Photo of the Week
FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES
“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck
Yaphank School House, c. 1910
by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian
Yaphank School House, c. 1910. (Image from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)
This image of school children enjoying recess time outside their octagonal-shaped school house in Yaphank is from the turn of the century. However, the building was built in the mid-1800s, when eight-sided buildings were all the rage. Some still survive on Long Island, in Huntington, Brentwood, and elsewhere. Octagonal-shaped buildings were thought to be good for the health. That notion appears to have come from a nineteenth-century book titled Octagon House: A Home for All, in which author Orson Fowler claimed the increased light and ventilation of the building’s shape contributed to a healthier indoor environment.
Yaphank students referred to their school building as the “Butter Churn” because of its shape. School superintendent William J. Weeks designed the one-room schoolhouse with a cupola for ventilation, a pot-belly stove for heat, and large windows for sufficient lighting. Ada Randall, who taught at the Yaphank school in 1891, provided instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography for grades 1 through 8.
In 1926, a new school was built in Yaphank, and the old octagon school was moved to a Main Street location a year later. It was painted red and green and became home to the newly formed Yaphank Fire Department. Later on, in 1951, the property was sold and the building was demolished.
Suggested Reading: Yaphank, by Tricia Foley and Karen Mouzakes of the Yaphank Historical Society (Arcadia, 2012).