In the early twentieth century, the old academy building served as a high school for Newtown. In 1920 the old academy building, mysteriously caught fire and was burned to uselessness.
In the aftermath, Arthur T. Nettleton, president of Newtown Savings Bank and financial advisor to Mary E. Hawley, convinced her to donate a new High School building to the town. This became the first of several benefactions to the town from that exceedingly generous woman.
The school, which was to be named for her parents, was completed in 1921 and was considered to be one of the most advanced school buildings in the state at that time. In addition to having central heating, it was completely fireproof and contained a state of the art chemistry lab and full auditorium for community meetings.