Howarth School is located near the corner of Bald Mountain Rd. and Silver Bell Rd. in Orion Twp. The property on which the building sits was donated to the United Methodist Church in 1859 by John Howarth.
The building doubled as a church until the church was built across the road in 1898. The building continued as a school until 1955.The site was listed on the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites in 1983. The historic marker was erected in 1988.
This small, unimposing building on east Silverbell Road packs a big history. It is one of the best examples of a vernacular timber-framed Greek Revival schoolhouse in the area, and is the only one left in Orion Township.
It was actively used as a school for almost 100 years and over this time saw the evolution of American educational theory and practice. In fact, even Blanche Sims taught here. It has also been intimately connected to local Orion history—the Howarths, Porritts, McVeans and other pioneer families that settled nearby and whose children were the first to attend here. Originally built in 1859, it was probably framed with timbers fashioned from trees near the site, and the foundation stone no doubt pulled from the nearby fields. It has remained in remarkably good condition. In the 1930s, the Works Projects Administration (WPA) modernized the school by putting in new double hung windows and building a small addition for indoor toilets. Architecturally, the slight changes in the 1930s are just as significant as the oldest part of the building.
This building is threatened with demolition when the property is sold. OHS is working with the State Historic Preservation Office, the Township Parks and Recreation Department, and outside consultants to move it, repair/restore it, and retain its State Register listing. This project will be months in the making, and will most likely still need assistance from volunteers. But what an exciting way to preserve our local history while offering a future site for the local history curriculum of Lake Orion students!
—— Leslie Pielack
On May 2, 2016 Marjorie Findlay donated the original Howarth School bell to the Orion Historical Society. Read more about the bell’s provenance.