Alexander Classical School
The former Alexander Classical School, today Alexander Town Hall, is located on Buffalo Street in Alexander
Alexander (village), New York
Alexander is a village in Genesee County, New York, United States. The population was 481 at the 2000 census. The village is named after early settler, Alexander Rea.The village of Alexander is within the Town of Alexander...

, New York, United States. It is a three-story cobblestone
Cobblestone architecture
Cobblestone architecture refers to the use of cobblestones embedded in mortar as method for erecting walls on houses and commercial buildings.-History:Evidence of the use of cobblestones in building has been found in the ruins of Hierakonpolis...

 building erected in the 1830s.

It has a number of distinctions among cobblestone buildings, many of which are located in the region of New York south of Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded on the north and southwest by the Canadian province of Ontario, and on the south by the American state of New York. Ontario, Canada's most populous province, was named for the lake. In the Wyandot language, ontarío means...

 where the cobblestones used were sourced. It is one of the few to reach three stories high, and one of the few originally designed for educational purposes. It is the only one anywhere in North America currently used as a public building. The upper floor serves as a local history museum.

First home to a private school, it later became a public school building after the private school failed. When that ended, the building became the town hall. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 in 1973, the southernmost listing in Genesee County
Genesee County, New York
Genesee County is a county located in Western New York, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 60,079. Its name is from the Seneca Indian word Gen-nis'-hee-yo meaning "The Beautiful Valley." Its county seat is Batavia.- History :...

 and the only cobblestone building listed in the county.


The building is located on the north side of Buffalo Street, roughly a quarter-mile (500 m) east of where it forks south from U.S. Route 20
U.S. Route 20 in New York
U.S. Route 20 is a part of the U.S. Highway System that runs from Newport, Oregon, to Boston, Massachusetts. In the U.S. state of New York, US 20 extends from the Pennsylvania state line at Ripley to the Massachusetts state line in the Berkshire Mountains. US 20 is the longest...

, of which it was once part. Alexander Central School is just across the street; the other buildings in the area are residential. The land slopes down towards Tonawanda Creek
Tonawanda Creek
Tonawanda Creek is a small river in Western New York, in the United States. William Bright says the best that can be said of the name is that it is "probably from an Iroquoian source, but of unclear derivation".-Description:...

 to the east.

Tall mature trees along Buffalo Street provide shade. A narrow walk in the middle of the lawn goes the depth of the setback, equivalent to the distance to the rear wall of neighboring houses. In the rear, on Church Street, is a large parking lot for town officials and employees.

The building itself is a three-story five-by-four-bay
Bay (architecture)
A bay is a unit of form in architecture. This unit is defined as the zone between the outer edges of an engaged column, pilaster, or post; or within a window frame, doorframe, or vertical 'bas relief' wall form.-Defining elements:...

 structure faced in cobblestones 4 – wide on the front set amid mortar
Mortar (masonry)
Mortar is a workable paste used to bind construction blocks together and fill the gaps between them. The blocks may be stone, brick, cinder blocks, etc. Mortar becomes hard when it sets, resulting in a rigid aggregate structure. Modern mortars are typically made from a mixture of sand, a binder...

. There are three rows of cobblestones per limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

Quoin (architecture)
Quoins are the cornerstones of brick or stone walls. Quoins may be either structural or decorative. Architects and builders use quoins to give the impression of strength and firmness to the outline of a building...

 on the front and four per quoin on the end walls, where the stones are 2 – wide. The windowsills, lintels and water table
Water table (architecture)
A water table is a masonry architectural feature that consists of a projecting course that deflects water running down the face of a building away from lower courses or the foundation...

 are also of limestone.

Atop the building is a hip roof
Hip roof
A hip roof, or hipped roof, is a type of roof where all sides slope downwards to the walls, usually with a fairly gentle slope. Thus it is a house with no gables or other vertical sides to the roof. A square hip roof is shaped like a pyramid. Hip roofs on the houses could have two triangular side...

. A balustrade surrounds the cupola
In architecture, a cupola is a small, most-often dome-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome....

, with a rounded roof and overhanging cornice
Cornice molding is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns any building or furniture element: the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the edge of a pedestal. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown molding.The function of the projecting...

. At the northeast corner a single brick chimney pierces the roof. A fire escape
Fire escape
A fire escape is a special kind of emergency exit, usually mounted to the outside of a building or occasionally inside but separate from the main areas of the building. It provides a method of escape in the event of a fire or other emergency that makes the stairwells inside a building inaccessible...

 is on the north wall near a one-story wood frame
Timber framing
Timber framing , or half-timbering, also called in North America "post-and-beam" construction, is the method of creating structures using heavy squared off and carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints secured by large wooden pegs . It is commonplace in large barns...

 addition, and a concrete block garage projects from the west wall.

Stone steps rise to the original main entrance in the center of the south facade
A facade or façade is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning "frontage" or "face"....

 (the town uses the rear of the building as the main entrance, and gives its address as 3350 Church Street). The paneled front door is slightly recessed. It is flanked by round smooth Doric
Doric order
The Doric order was one of the three orders or organizational systems of ancient Greek or classical architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian.-History:...

 columns and sidelights. A transom
Transom (architectural)
In architecture, a transom is the term given to a transverse beam or bar in a frame, or to the crosspiece separating a door or the like from a window or fanlight above it. Transom is also the customary U.S. word used for a transom light, the window over this crosspiece...

 above has been filled in with wood and the words "Town Hall" written on it.

The door opens onto a central hallway with large meeting rooms used by both town and village on either side. The second story is given over almost completely to another large meeting room and the third floor used as a museum. Some original finishings, such as plaster ceilings, high wooden wainscoting and deep window frames, remain from its early 20th century use as a public school.


In 1811 the first local library in the recently settled community of Alexander was established. A literary society that formed around it 17 years later, in 1828, began to seriously discuss starting a school focused on the classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

, since they believed the local children didn't receive a broad enough education in the public schools. The $7,000 ($ in contemporary dollars) cost was raised by subscription
Subscription business model
The subscription business model is a business model where a customer must pay a subscription price to have access to the product/service. The model was pioneered by magazines and newspapers, but is now used by many businesses and websites....

. A thousand of those dollars were contributed by Henry Hawkins, one of the leading businessmen of Alexander at the time.

Initially it was called the Alexander Classical School. In 1845,, the mortgage was foreclosed
Foreclosure is the legal process by which a mortgage lender , or other lien holder, obtains a termination of a mortgage borrower 's equitable right of redemption, either by court order or by operation of law...

. Hawkins donated it to the Genesee Presbyterian Church and the school renamed itself the Genesee Wyoming
Wyoming County, New York
Wyoming County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York. At the 2010 census, the population was 42,155. The county seat is Warsaw. The name is from a modified Delaware Indian word meaning "broad bottom lands"...

 Seminary. Later that year, upon his death, he bequeathed it his library and rock collection. By the middle of the century the school reached its peak enrollment of 300 students, many boarders
Boarding school
A boarding school is a school where some or all pupils study and live during the school year with their fellow students and possibly teachers and/or administrators. The word 'boarding' is used in the sense of "bed and board," i.e., lodging and meals...

, drawn from 14 states.

Many were from the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

, and their absence contributed to the school's closure during the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. In the decades afterward, the school evolved from a private to a public institution, a transition aided by new state laws making education compulsory. In 1886 it became Alexander's Union Free School, with a three-year high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

 program. The interior was remodeled for the new purposes, but the exterior remained untouched A 1908 fire in the boiler room did slight damage to the first floor; another one broke out in 1937.

The building continued to be the Union Free School until 1937, when voters in the area took advantage of another state law and consolidated the 18 small local districts in the area into what is now the Alexander Central School District. A newer, larger school was built across the road, and students and teachers moved there in 1938.

Two years later, in 1940, the Town of Alexander
Alexander (town), New York
Alexander is a town in Genesee County, New York, United States. The population was 2,451 at the 2000 census. The town is named after Alexander Rea, an early settler....

 moved its offices into the vacant building. The interior was converted at that time to its present layout to accommodate governmental functions. In 1949 the garage was added for the fire department.

In 1958 the museum was opened on the third floor. It had been started by students across the street in the History Diggers club who had been collecting artifacts from their grandparents. They ran out of space in their classroom and asked the Town Board for help. Its collection eventually grew to include a Jenny Lind
Jenny Lind
Johanna Maria Lind , better known as Jenny Lind, was a Swedish opera singer, often known as the "Swedish Nightingale". One of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century, she is known for her performances in soprano roles in opera in Sweden and across Europe, and for an extraordinarily...

 Bed, the possession of a local man who once played for her on her 1850 American tour, and an ostrich
The Ostrich is one or two species of large flightless birds native to Africa, the only living member of the genus Struthio. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich may be better considered a full species apart from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a...

 egg donated by a local man who traveled extensively and wanted local children to be able to see things from outside the area.

Six years later, in 1964, the fire department moved out of the building into its own facility. Major renovations in the mid-1990s shored up the building's structural system
Structural system
The term structural system or structural frame in structural engineering refers to load-resisting sub-system of a structure. The structural system transfers loads through interconnected structural components or members.-High-rise buildings:...

and remodeled the entire interior. The grounds were restored to their original layout and appearance.

External links

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