Florham Park Historic Preservation Commission/Little Red Schoolhouse & Hancock Cemetery
203 Ridgedale Avenue
Florham Park, NJ 07932
My review on TripAdvisor:
The Little Red Schoolhouse Museum
I visited the “Little Red Schoolhouse” Museum in Florham Park as part of the Morris County’s “Pathways to History” event that is held every May. This interesting little museum showcases the town’s historical collection of items from the 1800’s and 1900’s dealing with all aspects of town life.
In the back there is a small classroom set up keeping with the theme of the building. This lets students who are visiting the building of their counterpart’s early education with desks, ink wells and chalk boards that have not changed that much over the years.
Not much has changed in the modern classroom over the years
There is early century clothing, farming equipment from the town’s farming past and event Native American objects found in the town and in private collections. Other items included decorative items from the home including dishware, home products and furnishings. Each section of the museum is divided up by lifestyle.
The docents that day explained that the items were reflect the town’s past and some came from families that have been in town for years. The museum reflects the community spirit of town’s past. It explains that times have progressed but not changed too much over the years.
History of the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum:
(From the Museum Website)
By Kat Kurylko, Research Assistant
In 1830, the residents of Columbia, now Florham Park, sought to improve their thriving farming and broom-making community by establishing a public school for the local children. Therefore, a small schoolhouse, Columbia School #5, was built on the corner of Columbia Turnpike and Ridgedale Avenue and dedicated it on February 17th, 1831. Schooling at the “little red frame building” prospered and so by the 1850’s, the building was “in condition of dilapidation rendering it unfit to be occupied” due to overcrowding.
On March 1st, 1867, nearly 50 children attended their first class in a new one-room brick schoolhouse. The use of brick added prestige but great expense to the project, accounting for nearly half of the budget. The new building was designed based on principles found in Henry Barnard’s book, “School House Architecture. Much like Thomas Kirkbride’s progressive hospital designs (illustrated locally at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital), Barnard’s method School attendance continued to grow and by 1914, a four-room annex building, which could accommodate 78 students was built on the school’s property and the earlier brick building served as an auditorium. Eventually, the community outgrew both buildings and in 1934, the borough’s current middle school was constructed.
Founded in the 1930’s to preserve the “Little Red Schoolhouse”, the Historical Society of Florham Park now operates the building as a museum. A source of great pride for the local community, the building stands in nearly the same location on the corner of Columbia Turnpike and Ridgedale Avenue, although moved back to accommodate the expansion of Columbia Turnpike. Listed on the NJ and National Registers of Historic Places since the early 1970’s, today the building serves as a reminder of the community’s rural roots.
The “Little Red Schoolhouse” Museum in Florham Park, NJ.
(From the Morris County site):
The Little Red Schoolhouse & Museum:
Florham’s Park’s iconic Little Red Schoolhouse was built in 1866 at a cost $2,250. Its open belfry and gable-end entrance instantly identify it as a typical 19th century one-room schoolhouse. The Italianate one-story narrow red brick masonry building is an architectural marvel with its steep roof, tall windows and elaborate arches.
Inside, part of the museum is set up as a 19th century classroom, where small groups can enjoy a lecture. The museum has a variety of artifacts from the 1800’s and 1900’s, vintage school desks and broom-making equipment. Its location at the historic crossroads of Florham Park has remained a key reminder of the borough’s rural origins. The schoolhouse is a stop each fall on the free “Pathways of History” event (which I was on that day I visited).
Of Special Note:
*In 1978, the schoolhouse was moved back several yards to accommodate the expanded Columbia Turnpike.
*The schoolhouse is also known as Columbia School District Number 5 Schoolhouse.
*The schoolhouse is the borough’s icon, appearing on the town flag, letter head, website and public works and first responder vehicles.