In 1880, carpenter Benjamin H. Steele (1823-1913) was paid $975 to construct the Center School on Academy Ave. The four other one-room schoolhouses in Atkinson gradually closed down and send their children to the Center School. 

Also called the Little School, it allowed one teacher to educate grades 1-8. It served the town from 1880 to 1949, growing crowded as Atkinson's population grew. The town began renting rooms in the nearby private school, Atkinson Academy, which expanded in 1913, and again in 1924-25.

By 1949 Atkinson had outgrown a one-room school. It closed its doors, and the students moved to the Rockwell School (a former church) down the street.

The schoolhouse remained empty until 1960 when the Police and Selectmen merged together and constructed three rooms: a waiting room, selectmen’s office and a large room for the police department.

In 1982 while workers were installing an alarm system at the police department, they discovered the original tin ceiling with its decorative moldings intact, hidden behind a modern facade. In the attic they found old school desks and chairs and a world globe, dated 1809. The globe was old and peeling, with names of countries that no longer exist: Siam, French Indochina, and Persia. One desk had the initials “DHN” carved near the inkwell. The initials could be those of Donald H. Nye, who later became Atkinson postmaster. The globe, desks, and chairs were donated to the Atkinson Historical Society. 

In 1989 the police department moved to their current home, the Rockwell Building down the street. Family Mediation set up in the Center School, occupying it until 2019. When they closed their doors, the Center school became vacant again for the second time, having been in use for 128 of the last 139 years. At that point the Atkinson Historical Society became aware of the Town’s interest in exploring different options for the property and took the first steps in preserving the building.

In August 2022, the Center School was placed on the NH State Register of Historic Places. Since then, we have worked closely with a restoration specialist and the NH Preservation Alliance to determine what needs to be done to restore the building to its original intent: a one room schoolhouse. 

The Atkinson Historical Society is not requesting any money from the town for restoration costs. We are diligently working on multiple fundraising avenues directed to the Center School Restoration Fund, which includes applying for various grants along with our usual sales of books, maps, afghans, annual scarecrow sales and various other items.