The Buildings of Malone: The School for the Deaf
Posted by thedarwinexception on April 2, 2007
Another remnant of the past in the form of abandoned and dilapidated buildings that litter the Malone area is the complex now referred to as “Harrison Green” – the site of one of the shining accomplishments in Malone’s past – the Institute for the Deaf. Comprised of several large buildings that used to house deaf students from all over the East Coast, the buildings are now up for auction by the city and there are hopes of turning the complex into an art institute.
The buildings have a wonderful and storied history – realized by H. C. Rider in the latter days of the 19th century.
Born in Esperance, Schoharie County, NY, in 1832, Henry Closson Rider epitomizes the zealot with a burning desire to correct a wrong. His zeal concerned the education of deaf mutes and the improvement of the quality of their lives.
He was the son of Lewis and Seville Rider. His father was a successful business man and at one time Assemblyman from the 3rd district of Oneida County. His mother died in his infancy and four years later he lost his hearing as a result of scarlet fever.
From 1846 to 1855, Rider studied at the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in New York City where he was able to take advantage of what was then the most advanced course of study open to deaf mutes. His high intelligence placed him at the head of his class and upon graduation, brought him many honors, one of which was 15 volumes of Washington Irving’s works bound in sheepskin.
After leaving school he worked in his father’s tannery business in Florence, Oneida County, New York, later becoming a partner in the business known as Lewis Rider & Son.
In 157 Mr. Rider married Helen A. Chandler, also deaf and a graduate of the New York Institution. Seven children were born to them, one of whom, Edward Cornish Rider, was destined to become as zealous in the field of education for the deaf as his father. The home of the young couple at Mexico, New York soon became known throughout the country as a place where doors were always open to the deaf.
Mr. Rider’s deep involvement in the welfare of the deaf made him a leader in the field. He was the first secretary of the “Empire State Association of Deaf Mutes” which was for a long time the most powerful organization of its kind in the country. He became its president and held that position for sixteen years. At the organization of the National Convention of Deaf Mutes at Cincinnati in 1880 he was chosen vice president.
In 1872 Mr. Rider founded the “Deaf Mute Journal” which became the leading paper for the deaf in the United States. In 1879, the Journal was sold to the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.
While publishing this paper, Mr. Rider became aware of the fact that the education of deaf mutes in New York State was being neglected and in 1879 he made an unsuccessful attempt to establish an institution for the education of the deaf at Albany, New York.
It was his affiliation with the Mutual Life Insurance Company for Deaf Mutes which brought him to Northern New York State where he learned that there were at least 40 deaf mutes of school age residing in the Counties of Franklin, Clinton, St. Lawrence and Warren who were not receiving a formal education. He determined that he would establish a school in Malone and with this goal in mind, gave up his business enterprises and devoted his time and energies to its creation
It was not an easy task and Mr. rider faced many difficulties and frustration. However, none seemed to exist in Malone, where a public meeting concerning the organization of a school for the deaf was held at the Methodist Church. In presenting the need for and the resulting benefits from such a school, he was helped by Dr. Thomas Gallaudet, a well known educator from New York City, who was married to the niece of one of Malone’s prominent citizens, Dr. Calvin Skinner. Dr. Gallaudet had given valuable aid in organizing other such institutions, and lent his support to Mr. Rider. The meeting was well attended and the project met with the complete support of influential men and women of the area – seventeen of whom became known as life members of the school because they contributed financially to its founding: Malachi H. Barry, Elizabeth Clarkson, Fredericka Clarkson, Samuel Greeno, George W. Hale, Frank T. Heath, Howard D. King, Hon. Darius W. Lawrence, Nelson J. Lyon, Morton S. Parmalee, Nelson W. Porter, Calvin Skinner, Bryon J. Soper, Hon. William C. Stevens, Hon, Horace A. Taylor, Mary K. Wead and William A. Wheeler.
Before the school could be founded, the consent of the State Board of Charities was required by law. Mr. Rider, his son Edward (who had agreed to take time off from his medical studies in order to help his father fulfill his ambition) and Dr. Gallaudet journeyed to Albany to obtain this consent. Before long they realized that the majority of the board members were totally against giving the necessary consent because they felt that there were already enough schools for the deaf in New York State. Dr. Galaudet became convinced that nothing more could be accomplished and left for New York. However, the father and son were determined to carry on and the day before they were to meet with the board, Mr. Rider sent his son to Rhinebeck to ask the famous railroad baron and politician John O’Brien for political assistance. Mr. O’Brien hurried to Albany and the next morning when the question came up for consideration, unexpectedly there appeared the state treasurer, the attorney general, the secretary of state and others (all ex-officio members of the State Board of Charities) and “the determined opposition to the necessary consent disappeared like mist on a summers day.” Thus, in 1884, the Northern New York Institution for Deaf Mutes at Malone came into being.
The state would pay $250.00 annually for each pupil designated by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction and the counties would pay $300.00 a year for each pupil within their limits who was sent to the school. These amounts would cover all expenses – board, tuition, transportation and, when necessary, clothing. Private students were accepted at $600.00 annually. This amount covered all expenses except clothing.
The schools first location was in a large wooden structure on the North side of East Main Street known as the Rounds building. Its staff of three was headed by H. C. Rider, Superintendent, E. C. Rider, teacher, and Helen Rider, matron. It’s pupils numbered twelve and the first public exhibition by the pupils was given at the Howard Opera House in early June of 1885.
As enrollment increased, other buildings were rented. However, there were disadvantages in carrying on scattered activities and in the spring of 1887 plans were made by the Board of Trustees for the purchase of a site and the erection of a school building. A bill was introduced in the State Legislature which resulted in the appropriation of $60,000.00 and in 1890 the school moved to its new building with an enrollment of 80 and a teaching staff of five.
Feeling that the school was now well established, Edward Rider decided to return to college. But members of the board urged him to remain because “something had to be done to restore discipline among the older male pupils.” He agreed and what was to be a few years of help to his father extended to 48 years of dedicated service to the school, including his own term of Superintendent beginning in 1896 upon the retirement of his father.
The school made great strides in growth and over the years as its enrollment grew, new buildings were erected – Kindergarten, Annex, Rider Hall, Gilbert Hall, Badger Hall, a laundry, greenhouse and lodge and finally in 1938, Ransom Hall. Included in the complex was a 40 acre farm which had its own dairy and poultry house, and grew most of the fruit and vegetables used by the school.
In 1929 one hundred twenty nine pupils were enrolled – these children came from 23 different counties and all, except 2 private pupils and 4 county pupils, were maintained by the state. Edward Rider continued to maintain high standards and progressive methods for teaching of his students until his death in 1932. At that time his son Darrel W. Rider became the third generation of Rider men to dedicate themselves to the Institute and the education of deaf mutes.
During the meeting of the Board of Trustees at which Darrel Rider was elected superintendent, another event occurred. The name of the school – Northern New York Institute for Deaf Mutes – was changed to Northern New York School for the Deaf. Thus, from the time of H. C. Rider to D. W. Rider, the words institution, dumb and then mute were found to be no longer relevant when speaking of the school at Malone. This change was due in no small part to the Rider’s themselves and their extensive work in educating both the deaf and the public at large.
The school began to show signs of decline in 1936. This is the first year that enrollment rates began to decline – a trend that continued until 1941, when “drastic steps” were taken at the time of the school’s opening in September. Salaries had been decreased, the staff had been reduced and four buildings had been closed. Mr. Rider felt that this cut in expenses would allow the school to avoid a deficit.
Enrollment continued to drop and during the year of 1943, seventy three students attended the school.
The Malone Evening Telegram of June 3, 1943 contains an account of the graduation exercises held in the auditorium of the school. Two boys and a girl were graduated. This was to be the last graduation exercise at the school. The Northern New York School for the Deaf did not open in September of 1943.
Darrel Rider was appointed custodian of the complex and remained in that position until it became part of the campus of Clarkson College in 1946. Mr. Rider died in March, 1947. Sometimes after Clarkson left the building in 1951, the buildings were taken over by the Department of Mental Hygiene and an extensive renovation program was begun, The intention was to use the facilities as a geriatric center in connection with the St. Lawrence State Hospital. However, this plan did not materialize.
In 1957 the buildings plus 41.34 acres of land were deeded to the Board of education of the Village School District of the town of Malone for $5,000.00. The deed is dated July 30, 1957 and is signed by Paul Hoch, Commissioner of Mental Hygiene.
The buildings were used for a while as Harrison Elementary School, then as the School’s Administrative Offices, but now sit empty. A part of the Franklin Academy Campus and North Franklin Educational Center are located on what was once the farmland of the School for the Deaf.
Contemporary photographs of the school by Johndan Johnson-Eilola. Thanks to Johndon for allowing me to include them. Please go HERE for some more of his wonderful pictures of the school as it appears now.