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Citizens semi-centennial association, Ridgewood.

Ridgewood, Bergan County, New Jersey, past and present online

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the newer Midland Park Public School and in the Dutch Christian
Private School.

A part of a brick building, erected in 1770, just south of the resi-
dence of Garret I. Hopper at the junction of Harristown Road and
Rock Road (now used as a dwelling and within the present limits of
Glen Rock), furnished a generation ago, a one-room school — the fourth.
In this meagre building many of Ridgewood's citizens had their earliest
schooling. It seems to have been attended mainly by the children
living in that section extending from Harrison Avenue through the
present center of the Village to Glen Rock, which it included.

In 1872 the four schools mentioned proved too remote to be at-
tended by many children in the homes which had sprung up. A new
school district was then formed, and a wooden schoolhouse containing
two rooms was built on the site of what is now the present Union
Street School. When Ridgewood Township was set off from Franklin
Township, four j'ears later, this remained the only schoolhouse in the
Township, and here all the children of Ridgewood received their school-
ing. Later, increasing attendants made it necessary to add two more
rooms. The attic was converted for this purpose. Subsequently the
basement of the Dutch Reformed Church was used as an annex to
provide for the ever-increasing pupils.

At this juncture public opinion ventured to assert itself. At a
school meeting it was voted to buy the cornfield on the corner of
Beech Street and Franklin Avenue and to build upon it a large
wooden schoolhouse at a cost of $35,000. But public opinion had not
fully expressed itself — the women had not yet spoken! On the fol-
lowing day a petition was framed and put into circulation by the
women asking the Trustees to call another meeting to reconsider the
resolution and to ask for enough money to build a structure of brick,
instead of frame. The Trustees complied, a meeting was called, and
almost unanimously $47,000 was voted and a brick building ordered.
This building, located on Beech Street, was completed and occupied
about October 1, 1895. It is still, in certain respects, the best school
building in the Village of Ridgewood. With eight good-sized class-
rooms, seven small rooms, and an assembly hall on the third floor, the
building afforded a welcome relief from the crowded conditions of the
Union Street School. The use of the latter building was discontinued,
and later it was torn down to make way for the present Union Street
School building.

When completed, the Beech Street School was deemed second to
none of its size in the State. It was constructed during the adminis-
tration of Mr. D. W. La Fetra as President of the Board of Educa-
tion. This worthy citizen has always taken an active interest in public
school work and, for many years, has been a telling influence in
educational matters in the Village. It may be interesting to note that
the idea of "The Graded School System" which was incorporated into
a law by the State of New Jersey originated with Mr. La Fetra.

69



RIDGE WOOD, BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

Though the plan was introduced in the State Legislature by Dr.
Thomas G. Chattle of Long Branch, it was suggested by Mr. La Fetra
to Dr. Chattle, while a teacher in the early fifties under the latter 's
incumbency as School Superintendent of Ocean Township, New Jersey.

The progressiveness of the Ridgewood of twenty odd years ago is
indicated by the fact that in 1894 a kindergarten class under Miss
Ivy W. Grreen was established in connection with its school. This
was one of the first public kindergartens in New Jersey.

In 1895 the nine years' elementary course was remodeled into an
eight years' elementary course, followed by a three years' high-school
course. That same year. Sewing, under Miss Sara Denison; Manual
Training, under Mr. B. C. Wooster, and more advanced Art and Me-
chanical Drawing, under Miss Maggie Vreeland, were made a part
of the school curriculum. Those were pioneer days in the introduction
of handwork in the public schools. Under the leadership of Mr.
Wooster, Ridgewood became one of the pioneer school communities
in industrial education.

During the ten years from 1895 to 1905, the Beech Street School
building housed all the Ridgewood school children.

In 1905 Ridgewood met the increased needs of its school children
by constructing three four-room school buildings: The Kenilworth
Place, Union Street, and Monroe Street schools.

During the year 1905-1906, under the superintendency of Dr. Wm.
T. Whitney, the high-school course was extended to cover four years,
and the work of extending and modernizing the school, which Mr.
Wooster had begun, was greatly advanced. The high-school graduates
of that year began to enter college and normal schools. Each succeed-
ing year has seen their numbers increase.

In 1906 four rooms were added to the Union Street School.

The schools grew so steadily for the next five yfears that, in 1911,
the pressure of need demanded the immediate erection of a new build-
ing. The Harrison Avenue School w^as begun. At the same time work
of extension was started upon the Kenilworth Place and Monroe Street
buildings. To each of these buildings seven rooms and assembly hall,
Avere added.

In 1912 the growing educational needs of the section known as
Upper Ridgewood prompted an appropriation for the purchase of a
plot on Erie Avenue, corner of California Street, containing 2 acres,
and for the erection thereon of a one-story portable building.

In 1913 the High School grew almost to the limits of the capacity
of the Beech Street building. Only one room remained unoccupied.
To cope with other demands for space three portable schoolhouses were
placed on the adjacent grounds to provide, temporarily, for three
grammar grades. In the same year the citizens of Ridgewood voted
to purchase as a site for a new" High School building and an athletic
field the property of Captain John A. Edwards, situated on East
Ridgewood Avenue, corner of Heermance Road, and the field fronting
the same formerly known as the White Star Baseball Field.

The hill on which it is proposed to erect the building comprises a

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PAST AND PRESENT



plot of 518 feet by 346 feet. With the athletic field it covers a total
of approximately nine acres.

The old Edwards house was removed, and the large barn was placed
on the Athletic Field at the north end and has been renovated and
put in first-class condition, making an attractive club house for the
use of the High School athletes. Set in among fine old trees, it pre-
sents an attractive appearance which is much enhanced by the large
flagpole, erected on the ground adjoining, presented on July 4, 1915,
to the school children by the Independence Day Association of Ridge-
wood. A large American fiag, for use on this pole, was also presented
on the same day, by Bergen Council, Junior Order of American
Mechanics.

The High School on this hill, where the building will be easily
visible from a considerable distance, and the Athletic Field facing it,
forming a natural amphitheatre, will together provide a site unsur-
passed in the State and will, no doubt, stimulate emulation among
school authorities in other communities.

This property cost the town $28,500. Five thousand dollars has
been expended since to raise the Athletic Field to a higher level. Earth
from the Station Improvement was used for this purpose. The street
passing through the property and marking the line between the school
site and the Athletic Field has been gratuitously deeded by Mrs. Martha
Edwards to the Board of Education.

By 1914 the High School required and occupied the entire Beech
Street edifice. It made use of every available nook and corner in the
building. Two attic rooms were finished off to serve as cooking and
sewing rooms. Three cellar rooms were put into use as a Manual Train-
ing room and laboratories for Physics and Chemistry. Meanwhile the
over-crowded conditions of the classes in the Beach-Union Primary
and Grammar Schools caused the arranging of four of these classes on
part time, despite the accommodations afforded temporarily by the
three portable one-room buildings.

In 1915 a four-room school building to cost $17,500 was authorized
to replace the portable structure on the Upper Ridgewood School site.
This building, since completed, has been in use since school opened in
October, 1916. The design is of the mission type. It is one story in
height, and contains four regulation size classrooms and teachers' room.
It is furnished with the most modern of plumbing, heating and ven-
tilating equipment. This school is the only example of its type any-
where in the vicinity and, besides offering every advantage in lighting,
good ventilation, and practicability from an administrative viewpoint,
it is in proper harmony with the group of artistic homes surrounding
it in that locality, and is as pleasing to the eye as one could desire.
The building is constructed so that other similar units may be added
as occasion may require. It is designed to provide for a full eighth
grade and kindergarten grammar school, with a large assembly hall
accessible from all corridors. Besides being in daily use for school
purposes, the building has become the community centre for all forms
of civic and social gatherings and has proved a most valuable adjunct
to the community it serves.

71



RIDGEWOOD, BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

During the same year (1915), a proposition to issue bonds to the
extent of $150,000 for the purpose of erecting a unit, at least, of a
new High School building was vetoed by the citizens, the time being
considered as most inopportune for the expenditure of such a sum.
After several months of agitation and efforts to educate the people in
school requirements, an appropriation of $225,000 was voted, in Jan-
uary, 1916, to build a modern High School building. The firm of
Tracy & Swartwout, of New York City, was selected to design the new
group, and contracts have been signed and work already started upon
what bids fair to be the most beautiful as well as the most practicable
series of buildings for educational purposes in the public school system
of this or any neighboring State,

The plans provide for a group arrangement of buildings. The ad-
vantages of increased light and air and the unusual opportunities
afforded by the natural contour of the site, make such a design prac-
tical, pleasing to the eye, and economical in construction. The aim to
conserve the beautiful grove of trees was another determining factor
in the arrangement of this -architectural ensemble. According to the
proper artistic standards a group of low buildings with exterior lines
broken up and steep pitched roofs were essential to give the requisite
picturesqueness. The lay-out of the buildings was so carefully planned
that except for the removal of one useless hickory and a few apple
trees, the stately elms, pines, birch, and other beautiful trees were
preserved entire. Few public school sites offer such wonderful natural
advantages.

The finished structure provides for a capacity of one thousand
pupils. The unit now under construction will accommodate between
six and seven hundred. Expensive material will not be employed to
produce the desired artistic effect. Construction will be fire-proof
throughout; the exterior walls will be of reddish-colored brick trimmed
with cast stone, wdiile the roofs are to be of slate.

The main building will contain nineteen class and recitation rooms
together with complete laboratory equipment for the sciences; ample
space is provided for the manual training and domestic science de-
partments, as well as for those of art, stenography, and bookkeeping;
there are to be, in addition, a hospital and administrative room, while
provision is also made for a lunch-room, and for storage facilities. In
the basement will be placed the boiler plant, toilets, etc.

The Auditorium, which is to be a separate building, will have seat-
ing accommodation for one thousand persons. It will be connected
with the main building and will serve also as an assembly room and
study-hall. The interior of the Auditorium will be done in brick and
plaster with an ornamental vaulted ceiling.

The Gymnasium, located near the Athletic Field, will be provided
with thoroughly modern equipment. The shower, locker rooms, etc.,
will occupy the basement. Later, it is intended that this building
shall connect directly with the main building. The unit at present
contracted for, it is hoped, will be ready early in 1918. Our school
plant now consists of the following buildings and grounds:

1. Beech Street School, known as the High School, on plot of land

72



PAST AND PRESENT



at corner of Beech Street and Franklin Avenue, containing fifteen
rooms and assembly hall. Tiirce of these rooms are used for admin-
istration purposes,

2. Harrison Avenue School, located at Harrison Avenue and Fair-
view Place, containing seventeen rooms and assembly.

3. Kenilworth School, on Kenilworth Place between Ridgewood and
Spring Avenues, containing twelve rooms and assembly.

4. Union Street School, containing ten rooms.

5. Monroe Street School, on Monroe Street between Franklin and
Godwin Avenues, containing twelve rooms and assembly.

6. Upper Ridgewood School, a new and modern one-story struct-
ure, containing four classrooms. The design of this school represents
quite a radical departure from the other school buildings in this vicinity.

7. Four one-room portable buildings, upon the Beech Street plot.
These were erected for the purpose of relieving congestion in the High
School and to provide proper laboratory acconnnodations.

The estimated value of land, buildings, and equipment of the above
schools, together with tlie cost of the new High School site and present
buildings thereon, amounts to $309,100. With the completion of the
High School, the total will approximate $550,000.

With the completion of the Athletic Field, an added stimulus will
undoubtedly be given to the development of our high school athletics.
This is a feature already well known, and not without reason is it
considered as rating high in the neighboring communities. For a long
time baseball, football, track athletics, and general physical training
have been given a full share of attention in our school activities. The
new facilities will add further opportunities for the physical better-
ment of our youth ; and there is every reason to believe tliat our boys
and girls will grasp the advantages of laying a healthful and strong
physical foundation upon which to build the mental super-structure.

The educational features have been notably progressive and fit in
with the latest ideas of pedagogy. Yet with all the advanced methods
of the present time, who shall say that the training of the child in the
little country schoolhouses of one hundred or of fifty years ago was
not as adequate to the needs of those times as of our own day? We
must not forget that the men whose shrewdness and keen business
judgment laid the foundation of Ridgewood — and laid it well — were
indebted to those same little sclioolhouses for the early impulses which
made possible their subsequent development and successes. Indeed,
volumes could be written of the later achievements in the world of
letters, business, and the professions of the children of our early rural
schools.

RIDGEWOOD — that is, the Ridgewood of to-day as we know it —
made its educational debut in the little two-room Union Street School
where, under the guidance of Mr. B. C. Wooster, now County Super-
intendent of Bergen County, and those faithful workers who labored
with him, the fame of Ridgewood 's superiority and progressiveness
early began to attract attention. From that humble beginning to the
present Ridgewood has continued, under the able management of Dr.
W. T. Whitney and then Mr. I. W. Travell, our present Superinten-



RIDGEWOOD, BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

dent, to forge steadily ahead until now the school system is proclaimed
an achievement second to none in our State for thoroughness and
efficiency. Our schools stand as a monument to the high character and
generosity of the citizenship of our town. In its gift to its youth the
latter quality has been expressed freely — almost lavishly — time after
time.

So important has been considered the preparation of the youth of
Ridgewood for their ultimate entrance as men and women in the affairs
of the world, it would appear to hold a pre-eminent thought in the
minds of our citizens. A desire for such worthy associations has, no
doubt, attracted many persons to settle in Ridgewood.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

A history of education in Ridgewood which contains no reference
to the private schools would be assuredly incomplete. In fact, our
village would compare unfavorably with the best suburban life, if it
had no private school system to record since the choicest suburban
communities, generally, have well-established and well-authorized pri-
vate schools.

Private schools had their beginning in Ridgewood, in 1868, when Mr.
Frederic Kidder opened the large house on North Van Dien Avenue,
built by him the year before, as a boarding and day school. This house
js now owned and occupied by Mr. M. T. Richardson.

It is likely that the disappointment which may have attended the
failure to secure a single boarding pupil was somewhat mitigated by
the presence of a Mr. Jolly as principal of the few day pupils. For
about three years, until the school closed, Principal Jolly, assisted by
a Miss Smith, took care of the boys and girls in attendance.

It is of interest to add that Judge Zabriskie, Mr. Edward Chapman,
and his brother, Mr. Charles Chapman, were among those who attended
the Kidder Academy, as it was called.

In 1868, the well-known authoress, Amelia E. Barr, upon her arrival
in New York City from Texas, after the death of her husband, came
to Ridgewood as tutor to the three sons of William Libby, Esq., father
of Professor William Libby of Princeton University.

In the early part of 1869, the tutorial work developed into a school
for boys and girls located in a house on North Van Dien Avenue,
opposite Linwood Avenue. There weve six pupils in the beginning and
the number varied, at times reaching ten or twelve. The school lasted
for about a year and a half and was discontinued when Mr. Libby 's
sons became students at Princeton.

It is interesting to know that while conducting this short-lived
school, Mrs. Barr was engaged in writing a novel, and that it was at
Mr. Libby 's suggestion that she entered upon her literary work. Mrs.
Barr's verbal description of incidents connected with her life in Texas
had so impressed Mr. Libby that when she faced the problem of her
future existence, after the discontinuance of her school, he induced her
to write a description of one of the incidents, which he placed in the
hands of a New York publishing house. The story was accepted and
shortly afterward Mrs. Barr removed to New York City to continue

74



PAST AND PRESENT



what was to be her life work. Before leaving Ridgewood she began
her novel "Margaret Sinclaire's Silent Money".

From the time Mrs. Barr's school closed until 1879, there seems to
have been no private school in Ridgewood. Then Miss Rebecca W.
Hawes of 36 Corsa Terrace- came to the relief and added to her very
busy life as the village music teacher, the equally arduous work of
conducting a school for young children. This school assembled in a
room over the furniture store of Theodore V. Terhune, at the corner
of Ridgewood Avenue and South Oak Street. Beginning in Marcli,
1871, and for about twenty years thereafter, Miss Hawes was the only
music teacher in the district extending from Allendale to Hawthorne.
She was engaged in this work for twenty-three years and during that
time took part in the first public concert ever given in Ridgewood, as
well as furnished the music for the first kindergarten class and the
first dancing class.

It is extremely interesting to hear Miss Hawes tell of her work in
connection with the school held in that upi^er room. Often this busy,
music-loving teacher, enlivened the routine of the school room by sing-
ing, or reading aloud, or, on beautiful days by recess periods under
the oak and hickory trees in the fields through which Oak Street was
afterwards opened.

Among those who were first taught to read and write and sew at
Miss Hawes' school were John Hawes, Howard Maltbie, Edgar Wat-
lington, Howard, Robert, and Willie Walton, Jos. Jefferson, Jr., Mary
Dobbs, Elizabeth Hawes, Carrie Buck, and Louise Maltbie, all of whom
were then less than ten years old. Two older boys who received special
instruction, were George Totten, now a noted architect of Washington,
D. C, and John Terhune (Harry Rouclere).

Two years after the establishment of her school, Miss Hawes dis-
posed of her good will to Mrs. John A. Marinus, who continued the
school for several years at her home on East Ridgewood Avenue.
During this period Mrs. Buck also opened a boarding and day school
for children, on the property of B. F. Robinson, on Cottage Place. A
small building was placed in the rear of the residence and used for the
class work. Here were held the first kindergarten and the first danc-
ing classes of the Village. Mrs. Buck was succeeded in the manage-
ment of the school by her daughters — Miss Helen D. Buck and Miss
Caroline Buck.

Other educational ventures, of unquestionable worth to the com-
munity but of short duration, were made by Miss Josephine Rowland
about 1893, in a room in the rear of Tice's drug store, then on the
corner opposite its present location ; by Miss Florence de Z. Patton in
1893 and 1895, at the corner of Spring and Maple Avenues; by Miss
Ives, near the office of Dr. Vroom, Ridgewood Avenue ; and by Miss
Martha E. Smith in 1897 on Franklin Avenue.

A larger school, which included both primary and college prepara-
tory courses, was established by Mr. James B. Parsons in 1902, on the
large property on Ridgewood Avenue, familiarly known as Elmhurst.
Mr. Parsons was encouraged to enter upon a project of this scope by

75



RIDGEWOOD, BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

the patronage and influence of such men as E. LeB. Gardner, Charles
H. Eddy, Duncan D. Chaplin, George E. Boreham, Charles A. De Shon
and others who wished private school advantages for their children.
As the years passed the venture prospered and former pupils of the
Ridgewood Preparatory School can now be found among the graduates
of various colleges and occupying responsible and useful positions in
business and society. In 1912 it was decided to divide the property
occupied by the school into building lots, Mr. Parsons, believing an
elevated site in a quiet and beautiful residential section to be the best
place for the development of boys and girls, secured property on
Heights Road where a thoroughly modern school was built. With
well-furnished rooms and library, with all conveniences and modern
sanitation, it is doubtful if another suburban town has a private day
school equal to that of Ridgewood.

In this connection it may be said that Ridgewood 's private school
system represents the highest development of this type of education.
It is a system by no means rivaling that of the State, but rather
deserving the reputation of being a faithful ally of the public school.
The latter is unquestionably best fitted for children of some types, but
its failure with others is due to what may be described as mechanical
methods which permit of but slight discrimination on account of per-
sonal temperament. Doubtless this is necessary in the handling of large
numbers of pupils, but it is in this particular point that the chief
merit of the private school lies. It provides a flexible system which
is adapted to the individual boy or girl, helping them to flnd them-
selves. Individual supervision in a co-operative environment is the
key-note. The school, in short, must be fitted to the pupil, as well as
the pupil to the school.

The Victoria School for little children, opened October 5, 1916, is
the latest addition to the educational institutions of Ridgewood and
is named after the authoress, Metta Victoria Victor. Remembrance
of her many years' association with the early historical and social
development of Ridgewood was the incentive which prompted her
daughter, Vivia Victor, its Principal, to name this school after her.

The purpose of the Victoria School is the laying of a solid founda-
tion for the child 's advancing experience in life ; the right environment,


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Online LibraryCitizens semi-centennial association, RidgewoodRidgewood, Bergan County, New Jersey, past and present → online text (page 9 of 19)