Florence Rideout Elementary School treasure found in Wilton

WILTON – In 1987, more than 100 residents got together to build an up-to-date, tire-and-timber playground at what was then Wilton Elementary School.

A bronze plaque commemorating that work, which was recently found in the basement of the 1895 Building, reads, “To the Children of Wilton, Sponsored by the W.E.S. Friends Group, Built by the Townspeople on Sept. 12, 1987.” According to a newspaper account, the Friends Group spent more than two years raising the required $6,500 for the playground, which was for community use.

That playground is long gone, and the one that replaced it will soon be moved to another location, making room for a new parking lot. The plaque will be displayed somewhere in the new complex that will be a combined elementary school for Wilton and Lyndeborough students at what is now named Florence Rideout Elementary in honor of the longtime teacher and principal.

While much of the “stuff” being removed from the basement is “just junk, broken furniture,” according to Principal Tim O’Connell, anything usable will be “saved, recycled or repurposed,” and anything memorable will be preserved.

A study of the building has disclosed that many of the blackboards in classrooms are the original slate, he said, “and a place and purpose will be found for them.”

He added, “It is amazing how many of the original features will be retained.”

Many years ago, the ornate front entrance to the then high school was closed, the floor of the main hall extended over the steps and foyer, to make the principal’s office.

“We hope those original steps are still there underneath,” O’Connell said, since that entrance is to be restored.

The rooms where Florence Rideout taught will all be much larger, up to code, wired for computers and have new heating and ventilation.