ROXBURY, NJ – Township officials recently took an important step toward the restoration and rehabilitation of a historic former schoolhouse in the Lower Berkshire Valley section of Roxbury.
The Roxbury Mayor and Council approved a capital ordinance appropriating about $64,000 to pay for “construction documents” needed to breathe new life into the building, known as the 1921 Lafayette School.
The money is coming from grants: $51,260 from a grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust and $12,815 from New Jersey Historic Trust's Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund. The documents funded by the ordinance will set the stage for about $1.2 million in construction work on both the interior and exterior of the building.
A Rarity in the Garden State
“The 1921 Lafayette School is one of a few surviving examples of a 2-room schoolhouse type,” said Morris County Historic Preservation. “It is the only known schoolhouse of its type … in New Jersey.”
The building was made with thick, cast-in-place concrete walls covered with a rubble stone veneer. It has a certificate of eligibility for listing on historic registers, according to Morris County Historic Preservation.
The former schoolhouse, situated on Mill Road, has been unoccupied for about 11 years. It last served as a school in the late 1950s or early 1960s, according to a report written by Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects.
The building is not far from the remains of the Morris Canal and The Canal Society of New Jersey is interested in using it as its headquarters, said society president Joseph Macasek.
“We’ve been talking with the township about acquiring that property and fixing it up and making it a state-of-the-art headquarters for the Canal Society of New Jersey and also a meeting and exhibition venue for the canal society and the community,” Macasek said. “We need to come to the right agreement with the township. We are just historical society after all, not a major corporation. We’d have to be able to afford to do this.”
Worth the Time and Money
After the Roxbury Mayor and Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance, Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo said the building’s preservation is important to the township.
“It took a lot of work to get to this place and I think the people of Berkshire Valley will benefit, as will people throughout Roxbury,” he commented.
Roxbury Councilman Richard Zoschak agreed. “It’s a gem here in Roxbury, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “A historical gem.”
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