Bridgewater School Gets New Life

  • Photographed on June 2, 2015, the original Bridgewater Village School was built in 1914 and more space was added throughout its 100 years. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News File Photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/1/2018 11:35:48 PM
Modified: 10/1/2018 11:49:32 PM

Bridgewater — A newly formed nonprofit group will lease the former Bridgewater Village School for a dollar a year with the hope of turning it into a community center and a place with programming for children under a five-year agreement approved on a 2-1 vote last week by the Selectboard.

The Bridgewater Area Community Foundation, which was incorporated in August, won permission in the vote last Tuesday and landed another $50,000 last week from a local benefactor, according to Brian Bontrager, who has been working with others in town to save and repurpose the building.

“We are all very happy. It’s been a year and a half working with the Selectboard, and it takes time to get something like this organized. We’re grateful they were patient with us,” Bontrager said on Monday.

“There’s a lot of potential in that building for the community, and surrounding communities as well,” he added.

The three-level building off Route 4 was built in 1914 and closed as a school after voters at Town Meeting in 2015 voted to merge elementary schools with Pomfret.

Conceptual uses include a day care center or after-school center, since the school bus stops in front of the building and many parents are already in the area; a yoga studio; and satellite space for the Woodstock-based Thompson Senior Center.

Selectwoman Lynne Bertram, who supported the lease along with Selectboard Chairman Norman “Nope” Martin, said she also backed the idea because the largest room in the building could continue to be used to hold Bridgewater Town Meeting.

“I’m very optimistic and I totally support it,” Bertram said of the nonprofit’s vision. Selectwoman Mary Oldenburg voted against the lease plan.

Bontrager, who is a builder, said “there is a lot of cosmetic stuff to do,” as well as potential work on bathrooms and the elevator, but that the building is in good shape.

“A good cleaning will be in order, but nothing too much structural,” he said. “We’d like to put a new membrane roof on the back of it.”

The nonprofit plans to apply for more grants and meet with the fire marshal, but Bontrager said he’s hopeful the old school building could be open for new uses some time in 2019.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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