Classical Revival with Roman Revival elements
Hand had enjoyed considerable success as a merchant and businessman in the American South, before and during the Civil War era. After the war, he returned to Connecticut in a philanthropic frame of mind. For a school large enough to accommodate all of Madison’s older students, Hand donated $15,000 for construction costs, plus $1,000 in real estate, the income from which was used for the purchase of books and supplies. His gift came with three stipulations: that the property was always to be known as Hand Academy; that it would not be used for anything but educational purposes; and that the town would employ a suitable teacher at least eight months of the year.
Hand Academy opened in 1884, despite the fact that, as reported by Madison historian Kathleen Hulser Ryerson, Mr. Hand did not admire the structure he had funded. There were two terms each year. The winter term was for older students, who worked on farms in the summertime, and the summer term was for younger pupils. Three students graduated in the Academy’s first year.
In 1921 the town decided to consolidate its thirteen elementary-level district schoolhouses, and the original Hand Academy was razed to accommodate a new building. Designed for students of all ages, Hand Consolidated School offered classes for pupils between the ages of four and twenty-four.
In 1936, four extra classrooms and a gymnasium were added to the rear of the property. Eventually this building served as a middle school and then again as an elementary school. For a total of 120 years, the two buildings on this site were essential to education in Madison. Much beloved by several generations of children, Academy School closed in 2004. Its future—and we hope its preservation as both an historic site and as an education center—will soon be decided by Madison citizens.