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Little House, a special history

By Staff | Feb 20, 2015

Shepherd University’s Little House has a bigger back story than most people likely know.

At a meeting of Shepherdstown Visitor’s Center volunteers held last week, Christine Toms, library learning assistant, shared some of the iconic landmarks history.

Shepherd professor, Florence Shaw, supervisor of the observation and teacher-training program, wanted to create a project that would give student-teachers a hands-on opportunity to practice instruction with real pupils. Over the summers of 1928 and 1929, Shaw rounded up local children to take part in the building of what originally was to be a small garden on Shepherd University’s campus.

At the encouragement of Shepherd president W.H.S. White however, the project took on new shape and evolved into the planning and construction of a small play-house situated on a miniature farm that included vegetation and a little barn, all planned with the children and students teachers.

The 1 acre working “little farm,” was modeled after other farms in the Shenandoah Valley region but designed for future use by children.

“The little farm is hugely unique just for the fact of what professor Shaw was using it for: to teach student teachers to teach,” Toms said during her presentation.

Toms emphasized Shaw’s progressive and ahead of its time methodology.

“It’s not just a little miniature house. Its is a huge development in education history,” she said.

If you visit the little house today you’ll find it decorated in virtually the same way as it was decades ago.

Nineteen student teachers supervised twelve fifth and six grade children who researched, cleared the lot, plant the crops, designed earn farm building, and solicited assistance for local experts and professionals.

A local mason, Mr, Jones, assisted the children with the masonry, and the university’s carpenter helped with the barn. The 10′ two-story limestone structure included a living room, dining room, kitchen and a once working fire place.

Sometime in the 1970s renovations to rebuild White Gymnasium as White Hall officially altered its original foot print. But the small barn associated with the Little House and farm still sits on the property and acts as a storage space for the university according to Rachel Crum of the Shepherd University office of student engagement.

Crum now manages Little House openings and oversees public and private events held there now.

Toms, who oversees special collections for the university is in the process of digitizing professor Shaw’s personal scrapbook clippings and writings on the Little House so the public can learn more.

The Shepherd University Little House will celebrate its 90th birthday in a few years. Crum said the university is interested in suggestions for projects and events to celebrate the local milestone.

“We have quite big shoes to fill,” she said.

“It is definitely is a draw for our town that we definitely need to maximize,” Crum said.

To schedule a tour of the Little House, contact the Office of Student Engagement at 304-876-5402

More information about the Little House can be found by visiting: www.shepherd.edu/libweb/shwebsite/historictour/littlehousebarncampus.html.

A picture gallery can be found at: www.shepherd.edu/libweb/shwebsite/gallery/photographs/littlehousebarngallery.html.