In 1893, Emily Wells Foster, a Sunday school teacher at the Morgan Street Mission School/Morgan Street Chapel in Hartford, started the nation’s first nursery for blind children in a house on Kenyon Street in Hartford. Her efforts began with her interest in a blind baby on Hartford’s East Side who spent his waking hours in a small pen in a dingy room. In 1983 she also became Assistant Secretary of the State Board of Education for the Blind, later serving as Secretary and Treasurer from 1901 to 1905. (“Will Honor Benefactor Of Blind People: Memorial to Be Placed on Grave of Mrs. Foster, Who Started Education Program Here,” Hartford Courant, November 12, 1936) The nursery school soon moved to a larger residence on Asylum Avenue. A grammar school was also added, which moved to a new building at 120 Holcomb Street in Hartford in 1911. A Colonial Revival building, it was designed by Andrews, Jacques & Rantoul, the same firm that designed the Governor’s Mansion and the Hartford Club. The Nursery and Kindergarten for the Blind had moved to Garden Street in Farmington, but later moved to join the grammar school in the building on Holcomb Street after a fire. The school would become known as the Connecticut Institution and Industrial Home for the Blind, then the Connecticut Institute for the Blind. In 1952 it was renamed the Oak Hill School. Today Oak Hill serves children and adults with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.
The two-story building (with a partially exposed basement) at 167 Boston Post Road in East Lyme was built in 1916 as the Flanders Elementary School. It was designed by architect James Sweeney of New London. It served as a school until a new Flanders Elementary School building, attached to the 1916 building, opened in 1964. The original school building then became the Central Office of the East Lyme Public Schools.
In 1949 the Town of East Hartford opened three new or expanded schools: Hockanum School and Sunset Ridge School, both built in a similar Colonial Revival style, and a new addition to the Woodland School (originally built in 1928). On August 28, 1949, the Hartford Courant (“New Schools to Open on September 7”) reported that contractors had been ordered to focus on completing the classrooms, leaving gymnasiums, auditoriums and cafeteria kitchens until last (and therefore not yet fully completed when the buildings were opened to students). At Sunset Ridge School, at the corner of Forbes Street and Silver Lane, work on the grounds was focused on at least finishing one walkway as a dry summer had raised a considerable amount of dust. On September 25, 1949, the Courant reported (“New Building Contains 10 Classrooms”) that Sunset Ridge School, erected in less than a year at a cost of $825,000, could accommodate 350 pupils. The school was situated on 10-acre plot that had required extensive grading. The excess dirt had been used to fill in the site of the Woodland School addition and what remained was given to any residents who were willing to haul it away. A lot of clay had been encountered during the digging, which brought to mind that there was once a brick manufacturer located across the street from the school. A 12-classroom addition was constructed in 1951.
The oldest one-room schoolhouse still standing in New Haven County is the Little Red Schoolhouse in Northford in North Branford. Built in 1805, it was used as a school until 1890. The League of Women Voters moved the Little Red Schoolhouse from its original location on Forest Road to its current address at 13 Old Post Road in 1933 to serve as to the Northford Public Library. The building was recently restored to become a museum maintained by the Totoket Historical Society.
The building at 311 Main Street in Wethersfield was built in 1862 as the High Street School. A brick building, it replaced an earlier wooden school building, built in 1770, which stood just to the south-east. It was in this earlier building that Wethersfield’s first library, called the Union Society Library (established in 1783) was located until 1798. The former brick schoolhouse was converted into a residence in 1928 and wooden side dormers were added.
At 359 Hazard Avenue in Hazardville in Enfield is the former Hazardville Grammar School. The older section of the building, which was built in 1864, is in the rear. In the twentieth century (perhaps 1948?) the school lost its pedimented front pavilion and tower with a pyramidal roof, which were replaced by a two-story brick addition that became the building’s new front facade. Not used as a school after 1974, the building was later leased to the Y.W.C.A. and is today the Hazardville Daycare Center.