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26 MAY

Historic Palm Beach | Little Red Schoolhouse

By Jeff Lichtenstein

The “Little Red Schoolhouse” had its first day of classes on March 1, 1886 in what is now West Palm Beach and was the first and only permanent school building in all of southeast Florida at the time. When it opened, Dade County consisted of an area the size of Massachusetts, stretching from the southeast tip of Florida, north through Stuart, and was nothing more than a swath of scattered settlements.


The Dade County School District received a grant from the county of $200 which covered the cost of the lumber for the 22’x40′ one-room building, and it was built by laborers from the area who donated their time. Furniture and supplies were purchased using another $200 which was raised by the Ladies Aid Society who sold embroidery and quilts in order to help the school.


The first class consisted of 8 students, ranging in ages from 7 to 17 years of age. Their teacher was Hattie Gale, a 16-year-old from Kansas who had moved to the area with her family in 1885 and who turned out to be younger than some of her students. The building remained in use as a schoolhouse until 1901 when the new 4-room school was opened at Clematis Street and Poinsettia Avenue in what is now Downtown West Palm Beach.


The Little Red Schoolhouse was then moved to the Palm Beach estate of John Phipps where it was used as a potting shed for four decades. The estate of John Phipps was sadly razed in 1960 and the school house was dismantled and moved to Phipps Ocean Park in Palm Beach.


The building was restored to its original appearance as a one-room school house in 1990 by the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach and to this day it remains in Phipps Ocean Park, just a short drive from Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter, and a worthy site to visit during a trip to the beach.

Phipps Ocean Park
2100 South Ocean Boulevard
Palm Beach, Florida 33480
(561) 227-6450

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