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03/28/2005 - By by Jeffrey Moser
Historical Colts Neck
“Still sits our schoolhouse by the road, a ragged beggar sunning/Around it still the sumacs grow and blackberry vines are running.” – John Greenleaf Whittier
The Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier’s words have often been used to describe Colts Neck’s historic Montrose schoolhouse. Located at the corner of Cedar Drive and Montrose Road, it is one of six one-room schoolhouses that were once in operation in Colts Neck. However, Montrose is the only one that has retained its original architectural profile. Three of the other examples have been converted into private residences, and two were destroyed. There is speculation over when the schoolhouse was originally built, but all sources agree that the structure was constructed before 1820, maybe in 1790 or possibly in 1805.
The Montrose schoolhouse was originally known as the Barrenton School. Its name was changed after its move to where it now sits. Its operation ceased in 1922, with the opening of the Atlantic School on Route 537. It remained the property of the Emmans family up until 1965 when it was donated to the now defunct Colts Neck Historical Society. It then sat idle for over three decades in desperate need of repair and restoration, opening only once for a historic tour of Colts Neck.
For many years, townsfolk have wanted to see the Montrose school restored to its former glory and used as a museum and educational center. In 2003, this dream began to get much closer to becoming a reality when the schoolhouse was deeded to the Township of Colts Neck. Functioning as an arm of the Township Committee, the Historic Preservation Committee acquired the site with the commitment to “restore, maintain, and perpetuate the historic significance of the school.”
The Township plans to make the school “a living monument to 19th century education in a rural environment” that will be accessible to the general public. Some interesting features that remain intact are its original pumpkin pine floors, a potbelly wood burning stove, and a collection of period school desks. By carrying out this project, the Township of Colts Neck is ensuring that today’s students can learn and develop a respect for history.
Want to contribute to your town’s history? Contact the Colts Neck Planning Board at 732-409-7135 to find out how to get involved.
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