Hayden Station School, c.1896-1912. WHS collections 1918.104.22.168, gift of Sara and Angela Cooper.
You may have driven by this lovely building at 853 Palisado Avenue (Route 159). In 1896 when it was erected, Windsor was divided into 10 school districts. The northern end of Route 159, known as Hayden Station, was called School District No. 6 and had 55 students between the ages of four and sixteen years old. It cost $2,400 to construct. In 1920 another room with a basement for the heater was added to the rear of the original building. The school is actually modeled after its predecessor which burned to the ground on a Friday evening in October, 1895. Only the library and text books could be saved. The children had to walk to the chapel in Hayden Station until their new school was constructed on the old school’s site.
The original school had been constructed in 1841. It was a one-room brick building following a plan drawn under the supervision of Henry Barnard, Secretary of the State Board of Commissioners for Connecticut Common Schools. This architectural plan was copied by other schools in the state as well as across the nation and Europe. The cost of this 1841 schoolhouse and the land it sat upon was about $1,000.
Henry Barnard encouraged school districts to consider the following:
…appoint a committee who will provide a pleasantly located, well built, neatly painted school house, with seats, desks, light, heat, and apparatus and library which shall make it attractive, comfortable and profitable to the children who are to spend six hours a day, for five or six days in the week, for thirty or forty weeks in the year, and for ten or twelve of the most susceptible and important years of their being.
It appears that Windsor’s committee consisted of Isaac Hayden, Samuel W. Ellsworth and Edward B. Munsell. The committee focused on the following:
Thanks to the good sense and good taste of your committee and to the public spirit of the original proprietor of the land, the house is located on a dry, elevated, and in every respect a healthy site. It is removed some sixty feet from the noise and dust of the highway and from all sights and sounds of idleness and dissipation. While there is ample room in front for all to occupy in common for recreation and sports, there is in the rear of the building a separate yard for either sex. When spring returns it will deck the greensward properly enclosed, and nourish, I trust, some elms, oaks and maples, which will in a few years throw their sheltering shadows over house and playground in summer, and break the inclemency of the storm in winter.
Henry Barnard went on to describe the locations of other schools he had observed:
How striking and mournful the contrast presented in the location of most of our district school houses. Go where you will, you find them on or rather in the public road and not unfrequently in the public roads, where the attention of the scholars is disturbed by every passing object. I have visited them perched on the bleakest spot in the district, where all the winds and all the ways meet, on low marshy grounds, or in the midst of minutely grained sand – spots which no prudent former would occupy with a barn or a pig pen, or a mechanic with his workshop, if they could be had free of expense. But bad as the location too often is, there is no provision made for play ground, shade trees or outdoor arrangements of any kind It is the want of such arrangements which makes the schoolhouse an annoyance to the neighborhood where it is placed and the common school objectionable to that class of parents who regard the health, manners and morals of their children as too precious to be exposed by the shameful neglect of the districts.
This house is built according to rules of good taste, of durable materials, and in a workmanlike manner. The brick are not likely to be washed out by the rain, or the woodwork to shrink in the heat of the stove or sun, so as to leave knot holes and cracks for the “crannying winds” to whistle through. It is protected from cold beneath by a solid foundation of stone and mortar, a well matched floor, and a ceiling of wood as high as the window sills. The woodwork in the interior is “oaked” so as to give a finish and respectability to its appearance which entitle it to the care and respect of the children, that I doubt not, it will receive.
By the year 2000, this lovely old schoolhouse belonged to Mr. Al Shoham, a former student and childhood neighbor of the schoolhouse. He used it as a storage facility over the years. As of 2010 it is a private residence.
The information for this article came from the annual report of the Board of School Visitors of the Town of Windsor, 1896; Connecticut Common School Journal, March 1, 1841; A New History of Old Windsor by Daniel Howard, 1935.