Midnight Fire Guts the "Old Peck School" on Hillfield Road
(Photo courtesy of Local 2687)
The Hillfield School, referred to by locals as the "Old Peck School," was a private girls' school that opened in 1916, when Miss Florence Peck moved the school from its original location in Wallingford. The building was located atop a hill on the left hand side of Hillfield Road, where Hillfield makes a hard right and Johnson Road goes straight ahead.
On Sunday morning, January 12, 1941, a fire of suspicious origin was discovered shortly after midnight, destroying the building which had been vacant for several years. This was fifteen years before the Westwoods Volunteer Fire Co. was organized, so the nearest fire companies were Companies 5 and 7.
Miss Alice Peck, sister of Florence, also taught at the school. She would later teach at the town's last one-room schoolhouse on the corner of Johnson and Still Hill. That school closed in June 1954 and would later serve as quarters for the Westwoods fire company. In September 1954, a new elementary school was erected on the north side of Hillfield at the corner of Shepard Avenue and was named for Miss Alice Peck.
The headline below should have read "Spectacular Fire Levels School in West Woods." This building was not the Mt. Carmel School, which was located on Woodruff Street - and demolished in 1981.
New Haven Journal-Courier, Monday, January 13, 1941 (Steele Collection)
New Haven Evening Register, Sunday, January 12, 1941 (Steele Collection)
The "Old Peck School," which stood atop the hill near the corner of Hillfield and Johnson Roads (Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)