Bringing History to Life
As part of their study of local history, fourth grade students from Chatham’s Mary E. Dardess Elementary School visited the Luykas Van Allen House and Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse this October. Located in Kinderhook, the buildings stand nearby one another and are operated as a museum by the Columbia County Historical Society. Historical society museum educators were on hand to give the students a guided tour of the history and design of the structures.
At the Van Allen House, students learned about the Dutch-influenced architecture of the 1730’s farmstead, and how the design of the house lends clues to how people lived in colonial times. To help the fourth graders appreciate the details of the structure, museum staff had the students sketch the exterior of the house, focusing on the buildings parapet gables, Dutch doors and entrance stoops. Students also toured the building’s interior, where the museum’s collection of authentic 18th Century furniture and tools is displayed as if each item were still in use.
Just down the path from the Van Allen house stands the Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse, an authentic 1850’s one-room-schoolhouse. Inside, the fourth graders received an interactive lesson on how children were educated long ago. Old-fashioned lessons were brought to life with classic penmanship drills, a lecture on how to sit properly, and a discussion on how children were disciplined if they were derelict in their studies.
The building gets its name from the Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. According to tradition, Irving based the Crane character on Kinderhook’s schoolmaster at the time, Jesse Merwin. While the old schoolhouse seems far removed from the modern world of education, students learned the school operated well into the 1940’s and many people who attended classes there still live in the area.
When students boarded the bus to return to school, they brought with them a heightened understanding and appreciation for the cultural significance of their area’s past.