Abandoned Schoolhouse in Mountaindale
Mountaindale, NY - January 16, 2012
A friend, Barb Schmitt, who along with her husband, Ken Schmitt, owns several buildings on Main Street in Mountaindale in the Catskills gave me and my son a tour inside one of her buildings -- the abandoned Mountaindale High School.

I don’t know exactly when the school closed but from what I can gather online (if it’s the same school at all, which it seems to be), it may have closed just a few years after WWII.

According to one memoir I found, Mountaindale was a small rural community and its high school population reflected that. Students numbered from 64 in 1935 to only 20 in 1944.

Besides the small class, teacher-to-student ratio was even smaller. Each elementary school teacher “had two grades in one room”. And three grades from ten through twelve shared the one science subject that the school offered.

It was hardly the place to prepare for college, according to the memoir’s author. He was totally unprepared academically when he entered college. Still, he was lucky that in 1945, “many young men disappeared into the military” so he was easily accepted at NYU.

Mountaindale is still a small town. Reminding me of the early American settlers when immigrants from the Old World worked hard to make sure that their new communities worked, Barb and Ken has transformed Mountaindale’s Main Street from what New York Times called a “risky” place to live in into the attractive-looking hamlet in the Catskills today that promoted culture and arts.

Barb has offered me the schoolhouse tour several times before but I kept holding back because a free backstage pass to a subject many photographers would covet an abandoned building with many of the history kept intact landing on my lap seemed somewhat hard to digest. And yet when my son and I went there and left and later found my camera bag missing only to drive all the way back to Mountaindale to get it, Barb and Ken made sure that my second trip was worthwhile by giving me yet another tour in a different part of town.

Spending most of my time in the congested confines of New York City one hundred miles away, my visits to Mountaindale stand in stark contrast as they have been very relaxing and met with warmth and grace that I’d say can only emanate from the people of a hardworking small town like Mountaindale.

Click on a picture to enlarge.
The abandoned schoolhouse is ideal for rock band shoots, as at least one already had. Their writing can be seen on the blackboard.
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