The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse
Constructed in 1740, this is the oldest surviving wooden school building in the United States. The schoolmaster and his wife lived upstairs, above the small classroom, which was open to both boys and girls. The school is available for daily tours for all age groups.
Backstory and Context
This school was operated by Juan Genolply, the first teacher in the area. The building's longevity reflects its construction from durable red cedar and cypress, as well as the care its builders took to create wooden pegs and handmade nails. This schoolhouse was part of an area once known as the “Minorcan Quarter” near the Old City Gate; an area populated by Minorcan immigrants.
Following his marriage, teacher Juan Genolpy created a second story in the building to separate his personal life with his public role as the area's only teacher. The couple's kitchen was separated from the main building, because of the threat of fire, as well as to spare the house from excess heat during the area's long summers. The classroom was shared by both girls and boys, which would become unusual in later decades when boys and girls were often separated from each other. The drinking water was drawn from a well, and a privy was dug away from the main building.
Tours include a walk through the schoolhouse and the opportunity to see related artifacts and copies of books from the time period. The tour also includes the opportunity to see the garden behind the schoolhouse and home, a rebuilt outhouse, and an old well. Today, children can receive make-believe diplomas and see mechanized figures dressed in 18th century attire.
Most visitors notice and ask questions about an enormous chain that wraps around the schoolhouse and is tied to an anchor. The anchor and chain were added back in 1937, when a hurricane threatened St. Augustine and an attempt was made to secure the schoolhouse so the historic gem of a building would not be lost.