My Obsession With Old Schoolhouses

by | Sep 23, 2022 | Impressive Places, Stories & Expeditions, Updates & Opportunities | 2 comments

Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to rate and comment on the photo candidates for the Lenspiration 2023 calendar! I have a fun system for processing the info you provided to choose the 12 winning photos and will plan to share that with you some time soon! But for today, I thought I’d highlight something that arrived in the mail for me the other day. . . .

Back in 2017, I was on the lookout for old, one-room schoolhouses. As I traveled to different events, I’d look up where old schoolhouses were along my route. Sometimes they were right on my route. Sometimes they weren’t. Regardless, I made the effort to go and photograph them anyway!

This is one of the first “schoolhouses” I photographed, hoping it actually was a schoolhouse. We were driving down some backroads in Pennsylvania on a family trip when we zipped past it. I happened to be driving, so I pulled off at the next pullover and asked if I could turn around and take pictures of it.

170823_James Staddon_0989 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-50 sec at f - 16, ISO 100

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that that building wasn’t actually a schoolhouse. “This isn’t the Curtis Valley one room schoolhouse,” Esther commented on a blog post I had written about that Pennsylvania pitstop. “The schoolhouse is across from this building and has been remodeled into a small house. The building you show is a Sunday school building but no longer used. It belongs with the Victorian house and farm on the corner.” Oh well. Good first try.

On a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, my brother Jonathan and I found ourselves driving through the countryside tracking down some old schoolhouses to photograph. It’s not often that I have an excuse to get off the main drag in Wisconsin.

170904_James Staddon_3664 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-50 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 50
1888 schoolhouse in Wisconsin. Photo by James Staddon.

After a while, things developed to a point where I started incorporating shooting schoolhouses into Shoot to Serve assignments. I actually recorded a video of myself shooting this big gem in Ohio.

170910_James Staddon_3890 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 27 mm, 1-8 sec at f - 11, ISO 50
170910_James Staddon_3914 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 22 mm, 0.5 sec at f - 11, ISO 50

Later in the year, I even incorporated shooting a one-room schoolhouse into a Field Day! This is the Indian Hill Schoolhouse near Cincinnati, Ohio.

171014_James Staddon_4522 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 78 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 200
171014_James Staddon_4531 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 4.0 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100

The last schoolhouses I photographed were in the winter, in Connecticut. The videos My 4-Step Process for Scouting Photography Locations Online and How I Use a Walmart Tripod were both recorded on schoolhouse photography excursions.

180308_James Staddon_568026 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 32 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 11, ISO 100
180308_James Staddon_574457 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-640 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 50

And then, just like that, I stopped photographing schoolhouses. “We are moving the magazine into a different cover format, and as of 2019 will no longer use schoolhouses.” Kate from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine had just closed that chapter of my life.

Well, I still keep up with The Old Schoolhouse. The other day their Fall 2022 edition arrived in the mail. And look at that . . . there’s a review in the Lab for the Lenspiration Membership!

220922_James Staddon_0667 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

Did the TOS Magazine arrive in your mailbox? You can read the Lenspiration Membership review on page 85.

If you’re not subscribed, you can still read the Membership review online here!

Schoolhouse online

Though I wish The Old Schoolhouse Magazine still needed pictures of old schoolhouses, I’m grateful there will always be other opportunities to photograph for the needs of others. Have you shot for the latest Lenspiration assignment yet? Deadline is tomorrow midnight!

170910_James Staddon_3920 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 22 mm, 1-160 sec at f - 11, ISO 50

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  1. Jacqueline

    My husband and I actually live in an 1865 schoolhouse, so I really enjoyed this article!

    • James Staddon

      Ah, that’s great! Take good care of it! 🙂


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