Middlebrook School: Wilton's third district schoolhouse
Before there was the middle school on School Road, Middlebrook School was a schoolhouse on Nod Hill Road, attended by Wilton's third district schoolchildren from 1850 until 1929.
The Middlebrook school district, formerly called Salt Pound Hill, was created in 1738, according to former first selectman and historian Bob Russell’s book, Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places, and Progress. This district was also known as School District No. 3.
When the Wilton districts were defined in 1792, the third “Valley” district was one of them and later called the Middlebrook district.
The first Middlebrook schoolhouse was built near the Nod Hill corner, south of the Comstock Cemetery, according to Russell.
In October 1850, Matthew Middlebrook sold a parcel of land at 15 Nod Hill Road to the school district for $60, and a new Middlebrook school was built there by 1851.
Strong Comstock, for whom the Comstock Community Center is named, first attended Middlebrook’s district school in 1849 at the age of 5. He later became chairman of the town’s school board and recalled the second one-room school being “rectangular in shape” with “a central front door, three large windows on the south side and a chimney in the rear,” according to Wilton Library History Room documents.
A fireplace provided heat for the one-room schoolhouse and children "sat on benches without backs, arranged around the room,” and used "sloping boards, fastened to the side walls,” as desks.
“When reciting, the children would turn to face the teacher,” Comstock recalled.
The schoolhouse had no rooftop bell — only a hand bell — but it had an organ. Students used books from a “portable library,” brought around in large boxes.
According to Virginia Bepler’s Feb. 21, 1973 Wilton Bulletin article, Middlebrooks Name a School, a Mrs. Peg Middlebrook once attended Middlebrook School with her brother, Neil, and recalled playing “on the big rock in the yard” during recess.
Boys and girls facilities were in two small buildings outside in back of the school.
By 1894, a 10-foot addition was constructed, providing a hall at the front of the building with hooks for hanging coats, scarves and hats. A stove on a raised platform at the front of the classroom provided heat.
According to a 1916 student list, pupils at the Middlebrook School ranged from 6 to 15 years old and came from notable Wilton families like the Middlebrooks, Olmsteads, Ruscoes and Scribners.
In the 1920s, students in grades 1-8 attended Middlebrook’s district school, with enrollment ranging from 22 to 32 students, depending on the year.
Busing was initiated that decade, according to Wilton Library History Room documents, and “children began to be transported to other districts in town to even out the distribution of students.”
Comstock recalled Charlot Flower being his first teacher at the original Middlebrook schoolhouse in 1894.
According to a 1942 document written by Comstock’s daughter, Georgianna Comstock, she and her brother first attended Middlebrook School in 1894 when “Miss Bertha Brady, later Mrs. R. H. Fitch” was the teacher.
Brady was “a very good one” who “conducted classes in English history and algebra,” according to Georgianna.
According to a 1911-1929 school ledger and other historical documents, other Middlebrook teachers included:
- Annie Winkler: 1897-1898.
- Eleanor A. Sanford: 1912-1914.
- Madelyn McFarland: 1914-1915.
- Anna M. Grise: 1915-1918.
- Florence McCarthy: 1918-1919.
- Muriel E. Archer: 1919-1920.
- Blanche L. Smith: 1920-1926.
- Mabel L. Davis: 1926-1927.
- Veronica Blake: 1927-1929.
According to Bepler's article, Anna Pierce, Mary Jane Moffett and Minnie E. Benham also taught at Middlebrook’s district school.
According to the 1911 Town of Wilton Annual Report, the smaller schools were “much more expensive to operate if one considers the cost per pupil.”
In 1911, Middlebrook School had an average attendance of 22.14 students and a total per-pupil cost of $19.96, determined by the amount spent on fuel, salary and supplies for the school:
- Fuel: $22.50 ($1 per pupil).
- Salary: $400 ($18.06 per pupil).
- Books and supplies: $20 (90 cents per pupil).
According to the report, $107.90 was also spent to repair the schoolhouse that year.
When Wilton’s four-room Center School opened in 1929, Middlebrook School closed along with three other district schoolhouses.
Children from these districts were bused to the Center School, and if students in grades 9-10 chose to attend a public high school, they were taken out of town to nearby high schools.
In 1935, the former one-room Middlebrook schoolhouse was presented to Strong Comstock in recognition for his 30-year tenure as chairman of the school board.
In his will, he left the schoolhouse to his daughters, Georgianna and Mary, and it was converted into a cottage in 1939, according to Georgianna.
Today, the schoolhouse is part of an eight-room, Colonial Revival-style home at 15 Nod Hill Road, currently owned by Beverley Sutherland.
“I love it,” said Sutherland, who has lived in the home since 1991 and uses the schoolhouse as a living room.
“The upstairs of the schoolhouse has a crawl-in attic with a bedroom,” she said, “even though you can’t stand up in it and there’s no closet.”
Additions were made to the north side of the building, according to the 1989 Wilton Architectural Survey, where the home is listed for its historic rather than architectural value.
According to the survey, some of its surviving original features include the basic mass of the building, the frieze board under the overhanging eaves and the coupled nine-over-nine windows on the facade.
Click here to learn about Wilton's other district schoolhouses.