The Little Red Schoolhouse is a familiar and well-loved feature in the village of Ada. It has meant many things to many people over its 150+ years.
The structure began life as Ada Township's District #3 Schoolhouse in Section 30 and was called the Carl School. Built in 1859, it stood at the northwest corner of what is now Carl and Grand River Drives. Remarkably, the "little red schoolhouse" was painted white.
The building served as a school from 1859-1964, educating Ada's youth for 105 years. It was a typical one-room country school with wide plank wood floors, a teacher's desk up front, and a cast-iron wood-burning stove in the center. For much of that time, one teacher taught all eight grades, there would have been 10-40 students, and bathrooms were outside.
With consolidation of the Forest Hills schools, one-room schoolhouses became obsolete. The Carl School sat vacant from 1965 until it was put up for sale in 1971. John Gilmore bought the school and had it moved to Ada to the new commercial development site called "Thornapple Village". At the time, that shopping center included Adgates grocery store, the Debonair dress shop, a beauty salon, and barber shop. Soon to open would be the Thornapple Orvis Shop and Thornapple Village Inn restaurant. The relocated schoolhouse got a fresh coat of paint and opened as the Little Red Schoolhouse Ice Cream Shop in 1972-73.
For about 20 years, the Little Red Schoolhouse was a family destination scooping ice cream and serving food (like the favorite "beanie weenie" chili dog) on the banks of the Thornapple River. For a few years, you could even ring the old school bell in the belfry. Most recently the schoolhouse has been the home of Artisan Flowers.
Today, horses reside at the former Carl School site at Grand River and Carl Drives. The schoolhouse once sat in the open space just east of the cinder block horse stable there. In fact, that stable was originally built as a 1954 addition to the schoolhouse.
The Ada Village General Store offers a book The History of Carl School written by graduates Arthur and Robert Tusch for sale in the gift shop.