The Greek Revival building on Bethlehem Green that is now an American Legion Hall was built in 1839 as the Townhouse (Town Hall/Town Clerk’s Office Building). On the upper floor was Bethlehem’s Select School, where the best students from the town’s District Schools were selected to come for additional education. The school continued until about 1900. The building once had a tower/steeple, since removed.
Along the town Green in Salem are a number of historic buildings, one of which was built in 1885 as the Central district schoolhouse. In 1938, there were discussions about whether to add to rooms to the existing school or to construct a new building. The latter course was decided on and the nearby three-room Salem School was built in 1940. That building has since been much expanded. The former Center School was later used as a Grange Hall. Read the rest of this entry »
Continuing the theme of the last few days of Catholic institutions in and around West Hartford, today we feature the former Mount St. Joseph Academy at 235 Fern Street (now One Hamilton Heights Drive). It served as a Catholic Girl’s School, run by the Sisters of Mercy, from 1906 to 1978. The Sisters of Mercy also run the nearby St. Mary’s Home for the Aged. The cornerstone of Mount St. Joseph Academy was laid in August 1905 and the school opened for the Fall term in September, 1908. The building was designed in the Georgian Revival style by John J. Dwyer of Hartford and built by William F. O’Neil. In the frieze of the entrance portico are inscribed the words BONATATEM ET DISCIPLINAM ET SCIENTIAH DOCE ME DOMINE (“Teach Me Goodness and Discipline and Knowledge, O Lord”), the school’s motto. When the Sisters of Mercy started St. Joseph’s College in 1932, classes met at the Academy for several years before being transferred to its own campus in West Hartford (now the University of St, Joseph). The former school was renovated in 1996 to become an assisted living facility called Atria Hamilton Heights.
St. Thomas Seminary and Archdiocesan Center is located 467 Bloomfield Avenue in Bloomfield, just across the town line from West Hartford. A Catholic seminary, it was founded in 1897 by Bishop Michael Tierney. The original Seminary was located at 352 Collins Street in Hartford. Increasing enrollment led to a need for a larger space. Bishop John J. Nilan had the cornerstone laid for the current building on Sunday, September 29 1928. Designed by Louis A. Walsh of Waterbury and built by William F. O’Neil, it was opened on September 29, 1930.
At the corner of Church and Hart Streets in Farmington is the old Farmington Academy building, also called Union Hall. It was constructed in 1816 by builder Samuel Dickinson and served as a community assembly hall (Union Hall), a chapel for the Congregational Church and the Farmington Academy, a school operated by the church until the 1840s. In the years before the Civil War, the building’s second floor hall was rented out to both abolitionist and anti-abolitionist groups. Women who were church members gathered here in 1841 to sew clothing for the Africans of the Amistad. Later in the nineteenth century, the building was used as town hall, library and meeting place. The Academy building originally stood next to the church, where the Sarah Porter Memorial Building stands today. It was moved a short distance in 1900 to make way for the Porter Memorial and again in 1917 to its present site to make way for the Barney Library. From 1900 to 1917 it was used to house a school for girls run by Theodate Pope. More recently, the building has been home to the Farmington Art Guild.
The State Normal School in New Britain was founded in 1849. It was the first training school for teachers in Connecticut and the sixth in the nation. According to David Nelson Camp’s History of New Britain (1889):
Proposals had been received by the trustees to locate the school in the city of Middletown, and in Farmington, Southington, and some other towns; and it was after the first of February, 1850, before the persons in New Britain interested in the enterprise were informed that their proposition would be accepted; but on the 15th of May, or in about three months, a building was prepared, and the school was opened. To make the necessary provision, the Educational Fund Company bought the town hall then in process of erection, made alterations to adapt it to the needs of the school, secured additional land, and erected a larger building.
The school was located in this building for the next three decades, except for a period, from 1867 to 1839, when the school was school was temporarily closed. As Camp further relates:
The General Assembly in 1881 appropriated seventy-five thousand dollars for a new building on condition that the town of New Britain would appropriate twenty-five thousand for the same purpose. The appropriation was made and the building was erected on a commanding site overlooking the city and the country to the east of New Britain. The new building is 126 feet in entire length by 85 feet in width, the foundations and underpinning being of Portland brown stone and the walls above of brick. The building is heated throughout by steam. It provides study, recitation, and other rooms for the Normal School, and school rooms for a part of the Model and Training Schools. It was opened and occupied in the autumn of 1883.
The building, overlooking Walnut Hill Park, was designed by Warren R. Briggs of Bridgeport. In the building was founded one of the first American kindergartens. The building was soon outgrown. An annex was built in 1891, primarily to add a gymnasium. At a hearing before the State Assembly’s Committee on Education in 1919, the school’s Principal, Marcus White, explained that:
I have a building that was built forty years ago and has not from the day of its completion been fit for teaching purposes. It has no cellar and our winter’s coal supply has to be dumped outside. The lighting is so bad that you have to carry a candle to find your way to some of the recitation rooms without falling upstairs. A New Britain manufacturer told me recently, after inspecting the plant, that if he made his help work in a place like that he would be arrested and ought to be. When the girls come to New Britain they have no place to live and engage in any social life. Some of those girls are living two together in small rooms, some of them sleeping two in a bed. We have no land surrounding the building. If a girl drops a piece of paper out of a window it falls on somebody else’s land. There is no room for tennis courts or any of those things that would enable us to develop a school which Connecticut girls could honestly want to attend. [quoted in the "Predicts Shortage of 500 Teachers," Hartford Courant, March 14, 1919]
In 1922, the school moved to a new campus on Stanley street and later developed into Central Connecticut State University. From 1925 to 1988, the old State Normal School building (27 Hillside Place) served as the New Britain Board of Education and School Administration Offices. In 1989-1991, the building was converted into condominium units.
At 87 Mountain Road (corner of Buena Vista Road) in West Hartford is the town’s oldest extant schoolhouse, a brick structure known as the Old West School. Since 1936, the former school has been occupied by the West Hartford Art League, which purchased the building from the town in 1965 on the condition that it be preserved and used exclusively for non-profit cultural and educational purposes.