Built in 1865, the charming one-room Pine Grove schoolhouse has stood the test of time at the junction of Harris Road and West Avon Road. Avon was incorporated as a town in 1830 and was agrarian until the early 1900s. The town was divided into seven school districts. This school was in District 7, in West Avon. The school initially served to educate local farm children and also transient children of Farmington Canal workers. It was built by Thomas A. Teftt, an architect from Providence, Rhode Island. The Avon Historical Society leases the property from the Town of Avon and has maintained its original beauty. It is open for tours during the summer months. The physical address is 3 Harris Road.


  • Exterior view Pine Grove Schoolhouse
    Exterior view Pine Grove Schoolhouse
  • Interior bookcase with historic artifacts
    Interior bookcase with historic artifacts
  • Blackboards on rope and pulley
    Blackboards on rope and pulley
  • Cloakroom with metal lunch pail, ladle, and ice skates
    Cloakroom with metal lunch pail, ladle, and ice skates
  • Original metal sink with hand pump
    Original metal sink with hand pump
  • Woodburning stove, not original
    Woodburning stove, not original
  • Original two-door outhouse
    Original two-door outhouse
  • Historic photo of children at recess
    Historic photo of children at recess

 

The Pine Grove School House is a part of the Pine Grove Historic District in West Avon, Connecticut. The school house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. [1] The District comprised the school house and four other farms. “A nomination for the Pine Grove School district in the Avon, Connecticut included the fifty-two acre farm of Oliver Thompson, at the time of whose death in 1895 held 10,000 pounds of tobacco.” [2] The Gothic Revival style of the school house has wood trim detailing along the roof line to the peak and also along the entryway. The wood siding is whitewashed and the trim is a dark green. There is a flagpole, made from a tree limb, at the entry peak where the American flag was flown during the school years. 

 

When entering the schoolhouse, there are original redstone blocks as steps and a handrail of tree branches. The foundation is also redstone, cut from a local quarry. There are two doorways into the classroom-one where the boy’s coatroom is and the other where the girl’s coatroom is. There is a large metal sink with the original hand-pump. This water is not potable, but was used for general washing and cleaning purposes. Drinking water was drawn in buckets across the road behind the adjacent former Cold Spring Farm. Children drank water ladled into one metal cup, shared by all the children. See: Digital Farmington, ‘Irish Immigration to Avon – A Forerunner to An Incidence of Cultural Prejudice at the Pine Grove School House in West Avon, 1876’, March 2018.

School teachers in those days boarded at various homes. Multiple grade levels and ages were taught at one time, from first through eighth grades. Class began early with the teacher ringing a hand bell to call the children into the building. Children from local farms walked to and from school a long distance and carried their lunches in metal lunch pails. There is a wood-burning stove in the center of the classroom that is vented to the outside via a large pipe. Families paid for their children’s education in those early days with cords of wood for the winter. There were no child labor laws back then and boys were needed for chores on the farm in winter, therefore, girls attended school longer.

 

As there was no indoor plumbing for restrooms, there was a two-door outhouse located directly at the rear of the building as can be seen in the historic photograph. The Avon Historical Society remodeled a one-door outhouse and in 2012, they held a ribbon cutting ceremony! Today the outhouse sits to the south of the school house. It is a wonderful lesson for modern day kids to see how it was for children back in the farming days. All learning was done by conventional teaching, and reading was taught using a ‘primer’. There is a black board on a side wall where the teacher used chalk to write on. A rather interesting set up, is two chalkboards on a pulley and rope system behind the teacher’s desk, that could be raised and lowered one behind the other. There is a built-in storage cabinet behind the boards with inset door panels mirroring those of the entry doors. 

 

The school operated from 1865 until 1949, a period of eighty-four years. Interestingly its history is sandwiched between the end of the American Civil War and post-World War II. This period also marked Avon’s transition from an agricultural community to a bedroom community. The building continued to be used for many years by civic organizations, as a nursery school, and also a branch library.[3] Today it is cared for by members of the Avon Historical Society and opened to the public during the summer months. A Society member gives guided tours that allow visitors to step back in time to the days of early education. The school can be opened by appointment at other times and also for student field trips. Avon Historical Society began leasing the school house in 1975 and with a matching grant from the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, began restoration efforts completed in 1976. [4] This building is a treasured relic of the past as one-room schoolhouses are being lost to modernity.

Reminiscences from a pupil in the last year of operation, the class of 1949

“The retired Rural Superintendent of Schools, Lewis S. Mills, came to visit one day. He was dressed completely in black and had one shoe with a large lift to accommodate his one very short leg. Consequently, he walked with an obvious limp. I’d not met him before and was just a bit taken back by his attire and gait. We were told he was coming and he would like to ‘visit’ with us. He had a little project for the first – third grade and another for the older students in fourth – sixth grade. He asked me and another youngster to join him in the entryway where he instructed us about our part in a little play or skit we put on for the class. I had no idea how to “be” in a play so was quite nervous. His voice was calm and he seemed very pleasant so we just did our best to follow his directions. For the life of me I’ve no recollection about the play – what it was about or how well or poorly we performed, but he praised and thanked us and that memory has stayed with me for nearly 73 years.”

 

“Then the older classes were given paper and pencil and a ruler by our visitor. He instructed them to make a point with the pencil using the measurements he called out. Then he would have them draw a line to join two points – and then another and another. When the students completed the steps, each had drawn a beautiful log cabin and the perspective was perfect! As an adult, I asked my mother if she had any idea if that drawing was still among my brother’s treasures. We gave up looking and decided it was lost to the ages. My recollections of Mr. Lewis went from a somewhat ominous and scary man to a kind man with patience and a love for teaching children new and useful things - all in a matter of about an hour!”

[1] Nora O. Howard, "Town of Avon 2016 Plan of Conservation and Development, Chapter 6 Historic Resources," 59,

https://www.avonct.gov/sites/avonct/files/file/file/chap6_2016pocd_adopted_nov15_2016.pdf

[2] Farmington River Watershed Association, "Lower Farmington River/Salmon Brook Outstanding Resource Values: Outstanding Resource Value: Historic and Cultural Landscape," November 23, 2009, 22, http://lowerfarmingtonriver.org/docs/appendix-4-historic-and-cultural-landscape-background-report.pdf

[3] Sarah Zimmerman, "Pine Grove Historic District," Connecticut Historical Commission, 2009, https://www.livingplaces.com/CT/Hartford_County/Avon_Town/Pine_Grove_Historic_District.html

[4] Avon Historical Society website, www.avonhistoricalsociety.org

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Avon Historical Society, Inc., https://www.avonhistoricalsociety.org/html/sites/pine-grove.html.

This webpage features a historic interior photo of the school’s main classroom (Avon Free Public Library, Marian M. Hunter History Room) along with a brief history. Visiting this website offers an introduction to the work and mission of the Society, including preservation of this one room schoolhouse.

Avon Historical Society, “1865 Pine Grove schoolhouse”, accessed October 10, 2019, https://www.avonhistoricalsociety.org/html/sites/pine-grove.html.

Connecticut Digital Archive, accessed October 10, 2019, https://ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/30002%3A1456. 

Connecticut Digital Archive, accessed October 10, 2019, https://ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/30002%3A1455. 

Glaser, Leah S., Lucas Karmazinas, and Diana Shiel, “Lower Farmington River/Salmon Brook Outstanding Resource Values: Outstanding Resource Value: Historic and Cultural Landscape,” Farmington River Watershed Association, November 23, 2009, accessed October 10, 2019, 22-3.

http://lowerfarmingtonriver.org/docs/appendix-4-historic-and-cultural-landscape-background-report.pdf.

Howard, Nora O., “Town of Avon 2016 Plan of Conservation and Development, Chapter 6 Historic Resources”, accessed October 10, 2019, https://www.avonct.gov/planning-community-development/files/pocd-chapter-6-historic-resources.

 

Mills, Lewis S. "The Evolution of the Connecticut Rural School House," The Lure of the Litchfield Hills 14 (December 1957): 16, 24-5. Great article on Connecticut early schools by a former superintendent of Avon schools, who taught in a one-room school. He visited the Pine Grove Schoolhouse in 1949 as mentioned in the personal recollections of a student from the class of 1949.

National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, United States Department of the Interior, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service,“Pine Grove School”, NR District, 7, 1-14. https://ctdigitalarchive.org/islandora/object/150002%3A2408.

Student at Pine Grove Schoolhouse 1949, email to author, October 9, 2019.

Thompson, Alice H., Avon, Connecticut: A Brief Informal History, Avon, CT: Avon Women's Club, 1954,14.

Zimmerman, Sarah, consultant, Connecticut Historical Commission, Pine Grove Historic District (7th School District)

https://www.livingplaces.com/CT/Hartford_County/Avon_Town/Pine_Grove_Historic_District.html

The text for this website is largely taken from an original report by the Commission in 1997. This report on the Pine Grove Historic District contained information on the Pine Grove Schoolhouse. It is a useful site as it shows the relationship of the school to the surrounding farms.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Photo credit: Avon Historical Society

Photo credit: Avon Historical Society

Photo credit: Avon Historical Society

Photo credit: Avon Historical Society

Photo credit: Avon Historical Society

Photo credit: Avon Historical Society

Connecticut Digital Archive

Connecticut Digital Archive