The Schoolhouse Museum-Ridgewood Historical Society
650 Glen Avenue
Ridgewood, NJ 07450
Open: Sunday 2:00pm-4:00pm/Monday-Wednesday Closed/Thursday and Saturday: 1:00pm-3:00pm (please check the websites for changes in the schedule)
Admission: Donation $5.00
The Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum at 650 Glen Avenue
I have visited this interesting small history museum a few times and they do a wonderful job in presenting their displays with interesting facts catering not just to a local crowd, but anyone interested in history and events.
The historic marker outside the museum
The one-room schoolhouse, built in 1872, operated as a public school until 1905. It was part of the district school system formed in 1864 or 1865, which was geographically defined rather than by township. It was operated as School District No. 45. When the towns incorporated in 1894, that district system was dissolved, and the school became part of the Ridgewood school district.
The Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum’s permanent collection
Tradition has it that the original land grant to the Dutch Reformed congregation from Pierre Fauconier and his daughter, Magdalena Valleau, stated that room should always be given upon the church land for a school. We know that a small school building opened in 1785. A second stone school was built in 1820 and eventually replaced by a frame structure in 1845.
Eventually the present schoolhouse was built in 1872 at a cost of $4600.00. It is likely that other schools existed on the church property from the time the church was built in 1735 to 1785, for the consistory assumed responsibility for education and the exact time when that responsibility was handed over to the public is not known.
The large bell summoned children from miles away to school each morning. The original belfry is gone but the bell stands in the entryway. It was used in other schools and a church after the school closed in 1905 but was returned to the historical society in 1977.
The original entry was divided into separate entrances and cloakrooms for boys and girls. The potbelly stove is original as are the windows and the two central lamps. The black boards around the room have been removed except for one behind the teacher’s platform.
There is a recreation of the old schoolhouse when you walk into the museum
When the Historical Society started the museum, the privy building was attached to the main building to provide more display area. In their special display area, they have an exhibition space for farming and a local comedian.
The schoolhouse display
In April 2018, they have a very interesting exhibition call “The Thread of Life” which tells the story of family’s progression in home life from the end of the Civil War until the beginning of the Depression and times changed between the Civil War and WWI. Between the Victorian Era, the sinking if the Titanic and the devastation of WWI, the baby boom of the teens and the ‘Roaring Twenties’ with the stock market built changed the attitudes.
The way of life for an entire generation until the Great Depression put a halt on it. You can see the changes of behavior in the displays of clothes and household decor. It is an interesting display.
A Morning Outfit during the Victorian Age
Union Army outfits and display for the “Civil War” artifacts
They also have an ongoing exhibition of farm equipment and a continuation of their “Farming in Bergen County” exhibition that just closed before this show. This is how farmers of Bergen County produced their crops. The Blauvelt, Zabriskie and Haring families are known farming family names in Bergen County and were important in business and politics during the after the Revolutionary War.
The “Farming and Agricultural” display
Also, see their ‘Halloween Cemetery Walk” in my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com” entry “This is Halloween” Day Ninety-Six, October 31, 2017. Don’t miss it this year!
Day Ninety-Six: This is Halloween-MywalkinManhattan.com:
Don’t miss the “Here comes the Brides” exhibition that just opened up in May of 2019. It shows the history of formal wear for weddings along with accessories, menswear, invitations and even cakes toppers.
‘Here comes the Bride’ Exhibition 2019
In July of 2020, as Phase Three of the Opening in the State of New Jersey, the Museum is now open from 2:00pm-4:00pm for viewing with a new exhibition “A” is for Artistry: Celebrating Centuries of Art, Artists & Creativity”. The exhibit is a combination of local donated art and heirlooms from Ridgewood and the surrounding towns.
There are interesting displays of early photography and portrait painting as a way of preserving a persons’ image for the future. The use of oil painting, tin and then photo ‘sittings’ came in vogue as the technology changed.
There was an interesting display of Children’s toys from the handmade farm toys of clay and corn husks to the fancier toys of bisque and cloth when imports and specialty toy stores were created for children’s playthings. They even had a collection of the famous “Punch & Judy Dolls”.
Children’s playthings over the last two hundred years
Another standout of the exhibition was the display from General Westervelt, a local citizen of Bergen County whose shipping expertise helped the North during the Civil War. His use of navigation and sailing was a detriment to the South and there was a $1000.00 bounty on his head. He died during the Civil War.
In 2022, when the Museum reopened after a long closure with COVID, they opened with two exhibitions: One was “Object Lessons-Treasures that tell our stories”, in which household objects, farming equipment and all sorts of artifacts from the pre-Revolution, Revolutionary War and Civil War periods were shown. It showed the progression that life took for families between the Revolutionary War and the beginnings of the Victorian Age.
“American Revolutionary War” display
They had local Dutch family heirlooms such as chests, cabinets, china, clothing and even documents. The average Dutch family kept their family linens, china, silver and bedding in a locked chest as these were valuable family luxuries that needed protection and proper care.
Dutch Chest with family items that were locked up.
There was a “Lincoln display” at the museum. They had a copy of the poster from the night that President Lincoln was assassinated at Ford Theater during the performance of “My American Cousin”. There was a family shot of the Lincoln family and items from the period.
The “Lincoln Display” that showed an original poster from “Our American Cousin” the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
The other exhibition was “Toying with the Past: Antique Toys & Games”:
Toying with the Past was an interesting exhibition in that it showed how much toys have developed and changed over the years and how much they have stayed the same. There was a beautiful collection of china and bisque dolls, some that were made as playthings and others used as marketing tools to show women the latest fashions coming out of Europe. The dolls would be dressed in the dressmakers’ newest designs.
The Doll Collection is beautifully displayed
There were older versions of modern board games, everyday items like marbles and Jaxs. There were kitchen-based items that a little girl might be given to improve her domestic skills and there was even an early version of an “Easy Bake Oven”, with an electric oven that could be plugged in and boil water.
The items a young girl would receive to prepare her for homelife
Fancy rocking horses and dolls
Vehicles and Board Games that sparked children’s imagination
More dolls and vehicles over the last 100 years
There was also all sort of toys on wheels and rocking horses that could entertain a grumpy child for hours. They even had a selection of play clothes and school items to show what classroom work was like at the turn of the last century.
Special Events and Lectures at the Museum:
Don’t miss their ‘Cemetery Walks’ during the day. I took one recently at the old Dutch Reformed Church and we discussed the history of the church, the location of the old church versus the building of the new one, which is why the cemetery looks the way it does and the locations of the tombstones as well as how time and advancement in carving went from sandstone, which fades and chips over time when to the production of granite and marble for future tombstones.
The Cemetery Walks in Valleau Cemetery across from the museum
The cemetery is filled with names famous and prominent in Bergen County and North Jersey history which includes participation in the wars and the building of Bergen County including the Westervelt’s, Van Riper’s, Haring’s, Zabriskie’s, Terhune’s, Demerest’s, Blauvelt’s and Tice’s families. It is a fascinating place to learn Bergen County history and its development.
The Cemetery Tours that take place the week before Halloween are interesting as well. The paths of the Valleau Cemetery in Ridgewood are lined with candles and you follow the path with the town historian who takes you on a creepy tour of the famous dead residents of Ridgewood. These include prominent athletes, business people and local laborers. You pretty much tour about a third of the cemetery as you move from one tombstone to another met by costumed actors, who they themselves have to sit in the cemetery in the dark waiting for you. That is a horror movie into itself.
The best part of the tour is you are greeted at the museum with a tour of the museum and a table laden with fresh apple cider and cider doughnuts that make the perfect refreshment on a cool fall evening. Make sure to take the 7:00pm tour when it is dark out and make the reservation well in advance as these tours fill up fast.
Taking the Cemetery Tours is interesting!
Don’t miss their upcoming tours for Halloween, Christmas and their lecture series.
Please check out the museum’s website for all their very original special programming.
- Bergen County, NJ "Northwest Bergen Historical Coalition" Event
- Educational Museums
- Experiences and Tours
- Exploring Historic Bergen County
- Exploring Red Hook NY
- Exploring Ridgewood NJ
- Historic Sites in New Jersey
- Parks and Historical Sites
- Small Historical Societies in New Jersey
- Small Museums and Galleries in New Jersey