Effort continues to save, move historic schoolhouse

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From left, Beacon Falls Parks and Recreation Chairman and Town Historian Steve Ruhl, Naila Khalid and state Sen. George Logan, R-17th, examine the Rimmon Schoolhouse on Pinesbridge Road in Beacon Falls Nov. 13. Officials are hoping to move the historic schoolhouse to North Main Street. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — Officials are hoping to move the Rimmon Schoolhouse for the second time in its storied history.

Town Historian Steve Ruhl, who is also chairman of Parks and Recreation, is working on a plan to move the schoolhouse from 101 Pinesbridge Road to the end of North Main Street.

The Rimmon schoolhouse was built sometime between 1779 and 1830, though there is disagreement about the exact date. The school originally sat on Rimmon Hill Road, but it was later moved to Pinesbridge Road. The school was in use until Laurel Ledge Elementary School was built in the 1950s.

The property the school sits on is owned by Nadeem and Naila Khalid. The Khalids have offered to donate the building to the town and allow the town to move it off their property.

“We want to preserve it and we want the town to take care of it. This is history and it should be taken care of by the town,” Naila Khalid said.

In March, the Board of Selectmen decided that the building is too dilapidated to justify spending town money to move it. Over the years, the roof has rotted through and, since it was exposed to the elements, the floor is now rotten and soft.

However, Ruhl recently received some good news about the schoolhouse.

During a recent visit from a representative of the State Historic Preservation Office, he said, it was determined that the walls are in good shape, despite the damage to the roof and floor.

“The actual building is in good shape. So, if we can move the building, we can always put in a new foundation and put on a new roof,” Ruhl said.

Ruhl said taking off the roof would make it easier to move the building.

“Our worry was making it under the powerlines and making it under the bridge under Route 8. But without the roof, on a low skid truck, I think we would be able to make it with plenty of room,” Ruhl said.

Ruhl said the plan is for volunteers to move and restore the former school at no cost to the town.

“We have plenty of people in the construction business and outside the construction business that said they would help us,” Ruhl said. “There are enough brilliant people in town that they can easily restore this building.”

The town first needs to take control of the state-owned parcel of land along North Main Street, just north of the Beacon Falls Police Department, officials hope will become the new site for the schoolhouse.

State Sen. George Logan, R-17th, who toured the schoolhouse last Tuesday with Ruhl and Nalia Khalid, said he would work on transferring the land to the town.

Logan said conveying the property will be a little more difficult since voters recently approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that requires a three-quarters majority approval, rather than a simple majority, for any land transfers.

However, he feels the issue won’t be a controversial one, which typically don’t make it before the full Senate.

“Usually, any items that are controversial get kicked off the conveyance bill,” Logan said.

Ruhl said the building is the only remaining schoolhouse out of the original three in Beacon Falls, and one of the few remaining historic buildings in town.

“We have very limited historic pieces left in this town. We had a beautiful factory in town. We are trying to save the Lewis House (on Wolfe Avenue) and that’s not looking too positive,” Ruhl said. “What a shame it would be to let it go because the other two school houses that made up Beacon Falls history are already gone. … If we lose this one, they are all gone. Then what do we have left?”

Logan echoed Ruhl’s comments, saying he wanted to work to preserve the former schoolhouse.

“It is important for us, as Americans, to know our past and to save our past where we can. This is an example of a sliver of history that, if we are not careful, it is going to be gone,” Logan said. “This is an important part of the Naugatuck Valley history. Not just Beacon Falls, but all of Naugatuck Valley as well.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. There is no doubt that there are a number of challenges facing Beacon Falls as mentioned by #bfhillboy, but I strongly support any effort that will save the schoolhouse. I also agree with those that believe that the North Main Street location is not ideal. The schoolhouse belongs somewhere near Rimmon Hill, but where? Matthies Park is a possible location, but there are vandalism concerns. Somewhere along Back Rimmon Rd would also work, but there is limited land. Is there land off West Road or perhaps along the top of Rimmon that someone would offer? Not having that, moving the schoolhouse to a non-Rimmon location may be the only course if it saves the building. Let me say that conversations suggesting that building a ‘replica’ is an option – is not something I support. It will have no significance to the Town’s history.

    I commend current Municipal/Town Historian Steven Ruhl for taking this on. I understand the challenge as I spent several years attempting this myself while I was the Town Historian and since as Selectman. Like the Wolfe Ave Lewis House, there is limited support within Town Hall when it comes to saving and restoring historical properties. It is very frustrating to say the least.

    This is a great project as we approach the 150th anniversary of Beacon Falls. Let’s leave something for future generations that will dedicate our past.

    Mike Krenesky, Selectman and President – Beacon Falls Historical Society

  2. How can you even entertain spending any money on this building. It probably won’t even make it to any of the areas of concern. We have no place for our brush, roads are in poor condition and this is even a conversation. Who is running this town.