Roxbury Roots and History

Roxbury Mulls Future of "Sweet, Little" Old Lafayette Schoolhouse

Former Lafayette School in Roxbury's Lower Berkshire Valley
The rear of the former Lafayette School in Roxbury

ROXBURY, NJ – A ripple of consternation disturbed the normal tranquility of life for some in Roxbury’s Lower Berkshire Valley on Tuesday. It came in the form of a rumor: Town officials were planning to bulldoze the old Lafayette School.

As it turned out, the report was a false alarm. The 96-year-old building on Mill Road has no wrecking ball in its future, at least in its near future. In fact, the town officials are actually mulling ways to fix it up and put it to good use.

But concern drew some Roxbury history buffs to Tuesday night’s meeting of the township Mayor and Council, where Lafayette School’s fate was on the agenda. They heard a presentation by historic building preservation expert Margaret Hickey, who studied the old building and said it's pretty unique, in pretty good shape and probably worth saving.

Sign Up for E-News

Unoccupied since 2009, and now used to store athletic equipment, the concrete and stone structure served as a school until the late 1950s or early 1960s, according to a report written by Hickey’s firm, Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects.

Although the township-owned structure is not on the state or national registers of historic places, Connolly & Hickey said it might qualify because it is “a rare surviving type” of 2-room schoolhouse popular in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century.

It will cost $750,000 to $1 million to rehabilitate the old schoolhouse, but Hickey told town officials grant money could cover all but about $200,000 of the cost if the building is deemed eligible for historic register placement.

“It’s a sweet, little building,” Hickey told the Mayor and Council. “It’s been changed on the inside, which probably allows you some flexibility with future use.”

One thing that would have to go is the wheelchair ramp that replaced the lovely front steps originally on the building, she said. Hickey suggested a limited-use elevator be installed, inside the structure, so handicapped people could enter at the basement level and be lifted to the upper floor. This would cost about $110,000, said her report.

The town officials said they were not opposed to pursuing such a preservation plan, but they did express concern about finding a sustainable use afterward. Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee noted the township has wrestled for a decade with that problem.

“We’ve spent the better part of the last dozen years or so trying to rent or lease the space to a non-profit or something,” Rilee said. “It’s probably going to cost the township $200,000 or so to move forward with this project, if we get the grants … We also have other historic buildings in the town we want to take care of. We don’t want to divert money from the projects that are going on (on Main Street in Ledgewood).”

Mayor Mark Crowley agreed. “I want to see us follow through with the ones we already have,” he said. “I don’t want to lose this one either. We’ve all been struggling and looking for someone to make it a home.”

Addressing the town officials, Roxbury Historical Society President Margaret Cushing suggested the Lafayette School be returned to its roots as a place of learning. She said it would make an ideal museum of Roxbury history.

Recalling days gone by when Roxbury students were regularly marinated in that history – the canal, the mining and munitions industries, the ancient cemeteries – Cushing said today’s kids need such a museum. 

Roxbury Manager Christopher Raths said he will ask the township Historic Advisory Committee and others to get involved in some “brainstorm sessions” to discuss Cushing’s idea and other possible uses for the building. "We'll get them in a room and see what we can do," he said. 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

Roxbury

Roxbury Activities

Upcoming Events

Thu, February 23, 7:00 PM

Enzo's Pizzeria, Budd Lake

Songwriter Showcase & Acoustic Open Mic

Arts & Entertainment

Tue, February 28, 6:30 PM

Legends Ale House & Grill, Succasunna

Legends Dine In for Roxbury Social Services

Food & Drink Giving Back

Carousel_image_008533feb6383a8c7d7a_photo_989_20060201

Sat, March 4, 8:00 AM

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Succasunna

Troop 159 Pancake Breakfast

Food & Drink

Fri, March 10, 6:30 PM

Roxbury High School, Succasunna

Mt. Arlington 11th Annual Tricky Tray

Arts & Entertainment Other

Roxbury Real Estate

Roxbury Businesses

Columnists

Let it Snow. And Let Your Kid Drive in It!

ROXBURY, NJ - We are about to be walloped by a snowstorm.  Many parents with a new driver at home will see the storm approaching and instinctively decide to not allow their kids to get behind the wheel until the snow's been cleared.

They might want to rethink that.

When it snows, it's the perfect opportunity for parents to take the newest driver in their ...

Roxbury Deaths

Obituaries

- Feb 21, 2017
ROXBURY, NJ -  Douglas Bruce Spencer, 71, of Succasunna, died Feb 21, 2017 at the Merry ...
Read more

Press Releases

TAPinto Crushes Monthly Readership Record: 809,024 Readers in January 2017

February 6, 2017

TAPinto.net, a network of 61 franchised online hyperlocal news sites in New Jersey and New York, marked the beginning of 2017 with a record month of traffic in January.   

January also marked the launch of TAPinto Newark, which -- out of the gate -- broke the story of a bishop being assaulted in a cathedral in Newark.  The article was picked up by ABC, NBC, CBS, the ...

Roxbury Companies

It Began With Filling Your Tank; Now They Fix Your Grandson’s Car

When we drive east on Route 10 through Roxbury, many of us might remember a Shell station at the Randolph border next to the golf range. It was in that station that Nancy and Peyton Knight began their long history of auto repair in the township.

That was 1983 and soon the Knights’ business grew and expanded. The humble gas station gradually morphed into a state-of-the-art ...