07 December 2017

Amsterdam School

The story of Hillsborough Township's Amsterdam School begins more than seven years before students first entered the building with the 1983 passage of a state law allowing schools to finance construction projects through "lease-purchase". Previously, major building projects required a voter-approved bond issue. Lease-purchase, however, only required approval by the local school board and the state Department of Education. In this type of financing, a construction company completes and owns the improvement - often including an entire school - then leases it back to the school district for a length of time until the purchase price is paid off.

9 October 1988 Courier News
After the Hillsborough school budget failed at the polls in April 1988, board members were nervous about a $4 million bond referendum for improvements and additions at several schools - including major improvements of high school athletic facilities - set for May. Notably absent in the referendum - which passed by a 2-1 margin - was any money to build a new elementary school in the Blackwell's Mills section of the township, even though one had been contemplated for some time.

It seemed like every school district in central New Jersey was getting into the lease-purchase game that year - but not without plenty of controversy. Taxpayers, dismayed that construction plans were being contemplated without voter approval, objected in many towns. Improvements in Passaic Township and at Hunterdon Central High School were held up for months and years while the courts got involved.

3 September 1989 Courier News
It was against this backdrop that Hillsborough submitted plans to the state in January 1989 for the 600-student, 58,000 square foot school on an as-yet-to-be-built road that would share its name with the school - Amsterdam. After the state sat on the plans for 5 months with no approval in site, the school board found a way to move the plan forward by changing the status of the lease-purchase from "passive lessor" to "active lessor", which would allow construction to begin while the state was still reviewing the plans.

31 August 1990 Courier News
School board members warned that if the school - which was expected to take 14 to 18 months to complete - wasn't ready by September 1990, there would be 200 students in Hillsborough without seats for the 1990-91 school year. Amazingly, the school was completed on time, and, despite some initial complaints about widespread redistricting, was praised all around.

05 December 2017

Anna Case Coming and Going

When operatic soprano Anna Case made her debut with the Metropolitan in 1909, much was made of the fact that she was the first American singer to appear with the famed company never having had any training in Europe. This fact only added to the fascination people had with the twenty-one-year-old daughter of the South Branch, NJ village blacksmith.

Anna Case waves to the cameras as she leaves for Europe on the liner La France,
28 June 1922
Unfortunately, her first trip to the continent in July 1914 couldn't have come at a worse time. As reported in the July 18, 1914 Courier News, her plan was to spend the summer travelling with a "girl chum" through France and Germany before returning for the fall opera season. The pair had the bad timing of being in the latter country when Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, and war on France on August 3.

Emergency Passport Application filed in Bern, Switzerland,
11 August 1914
With most of the continent mobilizing for war, Anna Case, along with thousands of other tourists, descended on the train stations looking for a way out. After an escape into Switzerland, she met up with another group of Americans at St. Moritz, including retired American Army Captain Philip Lydig. With the party now numbering a half dozen, and the mass of humanity on the train platform at St. Moritz threatening to bring a halt to their flight, Captain Lydig was able to snake his way through the crowd and commandeer a compartment - putting a sign in the window which read, "This compartment reserved for Capt. Philip Lydig, United States Army.

After some further subterfuge in Dijon, the group was able to board a military train bound for Paris. Anna Case eventually made it back the the States by way of London and Montreal in time to fulfill an engagement for the home folk, giving a concert on October 9 at the Second Reformed Church in Somerville.

The Musical Courier, 19 August 1920

With war raging in Europe, Anna Case found herself stateside for the next five summers. She was finally able to satisfy her wanderlust in 1920, with an extended four month trip that included a well-publicized recital at Queen's Hall in London, shopping in Paris, taking in the sights at St. Mark's square in Venice, and relaxing on the beach in Lido, Italy.

Newspaper photos from the 27 August 1922 New York Tribune
 and the 1 September 1922 St. Louis Post Dispatch

Her next trip across the pond in 1922 was notable for the number of intended destinations listed on her passport application - "British Isles, France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Czecho Slovakia [sic], Jugo Slavia [sic], Spain, Monaco. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Morocco, Gibraltar, Algier, Egypt, Palestine" - and for the return to New York, where she lead the passengers in The Star Spangled Banner as the ship passed the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.

10 March 1924 Harrisburg Telegraph

Something new for 1924 as Anna Case began the new year with her first concerts in Hawaii. She closed each concert with "Imi Au Ia Oe" - which she made a record of later that summer, along with three other Hawaiian songs. She even found time to be photographed in a grass skirt playing a ukulele!

News photos from August 1924

As her celebrity grew in the 1920s, news photographers were at the ports for nearly every departure and arrival. Calling out "Miss Case, Miss Case" - and even suggesting poses, like in the August 1924 photos where a reporter handed the departing diva a pipe, resulting in the iconic photo below.

2 August 1924 Minneapolis Star

Newspapers who ran the photo below of Anna Case returning to New York on the Leviathan after her summer 1925 European trek, proclaimed that she "looked glad" to be back. 

I'm sure she was, although it must have been bittersweet as her father Peter Case passed away on August 5th while she was still overseas. It was on this trip that she gave her first concerts in Germany.

20 January 1926 Honolulu Advertiser

She spent the 1925 Christmas holiday performing her second concert series in Honolulu. Fans and friends were sad to see her go in January, covering her in leis. She thanked them by singing a group of Hawaiian songs as she stood on the deck of the departing ship.

Sailing for Europe SS Mauretania, 27 July 1927
The trip to Baden-Baden in the summer of 1927 was advertised as being "for a rest", as were her 1928 and 1929 trips - photographic evidence shown below.

Coming and Going, 1928 and 1929

After nearly two decades of being photographed at the port of New York, the most widely printed photos of Anna Case are undoubtedly the shots of her returning from her honeymoon in England and Scotland with husband Clarence Mackay - the telegraph and cable magnate - on September 15, 1931.

Returning on the Olympic, 15 September 1931

This photo, or variations, appeared in most daily US newspapers in September 1931.

30 November 2017

Hillsborough Middle School, Part 3

After Hillsborough voters twice rejected proposals to build a middle school in 1971 - a two-story school at the intersection of Amwell and Pleasantview roads, and then a one-story school at the familiar location on Triangle Road - the school board wisely set the issue aside for nearly two years.

In the meantime, school enrollment continued to increase at a rapid pace.

14 April 1973 Courier News

On April 30, 1973, a new plan was revealed. The $3.9 million proposal actually varied very little from the second rejected 1971 referendum. The 1,259 student capacity school would feature 38 regular classrooms, home economics, industrial arts, music, and art rooms, and three science labs - as well as a gym with locker rooms, a 180 seat library, and a 450 seat combination cafeteria/auditorium.

The one major difference was that while in 1971 the enrollment projections were cautionary, now they were dire. It was estimated that by the start of the 1976 school year the district would grow by 1,135 students - a 30% increase over the 3,622 currently attending.

It was noted that approval by voters would permit the district to finally close the Flagtown School, currently in use by sixth grades, and allow the Hillsborough Consolidated School (HES) to revert to an elementary school when its seventh and 8th graders moved to the middle school. Also, space would become available at the other elementary schools to provide library facilities and proper classrooms for remedial reading.

9 May 1973 Home News

For these and other reasons, the May 8, 1973 referendum gained approval by a vote of 745-580.

Celebrations lasted for about ten months. When construction bids were opened in March 1974, they came in $295,000 over budget. Rather than go out for yet another referendum, which would be the fourth for this school, the board decided to forgo the purchase of some furniture and equipment and instead include these items in future regular budgets.

26 December 1975 Home News

Construction contracts were duly awarded in March 1974, and the school was completed and ready for students in January 1976.

The Hillsborough Middle School has undergone two expansions since its opening. The first, approved in 1988, added classrooms at the front of the building. The second was a major expansion approved by voters in 1992 that added the 500-student annex on the west side of the building. The annex is unique in that it was intended as a self-contained school of its own, with a gymnasium, cafeteria, and 20 classrooms.

28 November 2017

Anna Case on Record

In 1981 Tom Petty had a problem with MCA, the distributor for Backstreet Records. They wanted to raise the list price of his soon-to-be-released album Hard Promises from the industry standard $8.98 to the "superstar price" of $9.98. He was having none of it, and withheld the master tapes of the album until MCA relented.

October 1912 Edison Phonograph Monthly trade journal

This was a big story that made all of the music rags at the time - I wonder if it was big enough to have caught the attention of 93-year-old Anna Case Mackay, the retired opera and concert soprano and renowned recording artist. 

February 1915 Edison Phonograph Monthly trade journal
She cut her first two sides for Thomas Edison's recording company in 1912 on the format that had only one side, literally - the cylinder. She followed that up in 1913 with two more selections for Edison's new invention, the Diamond Disc. These ten-inch diameter, quarter-inch thick, 80rpm records, with a song on one side, and an"explanatory talk" on the reverse, were such huge hits for Edison that he signed Anna Case to an exclusive contract in 1914.

November 1917 Edison Ad
Here is how the house publication, Edison Phonograph Monthly, described the signing:

"The cost to secure the exclusive services of this eminent artist, precludes the possibility of selling the records at $1.50. It has been decided, therefore, to list all solo selections by her in the $2.00 class. This applies to the two selections now in the disc catalog 80119 and 80120, which have been renumbered 82077 and 82078 respectively."
Anna Case was truly the Tom Petty of her day - the difference being that she didn't fight the price increase, but was probably honored to be elevated. And elevated it was. Just think about it. In 1914 a music lover had to pay $2.00 to own just one song - twice as much as MCA wanted to charge for the ten-track Hard Promises. Not only that, but $2.00 in 1914 was the equivalent of $18 in 1981 and $49 today! If record prices had kept up with inflation, we'd be paying $500 to download on album on iTunes.

1918 full page ad

Edison didn't keep sales records for his Diamond Discs, so it's not easy to calculate how well the 100 tracks Anna Case recorded for the format sold between 1913 and 1926. But given the massive amount of promotion she received with Edison - with custom window displays for record stores, numerous cover photos on Edison publications, and prominent full page ads, like the ones above and below, in popular magazines - we can assume she was one of his top sellers.

December 29, 1928 Music Trade Review

She cut her final two songs for Edison in June 1926 - the same month that her contract expired. She signed with Warner Brothers to make short subject sound movies using the new Vitaphone process - the first successful attempt at "talkies" - but only made two (La Fiesta, and Swanee River). 

September 1929 Columbia Records Ad
At the end of 1928, Anna Case signed with Columbia Records. She released eight 10-inch and two 12-inch double sided 78s through the end of 1930, recording 20 tracks in all for the label. Unlike the status she enjoyed with Edison, she received little promotion from Columbia. Can you even find a mention of Anna Case in the ad above? With Edison she would have been pictured prominently in an ad like this. With Columbia, you need to look closely to find the two listed records - I highlighted them for you. In the 1930 record catalog, below, she is relegated to a small photo on page 147.

Page from the 1930 Columbia Records catalog
For all that, the songs Anna Case recorded for Columbia - using the improved "electrical process" - hold up well for sound quality when compared to the Edison "acoustic" discs. And despite the fragility of the Columbia discs, which make them harder to find today than the near-indestructible Diamond Discs, good examples were able to be easily transferred to other formats. Which means that if you pick up one of the two available Anna Case CDs today, it will be comprised of about sixteen Columbia sides and only four Edisons!

16 November 2017

Hillsborough Middle School, Part 2

When Hillsborough voters rejected the construction referendum to build the township's first high school in 1964, the school board did not place the matter before the public again for nearly a full two years. After the first middle school plan was turned down in March 1971, the board decided on a completely different approach.

27 April 1971 Courier News
Convinced that the vote failed by a better than two-to-one margin because taxpayers didn't like the fact that the board was paying twice the assessed value for the 30 acre site at Pleasantview and Amwell Roads, the board was back within weeks of the referendum with a brand new plan.

The proposed location of the school was moved to the 32 acre site owned by the school district where the Triangle school was located. Other cost-saving measures, such as removing air conditioning from the plan and making the school slightly smaller would reduce the cost from the original $4.2 million to $3.7 million.

11 May 1971 Courier News

Moving the school and reducing the size drew an immediate negative response from the state Department of Education facility planning office. The state noted that even if an additional ten available acres adjacent to the lot was acquired by the district, the 42 acre site would still be smaller than the bare minimum of 47 acres required for the two schools. As noted by state consultant Dominic Chianese in his letter to the board:

"[T]wo schools on a single site of 42 acres is very restrictive in terms of future educational planning. A desirable site size would be 50-100 percent greater than the proposed minimum for the schools."
Deficiencies were also found in the size of instrumental and vocal music rooms, science rooms, and the gymnasium. In the event, David Noonan, superintendent of Hillsborough schools, was able to convince Chianese that the district was in a dire space situation, had already suffered a defeat at the polls, and that no educational compromises would be made in the building.

30 June 1971 Courier News

The June 29, 1971 referendum received support from the Jaycees and three of the five township committeemen, but was opposed by the Hillsborough Taxpayers Association, whose spokesman Joseph Hagarty had this to say after the referendum was defeated - this time by a better than three to one margin:

"The public has decided what they want. They have made it plain that the board should look at alternatives for the school space problems. The next move is up to the board. They are well aware that there are alternatives and where to look for them."
Would the board look for alternatives? Stay tuned for Part 3 next week.

09 November 2017

Hillsborough Middle School, Part 1

In the summer of 1969, with the incoming 8th, 9th, and 10 graders who would make up Hillsborough High School's first students yet to set foot in the new building, the school board was already announcing that the district was out of space and would need to build yet another school.

Hillsborough High School under construction, 1969
Coming up with a proposal took another year-and-a-half. In December 1970, the board revealed plans for Hillsborough's first true Middle School, to be built on a 30 acre tract at the intersection of Amwell and Pleasantview Roads. The $120,000 purchase price for the property would be part of a $4.2 million bond referendum set for March 9, 1971.

8 December 1970 Courier News
The school had an expected completion date of September 1973, just in time to save Hillsborough from having to rent classroom space from churches and the rescue squad - although the 1972-73 school year would require using the sub-standard rooms at Bloomingdale, Flagtown, and Liberty Schools.

The two-story school would be able to accommodate 1,200 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in 38 regular classrooms, two industrial arts rooms, three science labs, two home economics rooms, two music rooms, and three practice rooms. Also three remedial rooms, an art room, a mechanical drafting room, a gymnasium, a library, and a cafeteria.

March 1971 Home News articles
The school budget defeat in February was the first sign that the March referendum might be in trouble.  Taxpayers were not very excited about the price tag - the debt service would cost the owner of an average home $8 per month - and were not happy that the board was paying twice the assessed value for the 30 acre property.

The day before the vote The Courier News published an article laying out what would likely happen if the referendum was defeated:

"The alternatives available to the board, should the middle school be defeated, are double sessions, more rented substandard facilities, additions to present schools and a year-round school system[!]. In regard to the latter, the Board of Education is considering starting such a program in grades 9-12, and if it is successful, possibly expanding it to grades 6-8. However, it warns, since it will take nearly three years to fully evaluate such a program and classrooms are needed now, this cannot postpone school construction."
10 March 1971 Courier News
Despite the dire warnings, the referendum failed by a greater than two to one margin. And so, as it was in the case of the high school seven years earlier, the school board licked their wounds and contemplated Plan B.

To be continued....

02 November 2017

Hillsborough High School, Part 3

Hillsborough school board members must have been excited and relieved after voters finally approved a construction referendum on June 28, 1966 to allow the construction of the township's first high school. The Somerville Board of Education had imposed a deadline of June 1968, after which Hillsborough students would no longer be admitted. Indeed, overcrowding in Somerville had already forced  Hillsborough's ninth graders to be retained and attend school with the seventh and eight grade.

11 July 1967 Courier News
At the school board meeting following the referendum a construction schedule was laid out: the architect would submit the plans to the state on January 6, 1967, construction bids would be received on April 3rd, and work would commence on April 15th. The deadline for completion was thrust upon the district by Somerville - September 1968.

14 May 1968 Courier News

Although construction bids came in around $200,000 over the $3.56 million amount authorized in the 1966 referendum, work on the school did commence in the spring of 1967, with a groundbreaking ceremony held on July 10. To make up the difference, board members decided to add a second question to the February 1968 school election asking voters to allow the transfer of $168,733 from current expenses to capital outlay. The question failed, as did the entire budget.

17 June 1968 Courier News

As work progressed on the school, it was evident that without additional funds, the cafeteria kitchen could not be furnished, and the gym and outdoor athletic facilities could not be completed. The school board decided to go back to the voters one final time with a three-part bond financing referendum set for June 25, 1968.

6 October 1969 Home News

Here's how The Courier News described the three proposals:

"The first will provide $110,000 for a language laboratory with all necessary facilities and for the purchase and installation of various types of education equipment and shop equipment. The second proposal provides $65,000 for the purchase and installation of kitchen equipment. This will be used in conjunction with the school cafeteria. The third proposal calls for $50,000 for the construction and installation of folding partitions in the auditorium [gym?], curbing at the school site, fencing in the area of the athletic track, bleachers at the football field and additional bleachers and bleacher steps in the gymnasium."
Voters approved all three parts of the referendum by a two-to-one margin 

Image from the first Hillsborough High School Yearbook, 1970

The school board also acknowledged that there was no chance that the building would be ready for students by September 1968. Fortunately, in consideration of the fact that construction was underway, Somerville extended their deadline for one more year, and confirmed that Hillsborough students that had already begun their high school careers in Somerville could remain and graduate there. P.S. They also got a new school!

Accordingly, the high school opened in September 1969 with 8th, 9th, and 10th grades, and was formally dedicated the next month.

The school has had three major expansions which has more than doubled capacity, the last one being in 2002.

Hillsborough High School will celebrate its 50th anniversary in September 2019.

26 October 2017

Hillsborough High School, Part 2

After Hillsborough voters went to the polls on July 14, 1964 and rejected a $2.9 million bond issue to build a high school at the corner of Amwell and Homestead Roads, school board members went home to lick their wounds and come up with a Plan B. While not giving up the dream of a school solely for Hillsborough students, the first serious proposal came more than a year later.

16 September 1965 Courier News
Montgomery Township was in the same situation as Hillsborough. Despite having only half the number of students, Montgomery had been turned down by every area district in their quest to find a place for their high-schoolers after June 1968. Because Hillsborough already had a site for a school, board members decided to explore the concept of a regional high school with our neighbors to the south.

Here's what Hillsborough school board member Edward Jacobs had to say about the urgency facing the districts:

"Regionalization is just one of the alternatives being investigated by the Hillsborough board, which is now awaiting replies from all high school districts within 15 miles concerning their ability to accept Hillsborough high school students by September, 1968. In view of the facts [sic] that Montgomery, with half the number of our high school students, has been turned down by every school district in the area, it makes me most pessimistic about Hillsborough's finding a receiving district for its children."

A committee was formed with three representative board members and the superintendent of each district, but ultimately the districts decided to abandon the plan and continue to pursue the construction of new schools in each town.

10 June 1966 Courier News

Faced with the prospect that Hillsborough students would have nowhere to go after the 1967-68 school year when Somerville would no longer accept them, the board members, superintendent, and architect spent the next six months working through 16 revisions trying to come up with an economical high school plan that voters would approve.

27 June 1966 Courier News
This second high school plan increased the number of classrooms from 35 to 44, and also included a larger cafeteria and vocal and instrumental music rooms. Because construction costs had risen and the school was larger, the cost would increase from $2.9 million to $3.56 million.

29 June 1966 Courier News
Unlike in 1964, the township committee did not publicly oppose the referendum, which was widely endorsed. Voters went to the polls on June 28, 1966 and gave the project their overwhelming approval.  But that was not the last high school referendum needed before the school could open. We will take a look at referendum numbers 3a, 3b, and 3c, in Part 3 next week.

20 October 2017

Hillsborough High School, Part 1

In 1954 the Boro of Manville Board of Education was in a bind.  In the twenty-five years since the municipality had split from Hillsborough Township, the population had nearly doubled from around 5,000 to almost 10,000. In just the eleven years between 1943 and 1954, the pupil population had grown from 793 to 1293 - and many of those were high school students. For a town without a high school, whose school board had just been notified by two of the three districts attended by Manville highschoolers - Bound Brook and Dunellen, the third being New Brunswick - that new students would no longer be accepted after 1955, this was a serious problem.

21 July 1955 Home News

Manville had been throwing around the idea of building their own high school since at least 1938, when New Deal money was available. With this new urgency, they went to the voters and got approval for their first high school.

Hillsborough, apparently, felt no such urgency. 

Sure, the residential housing boom that began in the township around 1955 brought mostly young families with young children, but it's hard to believe that the Hillsborough school board couldn't figure out that those little kids would grow into teenagers. 

31 August 1963 Home News

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, students in Hillsborough might elect to go to high school in Somerville, or Bound Brook, or even Flemington - if they went at all - but in the post World War II period Hillsborough began sending all of their high school students to Somerville on a tuition basis, as did many other Somerset County municipalities. As Somerville High School began to overflow with students, the Somerville Board of Education warned the other towns that they would need to start making other plans.

Before the start of the 1963/64 school year, Hillsborough was told that 9th graders would no longer be accepted at Somerville. Hillsborough's only recourse was to retain the previous years 8th graders at the Consolidated School (HES) and have them complete 9th grade alongside the 7th and 8th graders. And the school board began looking at sites to build a high school. 

Architect's model of the original Hillsborough High School plan.
12 July 1964 Home News

The board reportedly considered five different possible sites for the school, but only revealed to the public the final choice at the intersection of Amwell and Homestead Roads. On January 23, 1964, voters approved transferring $90,000 from surplus to capital outlay in order to buy the 50 acre parcel from Claremont Developers.

Plans were drawn up for a $2.9 million school that, according to a report in the Home News:

"...21 academic classrooms, four science laboratories, three industrial arts rooms, six business education rooms, 1,000-seat gymnasium, 600-seat auditorium, 100-seat library. 350-seat cafeteria, 125-foot tiered lectured room, and 10 small classrooms."

A referendum was set for July 1964, with a target date for completion of September 1966. Confident that the referendum would obtain voter approval, the school board passed on an offer of a five-year contract from Somerville to accept 10th, 11th, and 12th graders through 1969.

15 July 1964 Courier News

Unfortunately, four of the five township committee members, plus the tax assessor, did not back the school board, attacking the plan as being too expensive for taxpayers. On July 14, 1964, voters rejected the proposal by a better than 2-1 margin.

12 October 2017

Woods Road School

On June 22, 1965 Hillsborough voters approved by a 2-1 margin an $896,000 bond issue for a new elementary school. Unlike the previous four schools built between 1950 and 1962 which started life as bare-bones 12, 16, or 20 room schools, the new Woods Road School would be a complete 25-room building right from the start, with an all-purpose room and all of the other amenities which had to be added to other schools later.

Woods Road School artist's rendering
21 June 1965 Home News

After the vote, Board President Morton Yeomans was quoted in the Courier News:

"We (the board) are extremely pleased that the citizens recognized the need for an elementary building. If they had not approved this proposal there would have been at least 20 classes on double sessions within the next 2 1/2 years."

23 March 1966 Home News
It seems incredible now, writing this in 2017 during a long period where student enrollment has been essentially flat and there has been no classroom space added in fifteen years, that a referendum defeat would have meant double sessions just a few years after the construction of TWO elementary schools in 1962 left the district with a classroom surplus! Such was the plight of Hillsborough during the rapid residential development of the 1950s though 1980s.

29 January 1968 Home News
The board was hoping for a Fall 1966 opening for the school, but as ground was not broken on the project until March 1966, they were fortunate to get the doors opened for students on April 17, 1967.

Woods Road School received its major upgrade  - $2.6 million for the new gym, library, computer lab, art room, and five small group-instruction rooms - as part of a $13.4 million district-wide construction referendum that was passed on March 17, 1992.