A Centerpiece of Our Community
The renovation of the Bellows Falls Middle School is going to be a longtime gift to the community, transforming an already handsome, solid and versatile 85-year old building into a beautiful and practical resource for the entire Town of Rockingham.
John Hemmelgarn from Black River Design Architects is as thrilled as anyone about the project because he knows the building is well worth renovating. During one of the Committee's many design meetings, he said "It's brick on the outside, masonry on the inside, the foundation and walls are in great shape—it's a durable, solid building."
The building is like a stately ship that has a fascinating history but is also going full speed ahead into the future. More than three generations of Rockingham children have been educated within its walls, but that is only part of its rich past. It has also been the setting for many memorable and meaningful community, political and theatrical events—from the many governors who have visited the school to performances by renowned groups such as Bread & Puppet, Circus Smirkus and the Rockingham Players, to community assemblies and poll-booth voting.
A Brief Chronology
Built in 1926, this building was not the first on the site, nor the first secondary school in the community. In the 1860's, the Cherry Hill buildings were erected to serve as the first Bellows Falls High School. With the student population growing, in 1896 a bigger high school was built on the current BFMS site. Sadly, three decades later, on November 26th, 1925, that structure burned down—according to Town records—in only a matter of three hours.
The people of Rockingham then must have been just as visionary and committed to giving their children a quality education then as we are now, for within a year they had raised what was, for those days, an astounding total of $275,000 to erect the elegant and sturdy structure we are now upgrading. Built with thick stone, the structure had 24 rooms and housed grades 7 through 12. In the 1950s, a major addition was added, which currently contains the library, the band room and rooms above and below it, making the original L-shaped building into a square.
A Bright Future
With walls and a foundation that have remained in excellent condition and a roof that is in great shape, the renovation will aesthetically beautify and pragmatically modernize the building. Efficient, cost-saving, code-compliant mechanical systems, innovative interior changes using existing classrooms and up-to-date security, wheelchair access and educational facilities are only some of the wonderful improvements that will make the school safe, spacious, state-of-the-art, conducive to learning and a point of pride in our community for decades to come.
Click here for more information on Renovation Highlights.
Preparation of this page is in large thanks to generous input of Larry Clark, who served as Guidance Counselor for BFMS for 30 years and is a fountain of wisdom and lore about the building, its history and its students.