31 August 2017

Bloomingdale School

If I had to nominate one year as the most tumultuous in the history of Hillsborough 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 municipality 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 Bloomingdale 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 unsuccessfully 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 Construction 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 its 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.

The 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.


  1. I remember painting the exterior of the school as a summer employee for the Hillsborough Board of Education in the early 1970's. I believe the school was grey with white trim and and had not been painted in 25 years. This experience convinced me that I did not want to be a painter. Graduated from HHS in 1973 and went on to Georgia Tech to earn a degree in Mechanical Engineering. The following summers I went to work with Van Cleef Engineering until moving to Cincinnati in 1977. My summer painting Bloomingdale School was a life altering experience! Enjoyed the read!

    1. That's great! The school now has vinyl siding. No more painting.

  2. Hi Jeff. Your mom used to tell us all about Atlanta, and in 1990 Amoco moved me there. When my daughter got accepted at George Tech, I called your mom to tell her. She remarked that Farah must be very smart like you. Miss her.

  3. I went to kindergarten there in '90. I still have some very fond memories of my first school experience there. I'm happy to see they still keep it nice.

  4. I went there for 6th grade in 1971. we walked over to the big school for lunch and gym.

  5. Attended the 6th grade at Bloomingdales in 1966. Still my fondest school memory.
    Does anyone know what happened to Mrs. Pendergast my teacher? She was the best teacher I ever had.