14 January 2019

Bound Brook High School

The Bound Brook Board of Education began to contemplate providing a high school for area students soon after the town seceded from Bridgewater Township and incorporated as an independent boro in 1891. Somerset County's commercial and transportation hub had been sending children who wanted to further their education to Somerville, which had opened a public high school in the previous decade.

Lafayette School, postcard circa 1906
Bound Brook's single consolidated educational institution was the Lafayette School which served students in 1st through 8th grades. By the end of the century, the school board made some improvements to the school which allowed them to accept their first high school students. The first graduation was on June 23, 1904.

18 September 1907 Home News

In 1907 the school board borrowed $60,000 to build Washington School exclusively for 9th through 12th graders. The Democrat's candidate for mayor, who was also on the school board and who had opposed the school, used his opposition to the necessary tax increase to make a surprise upset in the November election. Too late to have any influence on the school, however, which was formally dedicated on September 11, 1908.

An early view of Bound Brook's high school - Washington School

With the new high school complete, Bound Brook was able to attract students from Hillsborough, Montgomery, and other Somerset County towns who had mostly been attending Somerville. During this period, the school boards in the various towns could send students individually to either Somerville, Bound Brook, Flemington, or another high school. Some consideration was given to the program of study that the students were inclined to pursue. At Bound Brook, degrees were offered in commercial, modern language, English scientific, and Latin scientific.

Bound Brook High School students pose in front of Washington School, 1916
Consideration might also be given to where a student lived. A Hillsborough student who resided in the southeast quadrant of the township might very well have chosen to go to Bound Brook because transportation was easily obtained by way of the Reading Railroad, whereas students in other parts of town would have easier access to Somerville via the South Branch Railroad.

The 1916 graduates of Bound Brook High School,
including four from Hillsborough and three from Montgomery.
George Prove is the boy on the left, second row from the bottom.

One Bound Brook graduate who had a remarkable, if ultimately tragic, story was Hillsborough native George Prove. Orphaned at a young age, he boarded, and labored, at the Wyckoff farm at the crossroads of Hillsborough and Willow Roads. He attended school at the one-room schoolhouse there - when he could find time away from his chores. It would have been easy, and expected, for George to quit school early and remain a farm laborer, but his teacher Miss Ferguson encouraged him to continue on to Bound Brook. There he was a serious student - one who the girls found popular because of his wavy hair. He graduated in 1916, went on to Rutgers College, then spent time in France during the war. When he returned, he picked up his studies in chemistry at West Virginia, ultimately landing a job with Standard Oil of New Jersey. Sadly he was killed in a car crash in 1928 at the age of 32.

1923 class ring
In the decades that followed wings were added to each side of Washington School to keep up with increasing enrollment, particularly from booming towns such as Manville who were sending all of their high school students to Bound Brook.

The expanded Washington School, post World War I.
By 1954 enrollment had increased to the point that if something wasn't done, the 1,000 capacity school would soon be up to 2,000 students, necessitating double sessions. Ultimately two things were done. Firstly, in 1956 and 1957 voters approved bonds of $675,000 and $110,000 to provide for a new heating plant, seven new classrooms, a double gym with locker rooms, and conversion of several existing spaces. This construction brought the footprint of the school to basically its present size. Secondly, Manville built its own high school, removing hundreds of students.

It seems fitting that today Bound Brook is the only high school in Somerset County designated as a "school choice" school - meaning that students from outside the district can enroll in one of its two academy programs.