“History in a Flower Garden”
Aug. ‘98

While interviewing Ruth Noble ’20 and her cousin, Ida Smith ’24, in 1989 for an alumni oral history project, Barbara Hubbard ’52 and Tom Mattern ’55 learned about a secret treasure. Next to Ruth’s home on May Court, hidden under a flower garden in Ruth’s neighbor’s back yard, was a golden piece of Chagrin Falls Schools’ history. Engulfed with perennials, annuals and weeds were four large stones with 1885 PUBLIC SCHOOL written across them. They belonged to the Old Philomethian Street School that opened its doors to the students of Chagrin Falls in 1886. This beautiful brick building was torn down in 1940 to make way for the elementary school addition to the 1914 high school building facing East Washington Street. The Philomethian Street School was located where the present middle school playground exists, just a few yards from the sidewalk. Initial responses for acquiring the 1885 stone were met with resistance. Finally, through the efforts of former village employee, Darrell Johnson ’70, the 1885 stone was obtained and presented to alumni director, Tom Mattern, at the 1991 Chagrin Falls Schools’ Athletic Hall of Fame banquet. It now sits on the floor of the board/community room at the middle school with a photograph of the old school on top of the stone. At that time the owners were reluctant to give up the other three stones. Finally, after a series of negotiations, Mariellen West Miller ’76, also a May Court resident, acquired the PUBLIC SCHOOL stones and is taking safe care of them. Therefore, 1885 PUBLIC SCHOOL is now in the possession of the Chagrin Falls Alumni Association, waiting for a permanent home.

Where might that permanent home be?
One idea has been presented to Jack Schron, Jr. ’66, vice-president of the Chagrin Falls Board of Education. That idea is that these historical stones be built into the new 7th and 8th grade school at the old fairgrounds near the high school on East Washington Street. An appropriate plaque and photograph of the old Philomethian Street School could be added. How’s that for discovering and preserving history? (Special for all of you conspiracy fans—how did those stones end up in a flower garden 58 years ago?)

Tom Mattern ’55