Hart’s Corner Schoolhouse, now a designated historic landmark

Photo by Amie Rukenstein

The Hart’s Corner Schoolhouse, built at the corner of Scotch Road and Washington Crossing-Pennington Road in 1906, was designated a Township historic landmark at the June 13 Hopewell Township Committee meeting.

When it was built, the schoolhouse sat among a village of houses, known as Hart’s Corner to honor Aaron Hart, a farmer and blacksmith who owned the land in the mid 19th century. In the early 1900s, school administration had difficulty with student attendance as children often were needed to work at home or had no transportation to get to school. Hart’s Corner Schoolhouse was designed to encourage attendance by making it a completely walkable school; everyone who attended could walk from home.

Administrators in following decades, however, valued school consolidation, so by the early 1930s, all the one-room schoolhouses in the Valley closed. In 1934, the Township began to use the Hart’s Corner School as a courthouse. Judge Michael Travers presided over court there every Monday night for many years. After 1963, the building became the office of Henry Burd, Township Public Works director. It also was used for other Township offices such as the Health Department and it was used as the meeting place of Bear Tavern Elementary School girl scouts, who used it for a number of years calling it “The Brownie House”.

In 2000, Merrill Lynch purchased the property on the southeast corner of the Washington Crossing – Pennington Road/Scotch Road intersection. As part of its traffic plan, it substantially widened Scotch Road. Unfortunately, the Hart’s Corner Schoolhouse sat very close to Scotch Road, so Merrill Lynch proposed to demolish it. However, the Township’s Historic Sites Committee (now the Historic Preservation Commission) appealed to the company to save the school. At the time, Historic Sites member JoAnn Meyer said: “We are so grateful Merrill Lynch has agreed to save the Schoolhouse. Once these things are gone they are lost forever.”

The Schoolhouse has been vacant since its move, despite some efforts to preserve it as a museum of local historical artifacts. In 2004, Eagle Scout Peter Miller undertook repairs to the building, which included replacing broken windows, masonry repair to the walls, and painting. In 2015, the roof was repaired for free by local roofing contractors Wyckoff Roofing; the Township paid only for the shingles.

A group of concerned citizens has formed hoping to raise money to repair and restore the schoolhouse. According to Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, they have not yet reached out to the Township to formalize an agreement, however the group has made some of their intentions known to the Historic Preservation Commission. 

Commission Chair Max Hayden said: “With the recent listing of the Harts Corner Schoolhouse on our local historic register, both the group and Township can enter into an agreement to lease the building to the group to undertake its restoration, long term maintenance, and find a viable use for the building. Sitting at a prominent crossroads/entry portal to the Township, the time is ripe to see the only brick one-room schoolhouse in the Township revitalized as a community center, exhibit space, visitor center, or other important use. The Commission is excited to be working with all parties to jump start this project and looks forward to reaching out to the community to solicit their help in restoring this landmark.”

A more in-depth history of the Harts Corner Schoolhouse will appear in a forthcoming issue of the the Hopewell Valley Historical Society’s newsletter.

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