HISTORY, FOUNDING MISSION, and PAST PRESIDENTS
The Old Franklin School House was constructed circa 1807 and served as Metuchen’s only school for over fifty years. The original one-room, 20’ by 20’ building was built by local residents on donated land. According to the Recollections of Mrs. Phoebe Martin in 1921,
Samuel Compton and other farmers decided to build a school house – it is partly the League House. All the farmers came in and worked three or four days as convenient to build it. It was finished in 1807. Benjamin Thornall, a carpenter, gave three days work on the building. He lived near Lafayette School House. His wages were 75 cents per day when he charged. His helpers were 35 cents per day. Jane Compton was one of the scholars who attended the opening and was six years old.
In 1842 the school was repaired and renovated for a total of $500 collected from the school’s subscribers. In addition to the Greek Revival embellishments, such as the cornice and cupola, the symmetrical 5 bay façade was created by a thirty-five foot extension to accommodate a new room intended for use by the community. According to the Recollections of Mrs. Henrietta Peck,
Those who were pupils in the old building say it was located not far from the present site, but facing the south, as nearly all the buildings of that day faced in that direction. When the addition was built to the school house it was turned around to face the west just where it stands today, and the end toward the street was used as a prayer meeting house.
In 1873, a larger and newer Franklin School was built further south on Middlesex Avenue to accommodate the growing number of students in Metuchen and the "old" school house was retired from public service.
The second "Franklin School," after it was moved from Middlesex Avenue & Center Street to its final location on Pearl Street. It was later destroyed by fire. Photograph on file at the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society's Grimstead Archives.
The building was used as a private home for approximately the next twenty years. Metuchen-Edison Historical Society records indicate that the Markey Family lived in the building at the time and ran a cobblers shop from a small building located on the northwest side of the property, adjacent to Middlesex Avenue. 1880 federal census records include a Thomas Markey (50 years old, shoemaker, native of Ireland) and his wife, Catherine (native of Ireland, 40 years old) and their two sons (Thomas, age 9, and George, age 7). A 1903 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the building, shop, and some small outbuildings.
An early photograph on file at the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society shows
the Old Franklin School and the cobbler's shop.
On November 17, 1906, the recently formed Borough Improvement League (B.I.L.) met to discuss “plans for preserving the Old Academy building.” The school house, which many local residents had attended and remembered with fondness, was in extremely poor condition. The B.I.L. formed a plan to rescue the building and offered to purchase the building for $800.
In addition to contributions from local residents, the President of Princeton University contributed $80 towards the purchase with “his hearty approval of preserving the building.” In 1908, the B.I.L. began to repair the structure. According to the Metuchen Recorder, “The B.I.L. are at last in possession of the Old Franklin School House and the contract for remodeling given to Girvin and Rass, the new firm of Scotch carpenters. Everybody is watching the result with interest.” The work included removing the partition built in 1842, re-bracing the roof, removing the plaster ceiling, adding a raised platform and small kitchen and dressing room, creating an inglenook, and adding a fireplace on the north side of the building. The renovations cost a total of $1,465.
On July 14, 1910, the founding members of the B.I.L., who had purchased the building on behalf of the club, officially deeded the property to the club for $1. During the following years the clubhouse was used for many social and charitable events and eventually became primarily a women’s organization.
During the first World War, the building was open one afternoon and evening per week, for recreational purposes, to soldiers stationed nearby. A plaque, presented to the club on June 5, 1921 and located on the north side of building, commemorates the League’s contributions to the war effort.
Between 1938 and 1940, the kitchen and lavatory were enlarged by a local contractor, David Ross, for the cost of $1000. The building was surveyed as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey and awarded a certificate attesting to its historic interest and associations in January, 1942.
A 1990s restoration project consisted of refinishing the floors, repairing and repainting the walls, and renovating the kitchen and lavatory. The Old Franklin School was awarded a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for the National Register in 1990, and efforts are currently underway to have the building officially listed in both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
1901-1906 Mrs. William M. Thomall
1906-1910 Mrs. Frank A. Pattison
1910-1911 Mrs. Thomas M. Barr
1911-1913 Mrs. Holden Spear
1913-1915 Mrs. Charles A. Prickitt
1915-1917 Mrs. Mark 0. Prentice
1917-1918 Mrs. Charles A. Prickitt
1918-1920 Mrs. William A. Thornall
1920-1922 Mrs. Benjamin D. Ford
1922-1924 Mrs. Aylin Pierson
1924-1926 Mrs. Charles P. Hull
1926-1928 Mrs. Roy H. Minton
1928-1930 Mrs. Charles P. Beistle
1930-1932 Mrs. Clarence H. Wright
1932-1934 Mrs. M. Egerton Gray
1934-1936 Mrs. Charles C. Mook
1936-1938 Mrs. Edward A. Borroughs
1938-1940 Mrs. Sterling E. Mayo
1940-1942 Mrs. Arthur A. Turner *
1942-1944 Mrs. Sterling E. Mayo
1944-1945 Mrs. John Miller
1945-1947 Mrs. Tyler M. Gibbs
1947-1949 Mrs. John T. Willard
1949-1951 Mrs. Laurence H. Hart
1951-1953 Mrs. William J. Norton
1953-1955 Mrs. John D. Witmer
1955-1957 Mrs. Charles M. Bashew
1957-1959 Mrs. H.S. Unangst
1959-1961 Mrs. Leo W. Strack
1961-1963 Mrs. H.S. Unangst
1963-1965 Mrs. Norman Ferrara
1965-1967 Mrs. John T. Coleman
1967-1969 Mrs. A. J. Cochrane
1969-1971 Mrs. Norman Ferrara
1971-1973 Mrs. William Aspinwall *
1973-1975 Miss. Bertha Beekman *
1975-1977 Mrs. John T. Coleman *
1977-1979 Mrs. William Aspinwall *
1979-1981 Miss. Dorothy Gaydos
1981-1982 Mrs. John T. Coleman
1982-1983 Past Presidents (*)
1983-1984 Miss Dorothy Gaydos, Mrs. H.I. Stewart
1984-1991 Mrs. H.I. Stewart
1991-1993 Mrs. Paul McCormack
1993-1995 Mrs. James Convery
1995-1998 Louise DeCourcey
1998-2000 Phyllis Boeddinghaus, Kay McCormack
2000-2002 Phyllis Boeddinghaus
2002-present Tyreen Anne Reuter
FOUNDING MISSION, 1901
To arouse and to develop among the residents of the Borough of Metuchen a deeper and more active interest in the general growth and material welfare of the Borough.
To stimulate and encourage efforts tending to improve and beautify the Borough.
To prevent acts injurious to the public health and comfort and actively to lead in securing the abatement of public nuisances and the removal of unsightly objects and structures.
To promote neatness and order in the public highways, parks and buildings of the Borough.
To prevent cruelty to children and to animals and to aid and assist in bringing to justice offenders against existing laws on the subject or such as may hereafter be enacted.
To improve the condition of the poor, the destitute, the sick, and the infirm.
To establish and maintain a school for the instruction of children in manual and physical training, household, economics, nature study, sewing, kindred and subjects supplementing the work done in the Borough School or Schools.
To acquire by purchase or otherwise the building commonly known as the Old Franklin School House, with a view to its preservation as an object of historic interest.
THE BOROUGH IMPROVEMENT LEAGUE OF METUCHEN
Organized on June 14, 1901
Federated on October 21, 1901
Incorporated in December, 1906
Joined General Federation in May, 1937