Wolcott Historical Society News - October 2011
By Florence Goodman
The Wolcott Historical Society's Schoolhouse Museum is located on Nichols Road diagonally across from the BAW Fields. Each fall we open the Museum on Sunday afternoons in September and October from 1-3 so that residents might enjoy a little of our local history. The Museum is also open by appointment.
On October 23, the Museum will be open from 10 AM to 3 PM for Free Antique Appraisals and A Member's Antique & Collectable Tag Sale. Carl Hotkowski, antique appraiser and our new curator will be on hand to do the appraisals. Please support this fundraiser by attending or if you have something you would like to donate for the tag sale, please call Carl at 203-592-8237.
Our main source of income to maintain the museum and for our scholarship fund is through yearly fundraisers and member donations. Our membership drive starts in October and our Annual Dessert Card Party and Penny Auction will be held on November 4th from 7 to 9:30 PM at the Senior Center. Why not consider attending and enjoy an evening of playing cards or bring a board game to play and experience our crazy Penny Auction. We serve great pies, coffee, tea, and apple cider. Local merchants donate our door prizes; it's a unique experience. We hope to see you at the Card Party.
The Old Stone Schoolhouse was the earliest school in the Southwest District and is the oldest stone schoolhouse in Connecticut. The original wooden structure was destroyed by fire and in1821 a new stone structure was built. The length of the building was extended for more room in 1898. The stone was quarried from the Wakelee Quarry located off of Woodtick Road near the Waterbury line. This Woodtick schoolhouse was used to educate the children who lived in the southwest section of town for 109 continuous years.
Many generations from the same families attended this school. Some of the names on the rosters include Hall, Frisbie, Tuttle, and Wakelee. We still have one lifetime member of the Society who attended the school for all eight of her elementary years of education, Loretta Nigro Leonard. She loves to reminisce about her wonderful days of attending the stone schoolhouse. She lived on lower Woodtick Road and would walk to and from school each day in all kinds of weather. She stated that in those days Garthwaite Road was the old Woodtick Road and there was a wooden bridge crossing the Mad River. Mr. Cornelius owned much of the property across from the schoolhouse all the way down to the lower end of Woodtick Reservoir and he built the first racetrack in Wolcott. She and the other school children loved to feed the horses or watch them racing around the track.
In 1930, the town voted to replace the old stone school with a new two-room brick school building called Woodtick School for a cost of $14,799. In later years the two-room Woodtick School was turned over to the Public Safety Department.
The old stone schoolhouse was sold in 1934 to Miss Emily Morris, but in 1942 it was reopened for one year to take care of the overflow from the new Woodtick School. In later years, Miss Morris donated the stone school to the Mattatuck Historical Society of Waterbury because she wanted it to be a memorial to her mother Eugenia Laura Tuttle Morris, and to her maternal grandfather Lucius Tuttle who had taught in the school in 1829. The Waterbury Society had hoped to restore the schoolhouse, but vandals made that impossible and changes were made to allow for living quarters for a caretaker.
In 1962, the school was turned over to the newly formed Wolcott Historical Society. They made restoration a top priority. They received a matching funds federal grant and with the help of the town and the bicentennial committee were able to restore the building. The museum was dedicated in October of 1977 and thus has served as such for thirty plus years. In 1978, Mr. John Washburne applied for historic status for the building, but it wasn't until 1982 that it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1989, the schoolhouse received several much need renovations. A new cedar shingle roof replaced the old leaking roof, the old chimney was rebuilt, the concrete floor was replaced with wooden planking, and a drainage system was installed around the exterior of the building. They also removed a small porch that had been added to the entrance of the building to bring it back to its original state.
We are again in need of renovations for the schoolhouse. We recently replaced the cedar shingle roof, but we still have so much more to do. The interior ceiling and walls need plastering and painting as well as repairs are needed to out bathroom facility. Please consider joining the Society even if you can't attend meetings, your financial support would be greatly appreciated.
(Information for this article was taken from Wolcott, Connecticut 175th Anniversary 1796-1971, John H. Washburne; A Salute To Two Centeries of Education IN WOLCOTT, Connecticut, The Old Woodtick School in Wolcott, A Report on Its Present Condition and Proposed Restoration,and an interview with Loretta Leonard, summer 2009.)
Our Schoolhouse Museum is open on Sundays from 1-3 PM on October 2, 9, 16, and 23. It is also open by appointment by calling Flo Goodman (203-879-9818) or Carl Hotkowski (203-592-8237). Our meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month at the Old Stone School on Nichols Road at 6:30 PM.
Stone School built in 1821 to replace the wooden structure that burned..
Stone school post-1898 addition.
Two-room Woodtick School built to replace one-room stone school.
Stone School diagram.
To view past installments of the Wolcott Historical Society News, click here.