Ruth Dennis Hubbard had such fun taking her second grade class out of the school for one day to live a day as the colonists might have after the children had studied that period of history, the next year her colleagues joined her and that is probably when the second grade Colonial Days were born, even before the Ray School was built.
The Colonial House project actually i began in 1970, when this trio of second grade teachers, known as "the Ruths", Ruth C. Brown, Ruth L. Brown, and Ruth Dennis Hubbard, all started the second grade social studies unit on life in colonial days.
To climax the study, this trio of educators began a tradition of spending a day away from school so the children could step back in time and experience a day in the life of colonial people, through living history. For two or three years, previous to the building of Colonial House, the day back-in-time was spent at Dartmouth’s Fred Harris Cabin, and later moved to Storrs Pond.
During the day the kids prepared the noon time meal over an open fire, explored the wood, made willow whistles and play colonial games.
With the bicentennial approaching, an idea formed: Why not build a colonial house on Ray School campus, so the kid could really experience life as it was 200 some years ago? In an interview Ruth Dennis Hubbard said, “I was very excited about the idea. It was just what we need
ed.” The original idea was to include all the schools. The plan was for the Ray School kids to raise the money, the high school mechanical drawing classes to design the building, and the Richmond School kids to actually build the post and beam frame. The high schoolers did indeed research colonial farm houses, and drew up a plan for a 24 by 18 foot post and beam building. The you
nger students raised funds for the building through several projects, selling shirts, having a “Buy a Board” campaign, cooking up a storm for bake sales, and running a huge yard sale. It helped that the town of Hanover applied for and received a grant designating the building of the Colonial House the town’s Bicentennial project.In reality, creating the post and beam frame was too large a project for a single school, so a post and beam framing firm from Maine was hired to do the honors. B
ricks for the fireplace were carted up from a 200 year old hemp mill in Andover, New Hampshire. The staff and children at the Ray School took on the job of scraping all the old mortar off the bricks. Like some projects, it took on a life of its own, and most days that spring visitors would find groups of kids scraping away at the bricks with the help of several volunteers. Chipping away at the old bricks to make them useful once again was not an easy job, bu
t the kids prevailed, and the bricks were cleaned. On the last day of school, in June 1976, the frame arrived. Reed Perkins and his crew from South Strafford, Vermont, came to erect the frame. It was one exciting day, and the entire Ray School family came down and watched the frame being raised. When the pine tree was nailed to the ridge pole, a great cheer rang out,
the house was on its way. The school year was comple
ted, but lots of work remained to be done. It was engineers from CRREL who saved the day. Fred Crary and Bill Quinn, residents of Rip Road in Hanover
, came out to the site every night that summer and closed in the frame, set in the widows, did the roofing, and finished the project. I know because I was also out there assisting these fine builders. Since it was a colonial house, all the work was done entirely with hand tools. The Hayes Brothers of Etna donated their time on one very hot Saturday, and like magic, a large brick fireplace completed the interior of the house. By the time school was ready to open that fall, the house was completed and ready for use. On that first Thanksgiving in 1976,
my family cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner in the house. The turkey was roasted on a spit, the pie were baked in a reflector oven, and all the
trimmings were cooked over the open fireplace fire. Jean Keene, Ray School Librarian, and her family joined us for dinner. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the new house and Thanksgiving. Every year since that day, all second graders have spent a day at the Colonial House, a
s they concluded their studies of the olden days. Over the years the program has expanded and grown. Each year there are plenty of chores for the children to accomplish. There are gardens to plant and weed, hooks to be pounded out in I I blacksmithing, candles to be dipped, : weaving to be done, and dances like ”The Noble Duke of York” to be performed and songs to be sung. Recently the traveling musician, (aka, Ms. Luce, music teacher) taught the students how to play the penny whistle and one
year she arrived with two fiddlers!
The Colonial House, an histo
rical replica in 1976, now has established itself as an historical piece in the Ray School’s history. It sits nestled in a grove of trees with its back to the forest, and its front door looking out at the vernal pool, one of the most peaceful spots in Hanover, a respite from the electronic age.
Willy Black Retired Teacher