Clara Barton Schoolhouse
Schoolhouse History And Student/Teacher Funded Restoration 101 Years Ago:
The Clara Barton Schoolhouse is a 1-1/2 story brick building built in 1839. The Bordentown Historical Society has been the steward of this historic site since 2005.
When Clara Barton began teaching in 1852, the building was described as “dilapidated” and repairs were undertaken at that time. On the first day she taught, she began with only 6 students. After a year, there were 600 students, and by 1853, a new eight room schoolhouse had been built in Bordentown to accommodate them. Thereafter, the original schoolhouse was unused for many years and by 1919, it was in a deteriorated state. It was purchased for $300 at a Sheriff’s Sale by a community minded couple, Mr. and Mrs. George Swift, so that it could be preserved. In September of 1920, they sold it to the President of the State Board of Education for $1 “in trust for and [o]n behalf of the Schoolchildren of the State of New Jersey and to be forever preserved as a memorial of Clara Barton, deceased.”
The State Commissioner of Education then asked all of the students of the state to donate “no more than a penny” and he asked teachers to donate “no more than a nickel” in order to restore the Clara Barton Schoolhouse. New Jersey children, teachers and some other supporters raised $3401.78 as memorialized on a plaque that can be seen on the front of the Schoolhouse. The fundraising effort culminated with a dedication of the Clara Barton Schoolhouse on June 11, 1921, with invitees including the Governor of the State, other politicians and dignitaries and relatives of Clara Barton! The BHS held a “Rededication Ceremony” on June 11, 2021, in recognition of our current preservation efforts—100 years to the day from the first Schoolhouse dedication. The significance of the Clara Barton Schoolhouse has been recognized by virtue of its inclusion in the Bordentown Historical District and by way of its listing on the New Jersey and National Registers.
Current Preservation Efforts and Celebration of Clara Barton’s 200th birthday in 2021: Although repairs and improvements have been made over the years, the Schoolhouse is presently in need of major preservation and rehabilitation. It is not feasible to restore the building to the time that Clara Barton taught there, but the Schoolchildren-funded restoration of 1921 has gained significance in its own right, illustrating the interest in history that was prevalent during the Colonial Revival Period.
We are now restoring the school to its 1921 appearance. A new roof was critical and the leaky roof was replaced this past December. The building’s considerable other needs have been outlined in a Planning Report prepared by our Historic Architect. This report serves to guide the BHS in prioritizing and budgeting for remaining work which includes exterior stabilization, a barrier free entrance, lighting, HVAC, technology improvements to assist in presentations and a handicapped bathroom, just to name a few. The BHS applied for a NJ Historic Trust matching grant this year which, if awarded, will only address some of these critical preservation issues (phase 1 of 3 phases).
In addition to restoration of the Schoolhouse, the BHS is hosting a number of events this year in celebration of Clara Barton’s 200th birthday (12/25/21) including a lecture series, a children’s coloring book, the planting of 6 trees at the Clara Barton Elementary School in memory of her first six students, installation of banners at the elementary school detailing Clara’s accomplishments, and a four-part lecture series on Clara Barton, just to name some of our undertakings.
Among the most honored women in America and a true American Icon, Clara Barton has been celebrated as a teacher and for her lifelong dedication to the service of others. For more information about Clara Barton, please click on “Bordentown History” “Famous Figures” “Clara Barton.”