Integrated Health Assoc., which specializes in treating children with autism and learning disabilities, subleased the 1,200-square-foot building at 152 Danbury Road in Wilton last month. The property originally was opened as a one-room schoolhouse in 1842.

For nearly 100 years, the tiny white building that sits at 152 Danbury Road in Wilton catered to children. It opened as a one-room schoolhouse in 1842 and remained a schoolhouse until the 1930s.

Now, instead of standing vacant or being used as a museum, the occupants of the old schoolhouse once again focus on children. The building is part of a complex of historic buildings that the Wilton Historical Society renovated 30 years ago for modern uses and the schoolhouse now houses doctors who specialize in treating children with autism and learning disabilities.

“It’s an excellent example of vernacular Greek Revival architecture,” said Marilyn Gould, executive director of the Wilton Historical Society, which owns the schoolhouse.

The doctors’ company, Integrated Health Assoc., subleased the 1,200-square-foot building last month and has moved into the old schoolhouse, according to Christopher K. O’Hara, senior vice president at Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT Inc., who represented the doctors.

The Wilton Historical Society started outfitting old buildings for modern uses about 30 years ago as a way to preserve them, Gould said. She noted that the society was a pioneer in “adaptive use” and, with eight society-owned buildings renovated and in use, it is probably the most successful in the state.

The schoolhouse – called the Kent Schoolhouse – originally was on the other side of the street, Gould said. The Historical Society owns the building and when the state began talking about building a superhighway through the land on which the schoolhouse stood, the group decided to move it across the street, where seven other historic buildings stand on a piece of land called Lambert Corners. That was in 1971, the same year the society began adapting the buildings for modern uses. The superhighway has never been built, but the state might expand the highway along which the schoolhouse and the other buildings sit.

‘First-Class Shape’

The trend began when the Historical Society’s board of trustees decided to convert the town’s oldest house – the Lambert House, which was built in 1726 – for adaptive use. The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission devised regulations for the conversions and, aside from the Lambert House, the society has converted all of the historic buildings on Lambert Corners for such purposes.

Converting the structures allows the owners to earn income that can pay for the maintenance and restoration of historic buildings. The rent earned by the Wilton Historical Society goes toward maintenance and toward the city’s Heritage Museum, Gould said.

Among the eight buildings are a general store that was built in 1790, an overseer’s cottage from 1810 and a general store/post office from 1889.

The process of converting the old buildings is painstaking, Gould said.

“It’s very costly,” she said.

Wilton succeeded, in large part, because of a knowledgeable and dedicated volunteer, Walter Smith, who gave his time to the paperwork, permitting and other complications involved in converting the old buildings, Gould said. The renovations were paid for with mortgage financing, she said.

Some of the difficulties in converting the buildings came in getting everything up to code, Gould said. Meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act can be especially hard for people trying to convert 100- or 200-year-old buildings for modern use, said O’Hara, who has been worked on several transactions involving old buildings.

The schoolhouse has been successfully restored, he said.

“[The Wilton Historical Society] has done a good job maintaining those buildings,” he said.

And it is a never-ending job, Gould said. Because the buildings are so old, they need to be painted and the roofs need tending to often.

“When you’re dealing with historic buildings, it’s never over,” she said.

Other historic buildings that O’Hara has encountered have had problems. Some have asbestos that needs to be removed and some have problems with mold and radon, he said. When representing a buyer or a tenant interested in a historic property, he makes sure to test for all possible problems, O’Hara said.

The schoolhouse was tested, and deemed safe, before the doctors moved in, he said.

“We’ve been able to restore all the buildings to first-class shape,” Gould said.

The doctor’s office fits nicely into the schoolhouse, O’Hara said. The layout is an open design and the doctors have partitions for privacy. The basement of the schoolhouse is used for physical therapy, O’Hara said.

He said he is impressed by the restoration and especially by the technology available to the doctors.

“It’s amazing,” O’Hara noted. “From 1842 to now, there’s a T1 line into that building.”

Most of the tenants like the facilities at Lambert Corners, Gould said.

“They enjoy the surroundings,” she noted.

The changes also have been good for the town. The buildings at Lambert Corners provide an introduction to the town and to its historic past.

“It serves as a gateway to Wilton [and retains] the historic character,” Gould said.

Although the adaptive use has been so successful in Wilton, it has been slow to catch on in other towns across the state.

“Most towns think it’s a very strange thing to do,” Gould said. “I tell them they’re missing the boat.”