New Britain Sate Normal School (1883)

November 2nd, 2013 Posted in New Britain, Romanesque Revival, Schools

Normal School

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.

  1. 2 Responses to “New Britain Sate Normal School (1883)”

  2. By Nick on Aug 9, 2017

    Actually, the text has the correct name for the school, but the name in the title of the article is incorrect.

    The official name of the school was “State Normal School” not “New Britain Normal School.” This is shown in the carved stone above the main entrance, which reads…”S.N.S.A.D.1882.” The SNS stands for State Normal School, followed by the year.

  3. By Daniel on Aug 9, 2017

    When it was built, it was indeed the only “State Normal School.” With the opening of the Willimantic State Normal School in 1887 and the New Haven State Normal School in 1893, it was not unusual for it to be referred to as the New Britain Normal School to differentiate it from the others. But they were all officially “State” normal schools, so I have added that word to the title of the post.

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