Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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by Ferne Baldwin
Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1994

In July of 1994 ground is to be broken for a new 2.2 million dollar North Manchester Library to be built on the old Central School lot on North Market Street. Funds for this building have come from the Mary Peabody estate. This library will be an especially wonderful addition to the town.

It seems appropriate to briefly consider the life of this lot as an educational area and the continuing focus on education provided by the new library.

The original Central School was built in 1874 at a cost of about twenty thousand dollars. It was a two and a half story brick building used for both elementary and high school classes. It was heated by wood stoves and lighted by coal oil lamps. Drinking water came from a nearby well. Near the northwest corner of the lot was the standpipe, completed in 1894, which still stands and is still used. The area around the school was shaded with maple trees but there was space north of the building for outdoor games. The main front entrance facing Fourth Street was used only by teachers, high school and eighth grade pupils and visitors. The school bell in the tower could be heard all across town.

The basement was used for science, manual arts and domestic science. Physical education was not part of the curriculum. Both boys and girls were expected to get their exercise working at home. Sometimes on Friday mornings a local minister or some entertainer would appear for one period. The janitor lived on the premises. The building was used until 1922.

The cost of the new Central School was about $140,000. The classes rotated to the teachers and study hall was held in the library. This building was torn down in 1976.

Some of the special memories related to this building concern the gym floor. There was a dead spot in the floor where a ball would not bounce and visiting teams often lost the ball there. Termites were a constant problem and on one occasion when the Civic Symphony moved the grand piano one leg went through the floor.

Many people now living have memories of this Central School. Some may remember when Mr. Freed's Crosley was placed between two trees. Others remember the twinges of memory when Central came down-slowly it seemed for a "decrepit" old school-in 1976.
And now for nearly twenty years the Central lot has stood vacant and silent except for some ball games or a few miscellaneous gatherings. It seems so very appropriate that now it will once more be a place where children and adults will become part of the great adventure of learning.