Renbrook School is Rich in History - Right Down to the Faucets

Barbara Doyle
Renbrook School is rich in history and evidence of that history is alive and well on our campus today. Renbrook School was originally the home of Frederick B. Rentschler, co-founder of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, his wife Faye Belden Rentschler, and their children. The estate was built more than 90 years ago and later became a school when Mr. Rentschler created a non-profit foundation to honor his late wife who had been the chief designer of the home. 
The school was founded in 1935 as the Tunxis School and later renamed the Junior School. It was housed in older homes, first on Albany Avenue and then at the corner of Farmington and Overlook Avenues. By 1956, Junior School was bursting at the seams and in response, Headmistress Florence Greene and the Board of Trustees decided they needed to expand the campus. When the estate of Frederick B. Rentschler announced it would lease its family home to a worthy not-for-profit institution, Junior School applied for the opportunity. Selected first among 18 applicants, the school was awarded the rental of the Albany Avenue home at $1.00 annually. In appreciation, the Junior School renamed itself ‘Renbrook,’ the original name of the Rentschler estate.

Throughout the estate, Faye Rentschler intentionally used design elements that emphasized spokes and movement, evoking the air-cooled Wasp engine that Frederick Rentschler famously produced, transforming aviation. It can be seen in the swirling flower design in Gray Hall’s coffered ceiling, curving flowers on interior door hardware in several offices upstairs, and the original faucets in the downstairs guest bathroom, all mimicking the radial shape of the Wasp engine. 

When the guest bathroom off Gray Hall was renovated to make it accessible in 2018, Howard Wright, science teacher and Renbrook historian, preserved the golden floral handles. “Mrs. Rentschler chose that design, even though it was uncomfortable as a handle because it was the closest she could come to the Wasp engine,” Wright explains. For although it was her husband who developed the engine, Faye Belden Rentschler named it, and once you start looking for a propeller design, you find it everywhere. The front courtyard itself, with its bluestone spokes projecting into the cobbles, is another nod to the engine that made the Rentschlers’ fortune.

Thanks to the Hodson Family, the handles from the original guest bathroom have been preserved and mounted and are now displayed on the restroom wall. The donation was made in honor of their daughter, Adrienne Hobson '20.

This post was created with excerpts from a robust article on the Rentschler history written by Beverly Fitzsousa, Director of Secondary School Placement. The complete article can be found in the Renbrook Magazine Winter 2020.



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