The documented origins of the former Town Hall begin in 1871 when a civic group called the The Trustees of Millington School District #4 acquired property on Long Hill Road from James Jackson, et. al. (recorded in Morris County Deed Book D 8, p. 395). In this period right after the Civil War, as American society found stability, the newly established Passaic Township was one of the many towns across New Jersey which sought to standardize public education.
The trustee associations, usually a group of civic minded well-to-do citizens, bought land and sometimes built schools which were then deeded to their towns or villages. In these years before Boards of Education were established, the township governments themselves were responsible for funding and running the free public schools.
We dont know exactly when the Millington Schoolhouse building was constructed, but, the first picture we have is a class photo from 1882 showing the one-room school structure which is still standing as part of the present-day building. The grade school kids shown in the picture would have been born during the 1870s making them the baby boom generation following the Civil War. The building itself has many architectural elements which have survived into the 21st century. The proportions are intact, the foundation stones are the ones we see today, the roof structure, window and door openings are all still there.
Miss Ella C. Bloom was an early teacher and taught two generations of students in eight grades. She was also responsible for management of the building, tending the stove used for heat and general upkeep. Students obtained drinking water out of a pail carried from a nearby home. What appears to be an outhouse can be seen at the back of the building in the 1882 photo. Students in those years, of course, walked from home.
A postcard view from the first decade of the 20th century shows that the saplings in the 1882 photo have grown into mature trees. But after more than twenty years, the building is still a one room schoolhouse.
Some time around 1910, as the towns population grew, a second classroom was added to the original building. Photos from this era show the new addition and what has been identified as a physical education class being held outside. It is conjectured that the man in the picture is Mr. George H. Osborn who was the supervising principal of the six schools in the Passaic Township system. Mr. Osborn was employed by and reported to the Township Committee. The two room version of the Millington schoolhouse is a classically proportioned country school and is similar to the original wood frame, two room Elm Street School dating from 1888.
Millington Schoolhouse was used continuously until 1926 when classes moved to the more modern new Elm Street School built for $10,000 which opened in 1910, and the Central Avenue School, built for $100,000 opened in 1926. By 1929 continued growth in Passaic Township led to overcrowding in the newer schools and classes were once again held at the old Millington Schoolhouse. Four grade levels were educated there between 1929 and 1933. A fire broke out in the building during the summer of 1932 and though the building was not irreparably damaged, after 1933 state standards did not permit further use of the building for education.
The townships government, which since 1866 had met in homes and local meeting halls, appropriated money for necessary renovations and on October 6, 1928 moved into its first permanent home in the Millington Schoolhouse making it into the Town Hall. When classes were of necessity held again in the building for the next four years, the Township Committee met at 2 pm on Saturday afternoons.
The second classroom in the added west wing also served as the townships public library until the building on Central Avenue in Stirling replaced it from 1958 to 2005. Local Episcopalians who formed the congregation of All Saints Church, prior to the construction of their own building at the turn of the 20th century, sometimes met at the Millington Schoolhouse.
Through the decades between the world wars, through the Great Depression, WWII and the postwar boom, the name change from Passaic to Long Hill Township in 1992, and into the early years of the 21st century, township government continued to use the old schoolhouse as the Town Hall. In 2003, after 75 years, when new municipal facilities were created out of the renovated former GPU/JCP&L building on Valley Road in Gillette, township government and staff moved out of the old Millington Schoolhouse.
Though the west wing has received several additions, the essential character of the original one-room schoolhouse still remains. This is the oldest remaining town-owned building in Long Hill and one that harks back to both the origins of our schools and our townships incorporation. It is obvious that it should remain standing and be restored as a township museum and history education center. It has been an icon of Long Hill/Passaic Township in three different centuries. We owe it to our collective past and to our future to preserve and use this community legacy.
Proposal to restore the building to its 1912 period. Rendering by Marat Feldman, WESKetch Architecture, September, 2006. Services donated by WESKetch Architecture, Millington.