Courtesy BTHL

Courtesy BTHL

Today, the design of schools and classrooms is anything but simple. The evolving technological and security demands of these projects notwithstanding, practitioners must also consider a multitude of theories on how best to configure and outfit a school to benefit students, educators, and the greater community.

But not so long ago, many schools across the country were merely single-room structures featuring desks and a chalk board—if you were lucky.

So when did this major shift occur? The BTHL helps answer this question with its comprehensive collection of school design and furnishing catalogs from the 19th century to the mid-20th century.

Warming and Ventilation, Mahony Warming and Ventilation Establishment, Troy, N.Y., 1887
This company advertised schoolhouse and church heating and ventilation systems that use steam, hot water, or warm air.