New Boarding School Coming to Hendee’s Hilltop

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A surprising piece of publicity became available in early April with several pages of online information about a new Yeshiva that was coming to Suffield. A group of the Lubavitch branch of Hassidism was in the process of purchasing the old Saint Alphonsus Seminary that had lain empty for about 14 years on the hilltop adjacent to Hilltop Farm. At the new school’s start the scholars would be young men and boys who have celebrated their Bar Mitzvah and wished to gain a deep knowledge of the Torah and Hebrew prayer. Plans were underway to expand into further levels of study. The online literature offered a link for potential students to apply for the fall term.

Photo by Lester Smith
This recent afternoon view of the old St. Alphonsus Seminary, now being converted to a Lubavitch yeshiva, shows the rear of the building, whose windows on the upper floors will have a nice view of the Connecticut River. Seen through the gazebo are the gym and the swimming pool. Out of the picture to the left are the kitchens, dining hall, auditorium, and other facilities.

In mid-June, a subsequent publication announced that the school had closed on the purchase of the structure and its 56-acre property between Mapleton Avenue and the Connecticut River. In addition to the immense main building, curving a bit around the west side parking lots, there are also a uniquely designed chapel attached in front and two large ells extending to the rear. There is one additional building: the old garage and chauffeur’s apartment for George Hendee’s original mansion, still featuring some of the design details of the mansion that was demolished to make way for the seminary. That school opened in 1963 and closed in 1990.

The building soon became used as a convention center, then as a for-profit occupational school. Suffield residents may recall the Connecticut Culinary Institute, which occasionally sent students and staff to help at local parties. But the occupational schools soon moved out, its owner declared bankruptcy, and the building lay idle.

By 2022, of course, the old place needed a good deal of clean-up and repair, and by June, landscapers had already started mowing, clearing accumulated brush, and removing fallen trees. The first structural repair of the building appeared to be on the roof. First Selectman Colin Moll told the Observer that the building manager plans to focus on having room for 40 students ready for the school’s opening.

The deed for the new sale was recorded by the Town Clerk on July 14, with a purchase price of $2,550,000. (The 2010 cost price of present seller NN Acquisitions LLC was $7,000,000.) Word began to spread that the new school was buying local homes for some of its staff. So far the newspapers’ publication of these purchases has included one on Hickory Street, two in the “Views” neighborhood, and one on Somerwynd Lane, all purchased for the school by CT Family Homes LLC. Reportedly there will be more.

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