Future of historic schoolhouse up in the air

A class poses for a picture outside of the Rimmon Schoolhouse in the late 1930s. Members of the class included siblings of the schoolhouse’s former owner Raymond Lafferty. Lafferty’s brother George is the second from the right in the first row. His sister Betty is fourth from the left in the second row.

BEACON FALLS — The fate of one of the oldest buildings in town rests on its crumbling foundations.

When Nadeem and Naila Khalid purchased the Rimmon Schoolhouse at 101 Pinesbridge Road in 2010, town officials hoped the Khalids might donate the historic one-room schoolhouse to the town.

However, no such offer has been forthcoming. Instead, the Khalids have offered to sell the building to the town, according to First Selectman Gerard Smith.

“The negations were all over the place,” Smith said. “We didn’t have any money to buy it, and we don’t have anywhere to put it.”

Smith said he spoke with Nadeem Khalid a few weeks ago and told him the town wasn’t interested in purchasing the building.

“Even if you get it for free, it still comes with some expenses,” Smith said.

Smith said he offered to help with manpower and labor to refurbish the building if it remains in Khalid’s possession.

The Khalids purchased the property for $4,000 in June 2010 from Raymond Lafferty, who owned it for 24 years, according to town records.

Nadeem Khalid could not be reached for comment.

The Rimmon Schoolhouse on Pinesbridge Road in Beacon Falls once housed students in elementary school but has fallen into disrepair over recent years. What the future holds for the schoolhouse remains uncertain.

A sign on the house, written by Lafferty, proclaims the school was built in 1779, before the town was incorporated. A document from that time mentions a schoolhouse in that area. However, local historian Michael Krenesky said he believes it was more likely that the school was one of six built in 1830, when the area was part of Oxford. The schoolhouse remained open until Laurel Ledge Elementary was built in the 1950s.

Lafferty was in the last class at the Rimmon Schoolhouse before moving to Laurel Ledge in forth grade.

“It was an experience,” he said of his years in the one-room school.

Lafferty recalled fond memories of his time in the intimate school. Lafferty’s teacher was hard of hearing, so he said students would sometimes sneak out the back window when she wasn’t looking. One day, Lafferty’s friend got caught in the shutters as he was trying to escape.

At that time, Lafferty said, schools didn’t have busses, so towns built a lot of small schools that children could walk to.

Eventually, school officials decided it was impractical to have all those little schoolhouses and combined them to form Laurel Ledge.

Lafferty’s father bought the schoolhouse and surrounding property shortly after it closed. At first, Lafferty’s father rented it out for storage, but when Lafferty got married, he and later his daughter opened an antique shop there, where they worked as a side job.

“It wasn’t cheap keeping it maintained and up,” Lafferty said.

The building had electricity, but still used a wood stove for heat. Lafferty said the building still had some original chalkboards and old books, but a foyer and cabinets had been added some time before the school closed.

Lafferty closed the antique shop three or four years ago and sold the property to buy a house in Naugatuck.

“The fellow that bought it; I don’t think he cares about it,” Lafferty said.

Lafferty said he would like to see the town take an interest in the property.

“It’s probably one of the most historically significant properties in town,” said Krenesky, who put the schoolhouse on the state’s register of historic places a few years ago.

Krenesky said people have suggested moving the schoolhouse to various places over the years, including Matthies Park, the Wolfe Avenue property, and even in front of Town Hall.

“As a historian myself … we would love to have that building,” Krenesky said.

Officials had hoped they could simply pluck up the whole schoolhouse, load it on a flatbed, and haul it to its new location with the help of in-kind donations.

However, that may no longer be possible.

“It is not in terrific shape,” Krenesky said.

Much of the building’s woodwork is rotted through and holes in the ceiling and broken windows leave it exposed to the elements.

Lafferty said the building needs a new roof and the trim on the sides needs to be replaced, but he thinks the structural integrity of the building is solid. He said the biggest problem is that wire guards on the windows were removed, making it easier for the windows to be damaged by rocks.

Lafferty said it’s really sad to see something historically significant as the schoolhouse falling into disrepair. He felt that if the town started a fund, people would contribute to save the building.

At this point, Krenesky speculated, they would have to take the house apart and reassemble it at a new location — if it survived the trip.

“It would be a great little building to use by the historical society as a small little historical museum,” Krenesky said.