Center School House; Elizabeth Houser Museum

dsc04116The Center School House; Elizabeth Houser Museum

The Center School was built about 1845 by local mason Lyman Fellows. This building was to replace the old school that was probably constructed of wood. The “Brick Schoolhouse” is a unique feature of Canterbury’s historic center and is one of the few buildings that survived the devastating Center Fire in 1943. It was here for one hundred years that the schoolchildren of the Center District #7 were taught, and where Mr. Fellows’ grandniece, Elizabeth Houser, taught in the building where she herself had been educated.

For many years after Miss Houser’s death, and the practice of one room schoolhouses was long antiquated, the people of Canterbury continued to educate their children in the small schools. However, one by one, as the number of children lessened and the old schoolhouses slowly either became beyond repair or burned, the children were brought to the nearest schoolhouse until only the Center, Cater, Uplands and Kezar schools remained. In 1956, a new central school was built after many years of debate and the small schoolhouses closed.

The Center School remained a landmark of Canterbury Center for many years, being used as a storage building for the old school supplies and desks, amongst other uses. At the formation of the Canterbury Historical Society, they were given use of the building by the community at the Town Meeting of 1970.

On the 1st day of November, 1971, the small brick Center School house was dedicated in memory of all teachers of Canterbury but especially the teacher who had both attended and taught school there- Miss Elizabeth Houser. It has since been known as the Elizabeth Houser Museum and today houses the Historical Society’s One Room Schoolhouse Program for the children at Canterbury Elementary School.

“Harvest Home” by Samuel Papps

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Plans for 2018!

The Society’s trustees gathered on January 6th for what has become an annual event, i.e. reviewing the past year’s activities, assessing the Society’s current situation and planning for the upcoming year and beyond. Many items were discussed including:
    The One Room Schoolhouse Program – This will be our 11th year recreating the one room schoolhouse experience in which all Canterbury elementary school children participate as well as all the second graders from Belmont elementary school. The program will focus on the year 1887 and the curriculum will be designed as it might have been then. This is a program that has won national recognition and which all the students very  much look forward to. Like to be involved? Let us know!
    Exhibits – We plan to mount an exhibit later in the spring in the Elkins Memorial Building (former library) entitled, ”Out of the Archives” which will feature objects and materials from the Society’s archive collection. Do you have an idea for an exhibit? We are “all ears”!
    Programs – The Society will be sponsoring two “Humanities To-Go” programs in conjunction with the Elkins Library. The first will be on April 10th presented by Glenn Knoblock entitled, N.H. On High: Historic and Unusual Weathervanes of the Granite State”. The second will be on October 23rd presented by Steve Taylor entitled, “Poor Houses and Town Farms: The Hard Row for Paupers”. Both at 7 P.M. in the library. Do you have a program idea? Something you’d like to see? We’d love to hear from you!
    Archive Collection- Strategies for managing the collection were discussed including organization, accessibility and growth. If this is an area of interest, let us know!
    Sundry other issues- Some of which were the review of our current by-laws, committee structure, succession planning, signage, our new town history, continuation of oral history interviews and their transcriptions, potential grant applications, the Luther Cody glass negative collection and future planning. Interest in being a Trustee? Let’s talk!
Clearly, we have many areas on which to focus and would welcome you to assist, volunteer, or contribute support to any area you might find of interest. Visit us at or email us at
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