RESTORING THE GRASS HILL SCHOOL
Restoration Committee of the Grass Hill School
(L to R) Maureen Army, Janet Kenary Dumas, Ken Dumas, Rob Morton, Cheryl Piasta, Mary Lou Mulhane, Rich Hamilton, Deb Pousland
Clerk of the Works Warren Lanpher hard at work.
School Bells | Submitted by Edd Cote
Grass Hill School Keeper Lynne McKenney Lydick calls her scholars to class. West Millbury Union Chapel in background.
Last Class at Grass Hill School | Submitted by Edd Cote; Scholars in the final class enthusiastically display their chalk-written answers to the delight of the school keeper.
Preparing Lessons | Submitted by Edd Cote School Keeper Lynne McKenney Lydick prepares for class at the Grass Hill School.
The Grass Hill School was built in 1861 and operated through 1968.
At one time, there were eight grades taught there: 1-4 downstairs and
Of course, there were few students in West Millbury, so each grade
only took up one or two rows.
The Millbury Historical Society has a long-termed lease with the Town
for its use of the school.
To the Generous Supporters of the Grass Hill School Restoration Project:
This is a progress update on the ongoing restoration of the historic schoolhouse.
With your help, this renovation has been moving along very smoothly.
We are currently in Phase Three. The first two phases accomplished some major
exterior pieces. During the third phase, the exterior was completed, and work has
This restoration project would not be nearly as far as it is without the tremendous
support of Bank Hometown. As we were putting together a plan to
raise funds, The Board of Trustees of Bank Hometown, with the
outreach of President Rob Morton, stepped up and made an offer we couldn’t
They offered to match dollar for dollar, every donation up to $5,000 a year for
five years. This has proved to be a major portion of our efforts. In this first year,
the bank has donated $5,000 as we collected $24,085 in donations. We received
valuable guidance from Rob, along with help from the very talented Lynne Feiz. It
really is amazing how the assistance of the bank brought this project to a whole
new level! We can’t thank them enough.
With the support of State Senator Michael Moore and State Representative
Paul Frost, a grant was received from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for
$25,000. These funds were used to complete the siding on the north and west
sides of the building.
With a generous discount for our clapboards from C & S Lumber, Warren
Lampher, our talented restoration carpenter, brought life to windows, doors and
remaining sides of the schoolhouse. He refurbished the windows and doors on
those sides to the proper period look.
With the assistance of the Millbury DPW, old debris was removed from the
grounds, and the overgrowth was cleared, an insurmountable task that needed to
The next step brought us inside. The building was insulated by American
Building Systems Inc., which will help keep the rooms at a comfortable level
and conserve heating oil and electricity. The attic space and exterior walls were
brought up to today’s standards. Warren Lampher also assisted with this work by
creating paths for the insulation in the walls.
Due to the generosity of Ken’s Oil in Millbury, the atmosphere in the school will
be comfortable. Ken has virtually donated the new heating and air conditioning
system along with volunteering his labor to install it. This step is valued at well
over $25,000 and is truly appreciated by everyone involved.
A major concern for us is the protection of the visitors and the safety of the
building. To this end, electrician Larry Morris has donated his time in rewiring the
entire school. He has begun by replacing every wire in the building, which will
make for a safer structure. In an effort to stay within the period of the school, all
fixtures that are visible will be of the proper style. A new main electric panel will
provide the proper circuit protection to prevent potential hazards. We can’t tell
you how much we appreciate Larry’s work.
Through this entire project, Warren Lampher has gone above and beyond our
expectations. Warren has done some amazing quality work at the schoolhouse
but has also assisted with every step taken in the project. He has done much
research to keep us on track for the proper historical nature of it all. He has the
proper connections to find the appropriate talent to make this a first-class
The Millbury Historical Society Board of Trustees and President Frank
Gagliardi have been providing tremendous support and guidance in this effort.
The Grass Hill School Subcommittee, led by Chairwoman Mary Lou Mulhane,
has devoted countless hours to create this project that is coming to fruition. Mary
Lou continues the work with which she has been involved in the first two phases
of reconstruction. With these efforts, the Grass Hill School will be a truly
magnificent historical treasure for our town.
As we continue with this phase of restoration, we look forward to meeting more
milestones. We will install an ADA compliant ramp to make sure the building is
accessible to all. The walls inside will be plastered with a period look. The interior
will be painted and decorated to be fresh and to bring back the look of historic
We are always looking for help to complete this phase. If you have a particular
talent or trade and could help us out, let us know.
Look for further updates at www.MillburyHistory.org or follow us on https://www.
For any questions or to help, contact us at GrassHillSchool@gmail.com.
Patrons of the Grass Hill School
The Millbury Historical Society wishes to
acknowledge the following individuals and
organizations for their generosity in helping to
renovate the Grass Hill School:
Barry & Debra Fjellman
Lincoln & Virginia Bordeaux
Robert & Barbara Pearson
Mary Lou & Stuart Mulhane
Diane & Peter Shemeth
Gifts & Services
C & S Retail Lumber
Ray's True Value
Alex & Andree Belisle
The Miles Family
"In Memory of Florence Paine & David Lee"
William & Linda Carig
Paul & Judy Aubrey
Robert & Elaine Lee
Bill & Florence Peacock
Robie & Heather Bruce
Eric & Alita Bezanson
"In Memory of Jeanne Power"
Carol M. Krumsiek
Barbara J. Garofalo
Frank & Sandra Lazowski
Laurie & Brian Mellen
Rebecca B. Bonin
Peter & Barbara Mazziotti
Maureen & Daniel Belsito
Richard & Natalie Chiaravalloti
Florence S. Weissman
Derby, CT Historical Society
"In Memory of Nancy Winter Taylor"
Charles & Elfrieda Parsons
Dudley A. Middleton, Jr.
Grass Hill School Being Restored,
In and Out (Older Article from 2008.)
With great pride, the Millbury Historical Society is restoring
the schoolhouse on West Main Street as a museum.
On the first floor are the original drinking water fountains,
original bathrooms off to the side of the hallway, and one
classroom. One can easily imagine mischievous little boys
dunking girls' pigtails in the inkwells of wooden desks,
which are bolted to the floor.
In the classroom, slate blackboards cover the front and
one back wall. Wooden benches are in the last row and
along the side wall under the windows. The teacher's
wooden desk is in the front of the room and has antique
beverage can on it. The back walls are adorned with copies
of early 20th-century School Committee meeting minutes
as well as annual town reports with statistics and school
budgets. Copies of students' papers are also on the back
These and other items are being painstakingly restored
and displayed. The schoolhouse museum is a stop on the
Millbury schoolchildren's local Heritage Tour, which
includes the Asa Waters Mansion and other landmarks.
A few years ago the Millbury Historical Society took over
maintenance of the building, and now the town leases it to
the society. Mary Lou Mulhane, vice president of the
Historical Society, is chairman of the restoration committee.
The current Committee for the Restoration of the Grass Hill
School began meeting in the fall of 2007 and consists of
Ms.. Mulhane, Linc Bordeaux, Barry Fjellman, Jane Pojani,
Eric White, and Linda Roach.
This committee is responsible for procuring funds and
hiring restoration expert Warren Lanpher. Warren
designed and re-built the school's cupola and completely
refit the front of the building with new clapboards.
Chairwoman Mulhane reported that Phase I of the
restoration has been completed, with the painting and
replacement of the clapboards on the front of the building.
The original Grass Hill School was across the street,
where the West Millbury Community Meeting Center now
is. However, the structure burned down in the 19th century
and was rebuilt across the street, where it now stands.
Although Millbury residents remember it as being red or
brown, its original color, Mrs. Mulhane said, was white.
Lincoln Bordeaux, former president of the Millbury
Historical Society and a member of the board of trustees of
Old Sturbridge Village and Higgins Armory, consulted with
Brad King, the head of conservation at OSV, about the
restoration. Mr. King drew up restoration plans, and OSV
was involved in the research.
Phase I, Mrs. Mulhane said, included reproducing the bell
tower last year. Benjamin Miles of Millbury bequeathed the
original bell, which he had obtained at an auction. When he
died, he bequeathed an additional $5,000, which was used
for the bell tower restoration. In the spring of 2008, the
Historical Society celebrated the ringing of that bell by Mr.
Miles' grandson, Benjamin Miles III of Millbury. Living
alumni would not have heard that bell, Mrs. Mulhane said,
since it wasn't there in latter years.
The carved sign on the school was donated by Alex and
Andre Belisle, former owners of the Millbury Sutton
Chronicle. And C&S Lumber Co. donated lumber to help
complete Phase I, Mr. Bordeaux said. Gary's Cabinets of
West Millbury restored two 7-foot-long wooden benches in
Mr. Bordeaux said the society has spent about $15,000 in
cash on Phase I, and has received other donations.
Phase II will involve replacing the clapboards and windows
and painting the east side of the building. Mrs. Mulhane
said the society needs about $12,000 more for Phase II, and
that it is halfway to that goal from private donations.
The building needs new heating and alarm systems and
new bathrooms, as well as painting inside.
The Historical Society is trying to get the schoolhouse
named a National Historic Landmark, as well as on the state
register of historic places.
Sponsors of the Grass Hill School:
(Top) Representative Paul Frost and Senator Mike Moore
(Bottom) Bank Hometown President Rob Morton
Interior of Grass Hill School in West Millbury
Antique photos of the school from way, way back!
Above: Interior; Below: Exterior
Getting Ready | Submitted by Edd Cote
Benjamin Miles III gets ready to ring the Grass Hill School bell for the first time in over 80 years
School Bell Submitted by Edd Cote
Installation of reproduced cupola and original bell at Grass Hill School.
Restoration Committeeman the late Lincoln Bordeaux details Warren Lanpher's installation of the Grass Hill's cupola to the audience. Submitted by Edd Cote.
Frank J. Gagliardi, left, Millbury Historical Society president, the late Lincoln H. Bordeaux, former president of the society, and Mary Lou Mulhane, current vice-president, discuss further schoolhouse restoration.
Cat's Meow of the Grass Hill School $18
Take a trip down memory lane to a small old schoolhouse in West Millbury. The former Grass Hill School, which became the West Millbury School, opened in 1861 and continued in operation until 1968.
When the school closed in 1968, there were four classes in it: first and second grades downstairs in one room, and third and fourth grades upstairs in a second room. However, in the early years of the school there would have been Grades 1-8 in the building, and children would have pretty much taught themselves.
Children only went to school summers and winters because they were needed during the rest of the year for farm work. Families had to provide books and other materials.
There were a variety of rules and regulations and punishments that today would be considered politically incorrect or abusive. If a student was disobedient, he or she would come to the front of the classroom and stand with arms raised to shoulder height, with a piece of firewood in each hand. There was the traditional standing in the corner, also.
Disobedient boys might have to wear a girl's bonnet. Standing with feet apart and touching nails in the floorboards in a kind of Twister position was another punishment.