January 5, 2021
BORDENTOWN – It was last summer when the Bordentown Historical Society began its “Raise the Roof” campaign to help raise money to replace the roof on top of the Clara Barton Schoolhouse, the first-ever public school in the state of New Jersey and a historic landmark in Bordentown City.
Through its fundraising efforts to raise money to fix the roof and apply for a preservation grant from the state to help update other areas around the schoolhouse, the historical society was able to raise over $43,000 towards the cause.
Co-President Bonnie Goldman has been thrilled with the ongoing support the history society has gotten from the Bordentown community towards renovating the schoolhouse, and was hoping it would lead to the roof being fixed by the spring.
However, thanks to the connections of Bordentown resident Joanne Paul, Goldman and the historical society got an unexpected holiday gift with the roof being fixed before the new year.
On Dec. 28, owner Joe Gankiewicz and his team of six workers from Trenton Roofing & Siding Inc. helped install a brand new roof on top of the schoolhouse.
“It was very generous of him to participate in the project,” Goldman said of Gankiewicz and his team. “He understood the history of the building and was able to get the parts to put the roof on sooner. It looks so adorable. It’s a relief.”
The roof, which Gankiewicz estimates can last for the next 40-50 years, took one day for him and his team to install.
After hearing from Paul that the roof needed to be fixed, Gankiewicz did more research on Clara Barton.
He was impressed to find out while watching a documentary that Barton was one of the first people from the American Red Cross on hand to help save lives from people affected by the flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1889 that killed more than 2,000 people.
Gankiewicz said it was a great feeling to learn something new about Barton and felt it was important to help out in any way possible to fix the roof.
With the help of materials donated by Supply House and a lot of “manpower,” Gankiewicz and his team supplied a new roof to scratch off Phase I of the historical society’s restoration plan for the schoolhouse.
“It felt good to give back,” Gankiewicz said. “It meant something different to the guys instead of just fixing another roof on a home.”
The price to install the roof would usually be $16,000, according to Gankiewicz, but he is going to cut that price “more than half” for the historical society since he discounted materials and labor, he said.
Plans for Phase II of the restoration will be in place come February, Goldman said. That’s when the society’s historical architect Margaret Westfield will submit her guide to improving the schoolhouse and the funding needed to receive any grants from the state.
These areas of improvement include heating, ventilation and air conditioning, electrical work, audio visual equipment, exterior work on the brick, fencing, sidewalks and possibly a bathroom.
“We still have many things to fix,” Goldman said. “We have a lot of generous supporters that have gotten us to where we are. We are thankful for that support, but still have a lot to do.”
With this year marking Barton’s 200th birthday, the historical society is planning on running many events in her honor for the public throughout 2021, some “hopefully” occurring in the newly renovated schoolhouse.
Goldman said the historical society will conduct a virtual event in March where they will have the author of “The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal,” Marian Moser Jones, speak to attendees about Barton and the book.
The historical society is also planning to plant a tree around the schoolhouse to honor the six students that represented the first class that Barton taught at the schoolhouse back in 1852, Goldman said.
Other events for children are in the works, as Goldman hopes the historical society can hold more in-person events to honor Barton later in the year.