The Center School
The Center School, also called the Little School, on Academy Avenue was constructed in 1880 by Benjamin H. Steele (1823-1920), a carpenter and an Atkinson resident at a cost of $975. The land was owned by Samuel Knight.
The one room school provided education to children from grades one through eight with one teacher from 1880 to 1949. There were four other one room schools in town during this timeframe; however, they slowly closed down and students were sent to the Center School.
Meanwhile, the private Atkinson Academy, built in 1803, experienced two renovations in 1913 and 1924-1925. The town was able to rent out classroom space to accommodate the overcrowded Center School.
The Center School closed its doors in 1949, and the students went into 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 in the attic old school desks, chairs and a world globe dated 1809. One desk had the initials “DHN” carved near the inkwell. The initials could be those of Donald H. Nye, a student who later became Atkinson’s postmaster. The globe was old and peeling; it showed many old names of countries like Siam, French Indo China, and Persia whose names have changed over time. The desks, chairs and globe were donated to the Atkinson Historical Society (AHS). Also found above the existing ceiling was the original tin ceiling with its decorative moldings intact. Around 1989, the Police Department moved to the Rockwell Building down the street which they still occupy today. Family Mediation opened the old Center School building to use for their services in 1997. They rearranged the interior to suit their needs and twenty-two years later in 2019, they closed their doors.
At that point, AHS took the first steps to preserve the building once we became aware that the town was exploring different options for the property and the building. In August 2022, the Center School was placed on the NH State Register of Historic Places. Since then, the AHS worked closely with the NH Preservation Alliance and a restoration specialist to determine what needs to be done to restore the building to its original intent: a one room schoolhouse.
AHS 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.