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.





05 October 2017

Triangle School

On June 7, 1960, as part of an ongoing effort to get ahead of constant and debilitating school enrollment increases, Hillsborough voters went to the polls and approved a $985,000 bond issue for the construction of not one, but two new elementary schools.

Triangle School, 2 August 1962 Courier News
A school on Woodfern Road had long been envisioned - indeed the land had been acquired years before - but the new 20-room school on Triangle Road required purchasing the 31 acre site. Initially planned for a January 1962 opening, some minor construction delays pushed the date back to the beginning of the 1962-63 school year.


15 June 1966, Home News

Actually, the very first students to occupy the school were a few hooligans who pried open a window and made some minor mischief in a couple of classrooms in the summer of 1962. They just couldn't wait!

Like most of the Hillsborough schools that were built before the municipal sewer system was unbiquitous in the central part of the township, Triangle School initially used a septic system with periodic pumping and disposal. After a few years when the school district sought to hook into the system used by Country Club Homes, the inadequacy of that system was brought to the fore.


4 August 1969 Courier News
The opening of the twin schools in 1962 gave Hillsborough an actual surplus of classrooms for the first and only time in its history. Although every room at Triangle was occupied, Woodfern started the school year with nine rooms in reserve. There were also three vacant rooms at the Consolidated School (HES), and two at Sunnymead. No children would need to be bussed to Montgomery, and the three older buildings - Bloomingdale, Flagtown, and Liberty - contributed an additional eleven empty classrooms to the reserve.



The December 1984 construction referendum brought the addition of the multipurpose room in 1987. Additional classrooms, a new cafeteria, new library, and computer rooms debuted in 1989.






28 September 2017

Woodfern School

Well, that didn't last long. The Hillsborough Township Board of Education began the 1959-60 school year with a brand new building - Sunnymead - but by March they were meeting to appoint an architect to draw up plans for not one, but TWO additional elementary schools. Once again the board was desperately trying - and ultimately failing - to get ahead of enrollment increases caused by the residential housing boom.



Woodfern School architect's model,
31 May 1960 Courier News

One of those two new schools, Woodfern - had been on the drawing board for more than three years, since the school board had purchased the property on Woodfern Road back in 1956. But those plans were put on hold when the board acquired the Sunnymead property. The new proposal was to build two schools - a sixteen-classroom school on Woodfern Road, and a twenty-classroom school on 31 acres to be purchased on Triangle Road.


8 June 1960 Home News
On June 7, 1960 township voters approved a bond issue of $787,000 for construction of the buildings, and $218,000 for furnishings, equipment, wells and sewage systems, landscaping, and architect's and related fees. Just like at the Sunnymead School, the plans only called for the basic classrooms, offices, and nurse's office - no large cafeteria, multi-purpose rooms, or gyms.


25th Anniversary Celebration (more than two years late!)
9 June 1988 Courier News
Because the new schools weren't expected to be completed until January 1962, the school board was forced to convert two rooms at Sunnymead for classroom space, one of which was the kitchen, and utilize one room each at the Flagtown Firehouse, and the Rescue Squad building when schools opened in September 1960.

Construction took a bit longer than expected, but because costs were less than expected Woodfern School was expanded from sixteen to twenty classrooms, making it a true twin of Triangle School. Four classrooms opened on March 26, 1962, and both schools opened fully in September for the 1962-63 school year. It was  to be the first time in years that every Hillsborough student would actually go to school in Hillsborough, with none being bussed to Montgomery Township.




Woodfern received its first addition in 1987 - a $784,000 multi-purpose room - part of a $8.27 million construction bond approved in December 1984 for various expansion projects.  The school expanded to its current size as part of a December 1991 $13.4  million construction referendum for improvements throughout the district. Woodfern added a cafeteria, music room, art room, three classrooms, and two small group instruction rooms. Also included was the conversion of the original small all-purpose room to a library.

Woodfern became the third current Hillsborough Township school to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012.

26 September 2017

Anna Case's Garden Party, 1919

Anna Case spent much of 1917 and 1918 singing for the troops at army camps in New Jersey and New York, pitching war bonds, and appearing in patriotic concerts. She wrapped up her war efforts on June 14, 1919 by hosting a lawn party for hundreds of convalescent soldiers at her Mamaroneck, NY summer home.


29 June 1919 St. Louis Post Dispatch
The Metropolitan Opera soprano and South Branch, New Jersey native had just completed one of her most ambitious and succesful national tours the previous month, including concerts up and down the west coast from Yakima to Los Angeles, and was looking for a way to give back to veterans of the Great War recuperating in military hospitals. When she hit upon the idea of hosting a day out at her country retreat, she asked that the most severely wounded, especially those not ambulatory, be given top priority on the guest list.



1 July 1919 Buffalo Enquirer


The piano was moved out onto the porch which was, according to newspaper reports, "decorated with masses of flowers and the flags of the allies and the Stars and Stripes." Miss Case's frequent tour companion, pianist and composer Charles Gilbert Spross, was enlisted to provide accompaniment.


1 July 1919 Buffalo Enquirer


Ambulances transported the wounded from Base Hospital 1 on Gun Hill Rd, in the Bronx to the prima donna's bungalow at Brevoort Farm. Cake and ice cream were served, and Miss Case provided the entertainment herself, singing for the assembled. Including nurses and army staff, there were about 250 all together. The veterans serving then, as they do today, as a reminder of those who didn't come back.


6 July 1919 New York Herald


Telegrams from the governors of New York and New Jersey, stage favorite Frances Starr, and Thomas Edison were read. After supper, prizes were awarded in the categories of Longest Service in France, Most Prisoners Captured, and Most Wounds!

Photos are from newspaper accounts of the fete.




21 September 2017

Sunnymead School

In June of 1957 the Hillsborough Township school district was out of space, out of money, and out of time. In 1954 voters approved a $500,000 13-classroom addition to the 1950 Consoldiated School (HES) designed to allow the district to accommodate up to 1,100 pupils total. Now two years later, officials were projecting 1,255 for the 57-58 school year - an increase of almost 20% - due to the build-out of housing developments at Green Hills and Country Club Homes. The immediate solution was to rent space from Montgomery Township, including a sub-standard basement room at the Harlingen School, and utilize the sub-standard rooms at the Liberty School and the Bloomingdale basement.


Artist's rendering of the proposed Sunnymead School,
26 September 1957 Home News
The long term solution was to build a new $400,000 12-classroom school on a 26 acre tract on fronting on Sunnymead Road. The problem was that because of the 1954-55 expansion the district had exhausted its borrowing power. In due course permission was granted from the state to exceed borrowing capacity, and on October 1, 1957 voters approved a $425,000 bond issue for Sunnymead School.


Suunymead ground-breaking ceremony,
28 May 1958 Courier News

A ground-breaking ceremony was held on May 27, 1958 with one important question remaining to be answered: Would the school utilize an appropriated $15,000 to construct its own sewage disposal plant, or could a deal be worked out to connect to the Manville sewer system. The cost to build the sewer line in Hillsborough was estimated to cost Hillsborough $50,000 - $35,000 of which would need to be picked up by the township as it was more than the $15,000 budgeted. The matter became entangled with negotiations over extending Brooks Boulevard to Route 206, and then was ultimately dropped by the school board in September.




Sunnymead School open house,
9 November 1959 Home News

By that time the new school year had started, and with Sunnymead School still far from completion, an overcrowded district resorted to using the South Branch Grange Hall to educate 45 students, as well as continuing to rent from Montgomery and use the sub-standard rooms. In the summer of 1959 the Country Club Homes Civic Association helped to move seven classrooms of furniture from the Harlingen School, and two from the Grange Hall, to make the school ready for a September opening.




A 1965 expansion added the gym on the south side of the school, and the 1989 expansion at the rear of the school doubled the capacity from 300 to 600 students and cost $2.4 million.

In 2009 Sunnymead became the second of Hillsborough's current schools to celebrate its 50th anniversary.


19 September 2017

Colonel Peter Dumont Vroom

On May 3, 1775, at the home of Garret Garretson in Hillsborough Township, the citizen-farmers of Somerset County gathered to elect officers and form several companies of militia. Chosen for the Hillsborough company were John Ten Eyck, Captain; Peter D. Vroom, Lieutenant; Jacobus Quick, Second Lieutenant. Thus began the military career of Hillsborough's first war hero.


The Vroom homestead at "Pine Bank" circa 1915.


Peter Dumont Vroom, Sr. - father of the future New Jersey governor - was born on January 27, 1745 to George Vroom and Garretje DuMont. The Vroom family came from Holland to Long island, New York, about 1638, and were subsequently early settlers of Somerset County, NJ, making their home on the banks of the Raritan River.



1850 Somerset County map showing the location of the Vroom homestead.

Vroom lived for a time in New York City, but returned in the years before the Revolution, married Elsie Bogart of Somerset County and made his home on the south bank of the Raritan River east of the village of Branchville (South Branch). This spot, long favored by Native Americans because its location at the bend of the river permitted views east and west, is known as Pine Bank.

Vroom was a prominent citizen of Hillsborough before the war having been elected High Sheriff of the County of Somerset in 1774. When hostilities began, he was quickly promoted from Lieutenant to Captain, and was then elected as First Major of the 2nd Battalion of Somerset Militia and received a commission on June 6, 1777. On September 9, 1777 he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.



Continental forces attack the Chew House
at the Battle of Germantown, October 4, 1777

The only specific war activity mentioned in the scattered brief biographies of Colonel Vroom is that he participated and was wounded in the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. As part of the New Jersey Militia, his objective that day was to march overnight on Washington's left, engage the enemy in the flank at dawn, and get behind the enemy lines. Plans were hindered by dense fog and poor communications, and the NJ Militia failed to find the enemy, so it is unknown how Vroom sustained his wounds. The fact that his Lieutenant, John Brokaw, was killed in the battle, may point to Colonel Vroom not accompanying the Militia that day, but rather being attached to another command.

After the war he resumed public service: elected Somerset County Clerk in 1784, elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1792 - and re-elected through 1798. A staunch Federalist, he was nominated for a US House seat in 1800, but the Democrats were in ascendance in New Jersey, and Colonel Vroom was locked out of state and national office until convulsions of the War of 1812 put the Federalists back in power in 1813, and he was returned to the General Assembly for the final time.



The Vroom Burial Ground,
in the woods between River Road and The Raritan River
In between and sometimes concurrently with his state and national service Colonel Vroom also held several elected Somerset County offices, as well many Hilsborough Township elected and appointed positions. Apart from his public service he was a farmer and surveyor and an elder in the Reformed Dutch Church at Somerville.



Gravesite of Colonel Vroom. His memorial, center, is inscribed,
"Sacred in the memory of Peter D Vroom 86y 8m 10d"
He lived a long life - long enough to see his son elected governor - and died at the old homestead on November 17, 1831 aged 86. 

Colonel Vroom is buried in the Vroom Burial Ground on River Road just west of his home at Pine Bank. The house stood until the early 1930s, when hunters wandered in and attempted to start a fire in the 17th century Dutch oven, burning the house down to the foundation.

14 September 2017

Hillsborough Consolidated School (HES)

On Saturday November 19, 1949, Somerset County Schools Superintendent Sampson G. Smith declared the era of the "little red school house" officially over. Smith made his remarks at the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of the Hillsborough Consolidated School, now known as Hillsborough Elementary School, or HES.

Artist's rendering of the proposed Hillsborough Consolidated School,
 7 July 1949 Courier News

Just 20 years earlier in 1929 Hillsborough's first modern school, Bloomingdale, was opened on Amwell Road near the intersection of the present day Route 206. The first through eighth grade building brought the "central school" concept to Hillsborough. But its four classrooms - five when the basement was pressed into service - only put a couple of the one and two-room Hillsborough schoolhouses out of business. Increasing enrollment meant that in the 1949-50 school year much older schools - Clover Hill, Pleasant View, Neshanic, Liberty, and Flagtown were still being utilized.


Cornerstone Ceremony at Hillsborough Consolidated School,
21 November 1949 Home News
In February 1949 Hillsborough voters passed a $380,000 bond referendum for a new twenty-room school to be built next to Bloomigale right at the intersection of Amwell and 206. The original configuration of the building had 400 feet of frontage on Amwell Road, and 150 on Route 206. Amenities were to include a combination cafeteria-auditorium, and a modern kitchen. The Home News of November 21, 1949 described other aspects of the plan:

The floor and roof will be of steel-deck construction, and the building will have flourescent lighting throughout. Its heating plant will be forced warm air, with complete fresh-air ventilation, and every room will have thermostatically-controlled heat.
Another innovation was that each "acoustically treated" classroom would include an exterior door to reduce "fire hazard".

The school board awarded construction contracts in August 1949 and construction began within the month. By June of the next year, with construction nearly complete, the school hosted its first event; the Hillsborough Schools 8th grade commencement exercises were held in the auditorium.

26 March 1965 Home News
Hillsborough Consolidated School has undergone two major expansions since 1950. The first was the addition of the classrooms, gym-auditoriumon, and cafeteria on the Route 206 side in 1955, necessitated by the Green Hills and Country Club Homes developments. The second was a $1.3 million project in 1992 which added the library/media center, computer lab, and music room.



Although we know the building today as Hillsborough Elementary School - and it did begin as a K-8 school - for many of the years preceding the opening of the middle school on Triangle Road, the school housed grades 7, 8, and 9. After the middle school debuted, the Consolidated School became - for a time - Hillsborough's sixth grade school. Other configurations have included K-5 and K-6. During several school years the Bloomingdale building next door was used as an annex, sometimes for art classes, kindergarten classes, or other grades when space was needed.

The school celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2000, and currently houses students in kindergarten through fourth grade. It is the oldest of the nine Hillsborough Township schools currently in use.





31 August 2017

Bloomingdale School

If I had to nominate one year as the most tumultuous in the history of Hillsbororough Township Schools it would be hard to find a better candidate than 1928. Trouble had been brewing for sixteen years, and had been boiling over since at least 1925. Hillsborough Township had never adequately provided for the huge influx of students that came with the opening of the Johns Manville factory in the northeast corner of the muncipality in 1912, and now they would have to answer for it.

Bloomingdale School, August 2017
On the evening of April 3, 1928, Hillsborough and Manville residents packed the little one-room Bloomingdale School on Amwell Road near the intersection of today's Route 206 to hear what the school board was going to do about the "Manville problem" - especially since they had just learned that because of the board's inaction the state was withholding the final school aid payment for the year. This would mean that unless Manville students - who had been on half-day sessions for years  - were provided with new school rooms, all of the Hillsborough Township schools would be forced to close by May 1.



Detail from the 1873 Hillsborough map showing Bloomigdale District 43

The state insisted that Hillsborough build a new eight-room brick school for Manville, plus add a four-room addition to School 1 (Main Street School). The story gets complicated from here, with a lot of business concerning improper referendums and illegally purchased land.


Bloomingdale School, July 2017

Much of the intrigue concerned board president William H. Hill - a 25-year member of the board who, according to the Courier News, bragged often of being "the guiding hand in the educational affairs of the township." He tried unsuccesfully to have a two-room school built at Blackwell's Mills - where he resided - to replace the century-old one-room school there.



Bloomingdale School interior, July 2017

After a summer spent sorting out legal problems, the school board met on November 8 to award contracts for a new eight-room school in Manville, a four-room addition to School 1, and a new four-room schoolhouse at Bloomingdale. Greasheimer Conctruction Company had the low bid for the Bloomingdale School: $24,192. Elling Brothers got the plumbing contract for a bid of $1,380; Burns, Lane and Richardson won the heating contract for $3,820; C.F. Dean was awarded the electrical contract for $490. In total, Hillsborough Township's first modern school building cost less than $30,000. Construction took place throughout the winter, spring, and summer of 1929 on the lot just behind the one-room school, which was torn down that summer.


Students working on the school newspaper at Bloomingdale School,
12 April 1950 Courier News
More than 150 people attended a reception for the new "Central School" soon after it opened in September 1929. All hailed the school for it's thoroughly modern facilities. The pairs of classrooms at the left and right of the building could be opened up and combined to make larger rooms for activities, and, indeed, the school hosted many gatherings of Somerset County school employees during its first years.


Rear of Bloomingdale School, July 2017

Each of the four rooms housed two grades. May Huff was the first principal and taught grades 7 and 8. Helen Nevius taught 5 and 6, Estelle Walker taught 3 and 4, and Mary Skillman taught grades 1 and 2.  The school was in regular use until 1950 when the consolidated school (HES) was built next door. After that, it became an annex for HES in times of increased enrollment, and was also used on an emergency basis throughout the fifties and sixties.

Today the building houses the school's maintenance and transportation offices, as well as providing additional office space for other departments.