1860, and the fertile land of Upper Falmouth brought forth not only apples and corn, but also the need for a school. The thriving community on both sides of Sangster Bridge was bustling, and in the spirit of community that still abides there today, a local farmer donated a small parcel of land on the corner of Castle Frederick Road, to be used for a school for the local children.
For nearly eighty years that school remained in its original condition, until in 1944, when the growing community simply needed more space in its school. At that point in time, community members changed the school from a one room to a two room schoolhouse, not by adding a piece at one end, but rather by pulling the building apart from the middle, and adding a section in between the two existing ends. The seams in the floor are visible to this day.
With two classrooms now, one for grades primary through four, and one for grade five through eight, a single teacher was responsible for the success of many children. Eventually, the flourishing community outgrew its beloved schoolhouse, and Windsor Forks Elementary School was built just a short bicycle ride away, replacing Falmouth School #9. It was later used as a meeting place for several organizations, including 4H, the Anglican church it neighbored, and as a community hall. It was permanently closed as a public building in the 1980s, more than a hundred years after it was built.
Time passed, and the old school sat with a crumbling foundation and an antiquated electrical system. The community decided that it was time to sell the three-quarter acre lot along with the dilapidated building. Enter Cameron Hartley, a young man fresh our of paramedic school, who wanted to call the Valley his home. As chance would have it, he spotted an advertisement in a real estate flyer for the property in Upper Falmouth. Interested in a fixer upper he visited the land, and although it was much more of a fixer upper than he had in mind, he still put an offer on the land. It was accepted. Falmouth School #9 would have a new owner.
The restoration of the schoolhouse, done largely by Cameron himself, became something of a local attraction. Most neighbors assumed any buyer would simply knock down the school and build from scratch. Students of the school, now grown, did not expect to have the initials they carved in their school wall be a conversation starter in someones future living room. After two years of long hours working at the new Halifax Infirmary, and then coming home to work even longer hours on the house, things were finally coming together. Unfortunately, hard work alone cannot build a house, and Camerons personal debt mounted. In financial difficulty, Cameron made the decision to rent out the house in its current state, and move to Japan to teach English.
Four years later, the paramedic-now English teacher-always beer lover, returned home to his schoolhouse with money in the bank. With the lion’s share of the house renovation behind him, Cameron had time to spend on hobbies, one of which was all-grain brewing. He spent time working on house projects, going back to Acadia to get his Education degree, and brewing beer.
Cameron’s interest in brewing was accentuated after inheriting some brewing equipment from a friend. This love may have come to him naturally; his mother’s grandfather owned and operated a brewpub in Lamberherst, England in the late 1800s, called the Chequers Inn. Cameron, a perpetual builder, now spends his time building and designing new and more efficient ways to brew beer. A true lover of beer, he spends equal amounts of time tweaking recipes and ingredients as he does tinkering with hoses and dials. Building a brewery that honours the spirit of community and that respects the land from whence it grew is an important part of the Schoolhouse Brewery’s philosophy.
Cameron now resides in his old schoolhouse with his wife and daughter. He and his wife are both, ironically, teachers. They can sit in their living room and read the carved initials of students who once sat in desks where their sofa is, and they can still see the burn mark of the pot-bellied stove keeping the kids fingers warm on winter days. And while there are no longer any desks or chalkboards or rulers at the Falmouth School #9, you will certainly find the old school bell ringing at the Schoolhouse Brewery.