27 July 2017

Harmony Plains School

Before there was a Manville, New Jersey, there was a section of Hillsborough Township tucked away in its northeast corner known as Harmony Plains. Like nearly all of Hillsborough in the 1800s, Harmony Plains was farmland, and the farmers in that section sent their children to a two-room schoolhouse on what is now Manville's Main Street.
Harmony Plains School District, 1873 map

It was first called the Gravel Hill School, but by the middle of the century had changed its name to the Harmony Plains School. By the 1870s, the Harmony Plains District was one of more than a dozen in Hillsborough Township, each with their own one or two-room schoolhouse.




Harmony Plains School circa 1900

But the Harmony Plains name goes back even further, as evidenced by the detail from the 1850 Somerset County map shown below.



Harmony Plains School 1850 map
With the instant influx of families who came to the area in 1912 when the Johns Manville plant relocated to Hillsborough, the school district immediately built an improved four-room school on the site. When another school on Camplain Road was built in 1916, the school on Main Street was renamed Manville School 1, and Camplain Road School was called Manville School 2.

Harmony Plains School circa 1913.
Note the student population has more than doubled.

Between 1912 and 1920 Hillsborough's population more than doubled from less than 2,500 residents to more than 5,000 - and all of that increase was in the Manville section of the township. After building the two schools, Hillsborough's school board was reluctant to spend any more money on Manville. The two schools were forced to go on split sessions and use substandard basement classrooms to relieve overcrowding. The issue came to a head in 1928 when New Jersey withheld Hillsborough's state school aid until a plan was in place to relieve the problem.


Main Street School, Manville circa 1930s

By that time a few of the school board members were from Manville, and they were able to form a coalition to push through an acceptable solution. Hillsborough agreed to add four rooms to Manville School 1, and build a completely new school, which became Roosevelt School. Hillsborough also used the opportunity to build a new school for themselves - but that is for a future post.



Demolition of Main Street School, December 1984
By the time the schools opened in 1929, Manville had seceded from Hillsborough and formed its own municipality. They didn't build another school in Manville until the high school was built 25 years later.

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