a proposal to combine several districts in Athens, Coxsackie, and New Baltimore, including Rocky Store, culminating in a resounding majority of local qualified voters in favor of centralization.  From then, Rocky Store was an active part of the Coxsackie-Athens centralized district.

As the 1960s dawned, the move to centralize schools was at a peak.  In the 1960-61 school year, Rocky Store had only five pupils in grades one through three, down from eight the previous year.  The enrollment in 1900 had been 50.  Anna Johnson who had taught at the school for 15 years oversaw the activities of the last students.  When parents of the remaining students decided to go to Coxsackie-Athens in 1961-62, the district voted to consolidate wholly with its larger neighbor and close down.  Thus ended the era of one-room schooling in the Town of New Baltimore.

Town Hall
The first Town meeting had been held in 1811 when New Baltimore was formed from the Town of Coxsackie.  With most the population centered away from the River, the initial governance session likely was in a tavern at the intersection of Route 51 and Roberts Hill Road and the second near Medway Four Corners.  Over the years, Town business had been conducted in various locations, including the Imperial Hotel and the Wheat store on Main Street in the hamlet, both long gone.
Most prominently, for many years, municipal affairs were conducted in rented space in Cornell Hall, the home of the Cornell Hook and Ladder Fire Company, with the odd session being held in other locations.  By the mid 1960s, the firemen were looking for newer, larger quarters to handle more modern equipment, and the Town was looking for a more permanent home.  The Rocky Store school was empty and available.

The Town Board minutes for the period provide insights into the process of taking over and renovating the building starting with an August 4, 1964 meeting at which it was decided that the Board would inspect the “Town Building & Property” at Rocky Store.  However, the object of attention at first was not the school.  A subsequent special meeting was held at the Town Garage to discuss expanding that facility to include office and meeting space with a secondary purpose of investigating the possibility of using the now-empty Rocky Store school house just up the road.

However, from late August on, the decision was made, and the transfer of the school building was arranged. At an August 25 special meeting, the Coxsackie-Athens Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution for the qualified voters of the former Common School District 2 to decide the disposition of the building.  On the appointed day, a handful of local residents met at the school to determine the building’s fate.  Thirty-seven people registered and voted, with 33 in favor of transferring the school to the Town.  Now it was up to New Baltimore to prepare the building for its next life.  The Town Board authorized Town Supervisor Clare Robbins to draw up specifications and send them out for bid. The first meeting then was held in the renovated building on May 25, 1965.  The Board subsequently considered a resolution that the Town Hall could be used by public and civic organizations, making it truly a public building.  Many people have now traveled in and out of the building in its second life.  An addition off the back and left rear of the existing building was completed in the mid 1990s for office space, but the original schoolroom remains the most prominent feature on the property and serves as the main meeting place for the Town.  With historic buildings being razed every day, it is commendable that at least one Town has managed to retain a viable use for a locally important edifice.