WARREN, NJ - Picture this. It’s the winter of 1778-79 and 8,000 to 10,000 war-weary soldiers in General George Washington’s Continental Army have set up camp on what is now the present-day site of Angelo L. Tomaso School and the surrounding area.

Called the Second Middlebrook Encampment, certain historians believe that such prominent American Revolutionary War officers as Nathanael Greene, William Alexander (Lord Stirling) and the Marquis de Lafayette may have joined Washington on the very ground where young footsteps now scamper and play in the ALT schoolyard.

This tantalizing morsel of New Jersey history is just one of the stops on a tour of local historical sites, a recent rite of passage for 8th graders who board a fleet of small buses provided by the school district each spring to journey back in time for a glimpse of centuries-old happenings in Warren.

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Meticulously orchestrated by social studies teachers Robert Hartshorn, Lynn Degen, and Josephine Brasile, the tour includes visits to:

• The Kirch-Ford House, a carefully restored farmhouse on the corner of Reinman and Mount Bethel roads. “Virtually synonymous with Warren was the Kirch family, three generations of which occupied the farm and house… for 121 years,” writes Alan A. Siegel in “Warren A to Z: An Entertaining Guide to the 275 Year History of Warren Township, New Jersey.”

• The Mount Bethel Baptist Meeting House, a white clapboard structure across from the former King George Inn at the intersection of Mount Bethel and King George roads. The meeting house is listed on the New Jersey State Register of Historic Places and was named a National Historic Site in 1976.

 

• The Coddington House, a 2 ½ story center hall home built c.1865 by a prosperous local farmer. The house, which sits on a slight rise just 200’ from Mt. Horeb Road, boasts “moldings above the windows, weatherboard exterior, louvered shutters, large sawn eave brackets” and other finishing touches which help to “retain the original integrity of style and workmanship,” writes Siegel.

• The Hofheimer Grotto, a hidden gem located behind the current municipal complex. According to Siegel, Nathan Hofheimer, a successful businessman who maintained a summer home in Warren in the early 1900s, “imported craftsmen from Europe to transform a flooded copper pit mine into a replica of a grotto he had once visited in his native Germany.”

Also on the tour, of course, is a stopover at ALT for a discussion about the comings and goings of the Continental Army during colonial times. The outing wraps up at Washington Rock where students enjoy a pizza lunch (with the help of PTO parents) and a spectacular view of the vista over which General Washington is said to have frequently cast an eye to monitor British troop movements in the valley below.

 

PHOTO #1 – Warren Middle School 8th graders enjoy the view at Washington Rock on June 10... the same spot General George Washington is said to have used to monitor British troop movements more than 200 years ago.
PHOTO #2 – Cayla Park steps back in time at the Kirch-Ford house on June 10.

PHOTO #3 – Eighth graders pose for a picture on June 10 in front of the Kirch-Ford house... once home to three generations of a prominent Warren family.
PHOTO #4 – Eighth graders and their teachers enjoy a sunny day and a pizza lunch on June 10 at Washington Rock State Park, following a tour of local New Jersey history.