By Maryanne Cdristiano-Mistretta
The Little Red Schoolhouse on Ridgedale Avenue in Florham Park is iconic.
The one-story red brick masonry building with the steep roof and bell on top has been a landmark to the borough of Morris County since 1866.
The schoolhouse first opened in March of 1877, therefore the 150th anniversary will be coming up next year. Plans for the anniversary are not yet certain, according to Richard Davidson, Historical Society president. But there’s some thought going on to organizing a gala event to mark around that date, which falls on Ash Wednesday.
In the meantime, renovations are coming along.
Any day they are expecting a delivery of cedar shingles.
Davidson said, “There’s been a national tight market for good quality cedar shingles. After they are manufactured they need to be dipped in a preservative and dried. It’s a somewhat lengthy process. What hasn’t been confirmed, the contractor has to choose a start date. We’re anxious that he starts and finishes quickly or is able to hold off until the Pathways of History event held October eighth and ninth – Columbus Day weekend.
Another current project is up on the roof.
Davidson said, “In this previous project the roof and the vestibule and the siding on the bell cupula were replaced with new shingles. When it rains you can see the difference. Now it’s time to do the full roof replacement. It will be adding new gutters and downspouts. Those will be larger and of cast iron instead of the current aluminum gutters and downspouts. Since it’s a big roof, it’s a good thing the gutters will be wider. Anything that will keep the water away from the foundation is a bonus.”
This past June another grant was approved for other exterior improvements around the building.
Davidson said, “Windows will be refinished. The outer surfaces of the brick, the mortar between them will be repointed. Finally, the walls will be repainted. It’s difficult to match the brick. The color and tone of those bricks will not be quite the same. Normally a brick structure is not painted. That will be a good chunk of work and should pretty much take care of the major maintenance pieces for the schoolhouse – at least the exterior.”
The Historical Society has had a museum in the schoolhouse since the late 1970s. The museum is open to the public between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. It’s also open to groups by appointment.
Inside the museum, visitors can get a feel for what the school was like during earlier times when the area was mainly a farming village. The exhibit has many artifacts on display that were collected by the historical society such as agricultural tools and early kitchen utensils. Visitors can also see the broom-making machines that farmers used. And there’s a section of the museum set up as a classroom, featuring an old blackboard, old desks, and aged maps.
For more information on the Little Red Schoolhouse, and the borough’s history, visit: https://www.newjerseymemories.com/2015/07/the-little-red-schoolhouse-in-florham.html or https://www.florhamparkboro.net/.
For information on the county’s Historic Preservation Grant Program, visit: https://morriscountynj.gov/planning/divisions/prestrust/historic/.