New Canaan Now & Then: Miss Ayres School


119 Seminary St.

‘New Canaan Now & Then’ is sponsored by Brown Harris Stevens Realtors Joanne Santulli, Karen Ceraso, Bettina Hegel and Schuyler Morris.

The house at 119 Seminary Street (some list it as 115) was once the New Canaan Institute or “Miss Ayres School,” established in 1873 by Harriet Ayres. 

According to a 1938 letter from former student W. Benedict, Miss Ayres School supported 25 to 35 students. She established the school because she found the 19th century public school inadequate to prepare students for college. Miss Ayres’ husband, Edward F. Ayres, died in 1900 and her eldest son, Edward, attended Yale where he won the sophomore prize in mathematics in 1886. 

One of her students, Percy Raymond, became a Harvard professor emeritus of paleontology and praised Miss Ayres as “the best teacher I have ever encountered.” An Advertiser article dated May 22, 1952 stated “she worshiped at the altar of culture and was responsible for several New Canaan boys who sought higher education and gave a pretty good accounting of themselves later in life.” In 1899 she retired from teaching after 30 years. 

She was the first president of the New Canaan Women’s Club—“thirty five brave progressive souls” who had their first meeting at No. 4 Railroad Avenue—present-day Elm Street—at the Reading Room on Sept. 15, 1889. After her retirement, Miss Ayres lived in Boston and then Washington, took up the study of law, and was admitted to the bar. Miss Ayres also attended the University of Geneva to study French and, when she returned to New Canaan at the age of 81, taught French at the New Canaan Community School on Park Street. 

Harriet Ayres died in 1927.

The house on Seminary Street was owned by Joseph Aschauer in 1907.  Mr. Aschauer passed away with an estate of $44,776, but with claims against him amounting to over $20,000. His estate was intended to pass to his mother in Bavaria however “the people who have claims evidently figure that the mother wouldn’t know how to spend the money and the more there is, the more difficult it will be to get it back to Bavaria” (according to an Advertiser article at the time.) 

His brother-in-law, Fritz, was one of the claimants requesting payment for the eighteen months he served as his nurse and provided him with “board, wine, liquors, and cigars.” The same article reported that Mr. Aschauer ran a cafe and lodging house on Greenwich Street in New York City in addition to his real estate holdings which were referred to as the Aschauer Block on Railroad and South Avenue. The Aschauer Block- dwelling flats, store, and the homestead on Seminary-was sold at a public auction in August 1917. 

The next owner of the house was Herbert Scofield and his wife, Eva Horton Scofield. Mr. Herbert L. Scofield was born in New Canaan in 1877 and owned H.L. Scofield Furniture on Main Street. He was described in his obituary as being “one of New Canaan’s veteran civic leaders and a former town treasurer for twenty-seven years.” Mr. Scofield was a 57 year member of the Harmony Lodge, a 56 year member of the Wooster Lodge and a 32nd degree mason. He was also one of the oldest members of New Canaan Fire Department Co. 1. Mrs. Eva Scofield died in May 1954 and was survived by her husband and her three children: Helen, Elsie and Herbert. Mr. Scofield died in August 1957. 

The house on Seminary Street was then owned by his daughter Elsie Scofield Bryant. Ms. Bryant became engaged to Roswell P. Bryant in 1943. Mr. Bryant was born in Oyster Bay Long Island but had lived in New Canaan for almost all of his seventy-eight years. Mr. Bryant was known as a “walking stick of local lore” according to his 1982 obituary. Mr. Bryant had a collection of snapshots and often used his box camera to photograph houses that were on the verge of being torn down. He also kept one cow on his property and at least on one occasion had to complain about the cow being struck with errant bb gun shots.

His son, Roswell P. Bryant (also known as “Peaches”) lived in New Milford where he ran a dairy farm.  Mrs. Elsie Scofield Bryant died in September 1987. The house remained in the Bryant/Scofield family until June 2020. 

2 thoughts on “New Canaan Now & Then: Miss Ayres School

  1. I fondly remember the family & Scofield’s. I own a finished red maple bedroom set from VT bought in 1950s for my maternal grandmother. Before closing, I brought my fraternal twins to see this town landmark, purchasing unfinished dressers & chairs for them.

  2. It is worthy of note that the ancestors of many of those mentioned in this interesting article on Miss Ayres School, are buried in the historic Maple Street Cemetery next to the Vue. Known first as the Ayres Burial Ground, later as the Maple Street Cemetery, these ancestors include Ayres, Benedicts, Raymonds and Scofields. The public is welcome to visit the site and there is signage which includes a list of all those buried there.

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