Amherst, OH, first school
278-280 Church St.
This is a brief but as complete as possible history of what is among the oldest buildings still standing in the original downtown Amherst, OH, area. Amherst’s first Town Hall, built about 1830, was moved from its original location and is now next to the current movie theater. Amherst Historian Bertine Foster said that the first Town Hall was originally an old two-story house. Justice of the Peace and the founder of Amherst’s original downtown district, Josiah Harris, owned that building in the early years, then located on original town lot #1 near the present sandstone Amherst Town Hall, on Beaver Court. Early on, Wolcott and Hall operated a harness shop on the first floor of the old wooden frame structure, and the second floor soon accommodated a lecture room or schoolroom, and the Village’s first Town Hall or government office, before the town was officially incorporated. The Congregational Church Society was organized December 2, 1834, and for a period of a few years, their meetings were held in the Village Schoolhouse or first Town Hall building. Then in the winter of 1838-39, the first Congregational Church was erected. In 1849 a fire in the “old Town Hall school” as it was called at that time, destroyed the top floor. This floor was repaired a year later. Another fire again wrecked this upper floor, and this time it was not replaced. Amherst Historian Mrs. F. R. Powers noted that this building was used as a school on its original site until 1849 when it was moved to its present location (278-280 Church St.) and used as the first “centralized school.” In 1849 a Mr. Horn, who was later an Amherst postmaster, bought the building and had it moved to Church Street where it is located today. It continued to remain a one-story affair. This wood frame building was further used as a school until 1856, when the first Central School (Union) was built – a brick school house measuring 25’ x 40.’ Therefore, Amherst’s first centralized union school house was located in this old town hall building. In 1994 the Amherst Historical Society recognized the structure as a historic landmark. Because of alterations to the building over the years, and the fact that it has been moved off its original foundation, its overt historic integrity has been challenged. However, it was decided by the Amherst Historical Society Preservation Committee that the structure qualified as an historic landmark. Not only very early decisions for the fledgling village of Amherst came out of this building, but also decisions for the whole township were made here in the early years. The building was offered to the Amherst Historical Society in 2015, to be moved to the Historical Society grounds.