Wolcott Historical Society History for December 2014
By Florence Goodman
This month I would like to share another great Eagle Scout project, a picture donation and an update on our Annual Dessert Card Party.
We are quite fortunate in our town to have a group of boy scouts and their leaders whose goal is finding ways to improve our community. Over the years the Wolcott Historical Society and the town of Wolcott have benefited from these projects. This past fall Kevin Jacobson, from Troop 231 completed his project on our Museum property. His project consisted of scrapping and painting the old outhouse, which is located behind our schoolhouse museum on the hill and creating a path up to it. Prior to Kevin beginning the project, the town crew removed a cinderblock wall, moved some large boulders in the area and cleared a rough path up to the outhouse. Kevin and his crew then placed landscaping fabric on the path, anchored it with 4X4's and covered it with gravel. They also added gravel to another path on the property to prevent it from becoming overgrown with weeds. Next they improved the partially made stonewall at the base of the path to the outhouse and added two rock steps at the bottom. Finally they cleared the areas on each side of the path. In the spring Kevin will add soil and some plant material behind the wall. This project not only helped to restore and maintain the old outhouse, but also improved the appearance of our museum property. We are very grateful to Kevin for choosing to complete this Eagle Scout project for us.
Since Kevin's project involved the stone schoolhouse, I will briefly review the history of this building, which serves as our Museum. It 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. This 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 and we still have several residents who attended this school. Loretta Leonard graduated from the school in 1929. She lived on lower Woodtick Road and would walk to and from school each day in all kinds of weather. In those days Garthwaite Road was the old Woodtick Road and there was a wooden bridge crossing the Mad River. In 1930 the town voted to replace the old stone Woodtick School with a new two-room brick school with indoor plumbing for a cost of $14,799. In later years the two-room Woodtick School was turned over to the Public Safety Department, but was later demolished for the present day structure.
The old stone schoolhouse was sold in 1934 to Miss Emily Morris, but in 1942 it was reopened 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 almost forty 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. In the fall of 2011 the cedar roof was once again replaced and much needed painting was completed inside the building the following spring. Maintaining this old building is a never-ending process and we are thankful for the help we receive from the town and volunteers.
This past week, I received two photographs from the family of Raymond and Ida O'Connor; their daughters Shirley and Darleen were cleaning out the house and found them. The photographs show the demolition of the second Woodtick School in 1990 to make room for the new Public Safety Department. It's always nice to receive these little pieces of our history to preserve it for future generations; thanks ladies.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who helped to support our Annual Dessert Card Party on November 7th at the Charles Rietdyke Senior Center. Our turnout was low, but those in attendance enjoyed the raffles, penny auction, pies and other desserts on hand. A SPECIAL "thank you" to the following merchants for donating door prizes. Please support these generous businesses: Bill & Sam's, CT Antique Appraisals, Denise's Hair Affair, Fascia's Chocolate, La Fortuna's Restaurant, McBride's Pizza, Pat's IGA. New Haven Pizza, Orchid Florist, Raymond's Lumber, Sandy's TV, Scully's Travel, Stacey Lynn's Hair Studio, UBS, Wolcott Pizza and Walsh's Market.
(Information for this article was taken from Wolcott, Connecticut 175th Anniversary 1796-1971, John H. Washburne; A Salute To Two Centuries 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.)
The outhouse and surrounding area before the Eagle Scout project by Kevin Jacobson.
The new and improved outhouse and surroundings.
Kevin (back row, middle) and his workers who completed the project.
The "new" two-room Woodtick School built in 1930.
Demolition of the "new" Woodtick School in 1990.
Joe Paulo and town crew worker at the demolition site.
To view past installments of the Wolcott Historical Society News, click here.