Renbrook School in West Hartford, a private school for children age 3 through grade 9, began in 1935 when several area families decided to start a progressive school. Originally named the Tunxis School, it was first located in a rented house on Albany Avenue in West Hartford. Within months it moved to a larger house at the corner of Farmington and Outlook Avenues and was renamed Junior School. In 1937 the school erected its own building on Trout Brook Drive. By the mid-1950s the enrollment had increased and the school needed to expand again. The next move would be to the estate called Renbrook. This was the name given to the West Hartford mansion built (c. 1931) by famed aviation engineer Frederick Rentschler and his wife Faye Belden Rentschler. Frederick Brant Rentschler (1887-1956) co-founded Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in 1925. In 1929 he purchased 80 acres on Avon Mountain and soon constructed a Tudor Revival/French chateauesque mansion on the site. After Rentschler‘s death his estate announced it would lease the mansion to a worthy non-profit. The Junior School was chosen and in 1958 moved to its new home, also taking the new name of Renbrook School. Read the rest of this entry »
The building at 6 Hurlbutt Road in the Gales Ferry section of Ledyard was erected in 1857 as the Gales Ferry Methodist Church. The church was established in 1803 and their first church building was a structure that had been moved to the site in 1815. This was replaced by the 1857 church, to which an addition was built on the rear in 1954 that doubled the size of the building. The church moved to a new building in the mid-1960s and in 1969 the old church was purchased by Church & Allen Funeral Service. After being on the market for several years the building was converted to retail use in 2011. Next door is the former church parsonage built in 1928.
Aaron Phelps was a successful farmer in Andover who built one of the first mills on Staddle Brook and also donated land in 1747 for the future town‘s first Congregational meetinghouse. He also donated land for a road to neighboring Hebron. In 1740 Phelps erected a house at what is now 40 Hebron Road. His house and barn were often used for worship services and Society meetings before the meetinghouse was built. Phelps’ house has a one-room deep main block with a rear ell and a later Greek Revival doorway. After Phelps died in 1750, 112 acres of his property on both sides of Hebron Road, including the house, were acquired by the Bingham family.
Some would date the house at 22 Main Street in Farmington to c. 1855 based on stylistic considerations (it combines Greek Revival and Italianate characteristics). The house, however, does not appear on an 1869 map of Farmington, so it has also been dated to c. 1870. It was built by William Gay, who operated a store in Farmington. In 1875 William Gay sold the property to his son Richard H. Gay. According to American Biography: A New Cyclopedia, Volume 12 (1922):
Richard Holmes Gay, the oldest son of William Gay, was born April 7, 1832, and died March 30, 1903. He married, September 25, 1856, Gertrude Rivington Palmer, who was born in Whitehall, New York, September 25, 1835, daughter of Hunloke and Mary (Rivington) Palmer. Their children were: Mary Rivington, Margaret Palmer, Anna Rivington, and Gertrude Holmes.
Travelers along the Old Post Road could once find accommodations at Josiah Fowler’s Tavern in Northford (current address 1710 Middletown Avenue). Fowler, who came to Northford in North Branford from Durham, built his tavern in 1776. The front entrance’s original five-pane colonial overlight survives as part of a later Federal doorway. Josiah Fowler‘s son, Maltby Fowler started Northford’s first industrial enterprise when he built a Button Shop in 1830.
On the west bank of the Saugatuck River in Westport, at 2 Post Road West, is the National Hall Building. It was built in 1873 to house the First National Bank of Westport, two stores and a meeting hall called National Hall. The building was constructed at a time when the west bank of the river was Westport’s commercial and social hub and it represents the town’s growing prosperity after the Civil War. Horace Staples, a prominent Westport businessman and president of the bank was the driving force behind its construction. Various businesses have used the building over the years, including the Fairfield Furniture store and a luxury hotel, the recently closed Inn at National Hall, where President Bill Clinton once stayed. Today it is home to Vespa Italian Restaurant.