Schoolhouse Looking Decidedly Smarter After Weekend Update
One of Newtown’s oldest schoolhouses is looking decidedly refreshed these days.
The one-room Middle Gate Schoolhouse on Cold Spring Road was given a new coat of exterior paint and received some much-needed interior repairs by Brookfield-based A Wicked Wand over the weekend of April 9-10. Thanks to the work, the building looks much smarter for those passing by.
Newtown Historical Society (NHS) volunteer recruitment coordinator Barbara Wilson said the building, which dates to 1850 and was built to serve the students of the former Middle Gate school district, “wasn’t in great shape. It really needed a lot of repairs.
“It had been in pretty bad shape for a while,” she added during a visit to the property on April 22.
A donation from Newtown resident and historical society member Donna Ball started the process. Ball realized that during the past year, many nonprofit organizations were affected financially because they were unable to hold their annual fundraisers.
The historical society, for instance, could not hold its Homes & Gardens Tour, a summer event that doubles as that group’s largest annual fundraiser. The society also canceled its popular week-long History Camp for 2020.
As Ball pointed out, “Buildings don’t know there’s a pandemic, and they just keep deteriorating.
“I wanted to make a practical and meaningful contribution to an important local organization, as a way of saying ‘We haven’t forgotten you — you will still get what you need,’” she added.
With her financial donation, Ball was additionally able to offer a reference to local contractors who are experts, she said, in historical preservation materials and techniques.
That’s where A Wicked Wand came in to the picture.
Jo-Anne Penn and Chris Loudon, the co-owners of the home improvement contractors, were recommended by Ball for the NHS project.
Wilson and fellow historical society member John Renjilian had a few contractors to consider for the project, but they, too, liked Ball’s recommendation.
Before the paint job was done, Penn, Loudon, and an employee filled holes with putty, caulked around windows, fixed some flashing that had been creating an interior leak, and fixed the interior ceiling area damaged by the leak.
Approximately 65 feet of exterior boards were also replaced. Wilson pointed out last week that the contractors were careful to select rough-hewn wood.
“We needed to have new wood used,” she said, “but we didn’t want it to look like new wood.”
A Wicked Wand worked with Pawlowski Lumber, which offered a break on the lumber. Stain, paint, and supplies were donated by Brookfield Sherwin-Williams. The schoolhouse’s door was also painted on both sides, and the door bottom was shaved.
The work, Wilson said, was done without any charge to the historical society. When the bid for the job came in over the promised donation from Ball, according to Wilson, Penn and Loudon covered the balance.
“We weren’t expecting them to donate their service,” she said last week. “They wanted to do this job right, so they did the whole thing, and they did a phenomenal job. And they got it all done in two days.”
The schoolhouse is one of two buildings owned by the historical society. The other is its headquarters, The Matthew Curtiss House on Main Street.
The one-room schoolhouse is open to the public one day each year, when the historical society hosts an open house, usually in October. Wilson said she and the other members of the society look forward to welcoming the public back to the building this year.
Associate Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.