ROXBURY, NJ – A temporary roof will be installed on a 97-year-old former schoolhouse in Roxbury being eyed by the Canal Society of New Jersey for use as its headquarters.
The Roxbury Mayor and Council last week agreed with township Manager John Shepherd’s request to allocate $15,000 for a rubber membrane roof on the old Layfette School in Lower Berkshire Valley. The roof will be installed before severely cold winter weather arrives, he said.
Shepherd noted the roof is only a temporary solution. The goal is to have the currently leaking roof replaced with a permanent roof that matches the appearance of the original, a job the township doesn’t want to tackle with taxpayer dollars.
“We’re in discussions with the Canal Society which has a serious interest in utilizing the building,” Shepherd said at the council meeting. “We’ve held at least two meetings and talked with them. The big issue with that building right now is the roof.”
The township has, for years, discussed ways of preserving the Mill Road structure which was last occupied a decade ago. It stopped being a schoolhouse in the late 1950s or early 1960s according to a report by a historical architecture company.
Experts figure it will cost $750,000 to $1 million to properly restore the building.
Shepherd said the Canal Society would be a “great partner” with the township if it agreed to become a tenant in the concrete and stone structure and use it for its headquarters and, possibly, a Morris Canal museum.
The rubber roof will last for about 10 years, he said. “I don’t think we’ll need that long to figure out what to do (with the old schoolhouse),” he added. “But this will at least buy us a few years to figure out what we could do with it. Even if the Canal Society gets it and gets grants to do it, it’s probably a few years out on construction.”
Roxbury Mayor Mark Crowley said the temporary roof was suggested by the Canal Society. He said the leaking roof “is one of the things I think standing in the path of working with” the non-profit group.
“I think we all want to stay with the building if we can find a tenant, especially somebody like the Canal Society that’s very interested in bringing it back to historical significance,” Crowley said. “And it looks like a good use .. for that building.”
Canal Society representative Joe Macasek said the group did not want to discuss the Lafayette School until after it meets again with the township council next month.
Shepherd echoed Crowley’s assessment that the organization seems to be an ideal tenant. “It could be a win-win for us,” he said. “The Canal Society would be great partner into the future.”
In February, 2017, township officials heard a presentation, about the Lafayette School, by a historic building preservation expert. She said is unique, in fairly good condition and worth saving.