Nod Hill School: From schoolhouse to home

After opening in 1876, Nod Hill School provided first through eighth graders of Wilton School District One an education for more than 50 years before its closing in 1929.

The one-room schoolhouse was actually the second school in the Nod district. The first was on the southeast corner of Nod Hill Road and what is now Branch Brook Road. The first school burned down in December 1875.

According to Virginia B. Bepler's January 1976 Wilton Bulletin article, The Land of Nod, the first Nod school was mentioned around 1790 and it “may have first been held in a home, often for just part of the year.”

The boundaries of Wilton's school districts were established during a meeting on Jan. 17, 1792, and according to Bepler’s article, the Nod Hill district was described as "beginning at the brook at the foot of Nod Hill north to the Ridgefield South line — East to the branch that runs east of Churches' farm or the Rockhouse Branch and west to the Spectacle Branch." According to Bepler, branch is "the older terms for brook or stream, often used in old deeds."

According to Bepler’s article, after the burning of the first Nod school, the school committee met at the residence of Ambrose Lockwood to “undertake the property assessment in order to finance the new school building.”

In the meantime, "a room in the former dwelling house of Lewis St. John was used" as a school for Nod Hill district students, according to Bepler.

According to land records, Wiltonians Stephen and Jane Hoyt sold land to the school district in April 1876, and the new schoolhouse was built on this lot.

According to Norman F. Boas’ book, Nod Hill Wilton, Connecticut: Reminiscences (1996), the lot was “a small plot of land surrounded by stone walls” located “just before the junction of Nod Hill and Whipstick Roads, on the left.”

New schoolhouse

The 29-by-19-foot Nod Hill School, at what is now 407 Nod Hill Road, had a “single large room with vestibules inside the front doors” and a flagpole and belfry that sat atop the front of the building, according to Boas.

In one of the vestibules hung a “huge rope” for tolling the school bell, which was done every school day morning and, according to Boas, “could be heard from miles around on a crisp day.”

Inside the one-room schoolhouse was a blackboard that covered the back wall, a chimney at the rear, and a “pot-bellied coal stove with a smoke stack rising and passing through the room at right angles to the wall,” according to Boas.

Filling the room were individual school desks made of cast iron frames that attached the wooden seats to desktops, each of which had an inkwell.

During recess, students “clambered on a huge rock” — referred to as “Whale Rock” because of its shape and pitched horseshoes on the north side of the schoolhouse, according to Boas.

In the back corners of the schoolhouse were two outhouses or “privies” — one for boys and one for girls.

According to Bepler, Nod Hill School “must have been one of the two Wilton schools to have its own well,” and according to Boas, the teacher and students got drinking water from a roadside spring “next to Victor Betts’ stone wall” that no longer exists.

Residents of the Nod Hill District paid for the teacher’s salary, books, school supplies, furniture, coal and maintenance, according to Boas, and their “property and livestock were assessed specifically for school taxes.”

According to Bepler, insurance, repairs and supplies like a door latch, crayons, broom, chalk, matches and wood were "of concern” between 1880 and 1886, and a chimney, flag, means of raising water and the roof “needed attention” between 1891 and 1894.


The first summer session at the new schoolhouse took place in 1877-1878, and "Miss Hull was to teach the balance of the session" in 1878, according to Bepler's article.

Nod Hill School had a number of teachers over the years. According to notes from a school ledger between 1911 and 1929:

  • “Miss Gladys L. Jennings” taught at Nod Hill from 1912 to 1916.

  • “Miss Blanche L. Smith” was the school teacher from 1916 to 1920.

  • “Miss Mabel L. Boudy” taught at the schoolhouse from 1920 to 1922, then got married and taught from 1922 to 1925 as “Mrs. Mabel L. Davis.”

  • “Miss Veronica Blake” became the school teacher from 1925 until 1928, followed by a “Miss Edna M. Lynch,” who was the teacher until 1929.

Other Nod Hill School teachers mentioned in Wilton Library History Room documents include:

  • Mrs. Erle Davis Utz.

  • David Hurlbutt, who, according to a 1955 document written by lifelong Wiltonian John A. Davenport, “was considered so good that two boys from Bald Hill District, having finished their schooling there, were sent to Nod Hill for one year, under Mr. Hurlbut[t].”

  • Margaret O’Connor, “taught there her first year of teaching,” according to Davenport.

School to a home

Nod Hill School closed in 1929 after the Center School was built in Wilton Center to accommodate all Wilton children.

According to land records, a Leonora S. Campbell sold the Nod Hill schoolhouse property — which she bought from a Luther E. Smith in 1910 — to her children Carleton and Alice B. Campbell in 1932, who then sold it to Ina Clayton Atwood in 1935.

Atwood added a bedroom wing on the north side, “completely enclosing ‘Whale Rock,’” according to Boas. She also had a fireplace built on the north side of the schoolhouse, windows installed on the back wall, and the belfry and flagpole were removed.

According to a 1938 article in American Home Magazine, written by Atwood’s mother, the former schoolhouse was used as a living room, inside of which “the old school bell from the cupola” hung from a beam. The bell, she wrote, was “the only sentimental tie from fifty-three years ago to the present day.”

When Atwood bought the property, in addition to the 100-pound, bronze bell, she acquired complete school committee records from 1875 to 1910, photos and other memorabilia.

Boas, who moved to Wilton in 1924, said he would visit Atwood at her Nod Hill home and one day she gave him these historic items, which he then donated to the Wilton Historical Society in the early 1970s.

Boas, who moved to Wilton in 1924, said he would visit Atwood at her Nod Hill home and one day she gave him these historic items, which he then donated to the Wilton Historical Society in the early 1970s.

Atwood died on March 3, 1962, and bequeathed her mortgage- and lien-free property to her friend and Brooklyn resident Katharine Birch, who moved into the home with her husband, Alfred, and “took meticulous care of the property,” according to Boas.

The Birches even hosted a reunion for former Nod Hill School students on May 18, 1968, according to a 1968 Wilton Bulletin article, Students, Teachers, Friends Reunite at Nod Hill School.

In 1989, 407 Nod Hill was included in the Wilton Architectural Survey, where it is listed as a colonial revival.

The home's current owner, who asked not to be named, told The Bulletin they love the home and try to “keep it as historically accurate as possible.”

The homeowner said the belfry has been rebuilt and contains a school bell from 1876.

Click here to learn about Wilton's other district schoolhouses.