Newton Union Schoolhouse - Haddon Township, NJ
N 39° 54.514 W 075° 05.490
18S E 492179 N 4417613
Quick Description: The Newton Union Schoolhouse also known as the Champion School in West Collingswood can trace its one room origins way back to 1821. Today, although no longer a school, the schoolhouse is set up just as it was 192 years ago and works as a museum.
Location: New Jersey, United States
Date Posted: 8/5/2013 4:32:14 PM
Waymark Code: WMHQNE
This old brick school house has been through some tumultuous times and at one time was on its last legs before being saved, securing some much needed interest and money. I have visited this site once before on January 20, 2013 and had no idea this was a former school let alone an NRHP site. There is no advertisements, interpretives or historical markers. Only if one were to climb up on a picnic bench and peer into the window would the realization of a school come to mind. I only made the connection as I was trying to waymark the last of the NRHP sites in my county. The area itself is very historical. Across the street is an old train station, a few monuments, a cemetery from the 1700's with a slew of Revolutionary War graves and other curiosities.
The Haddon Township Historical Society has a brilliant webpage which has all the historical details of this NRHP site:
What we now call the Champion School was built as the Newton Union School by the Newton Union School Scoiety in 1821 (according to an embedded stone on the building.) It is a proto-typical example of a 19th century one-room schoolhose -- the main room of the building measures 18' x 30'. The school was later renamed after local landowner Samuel Champion. Champion lived in what is now the Fairview section of Camden (near what was once the Main Branch of Newton Creek and the Black Horse Pike). He held about 434 acres of farmland in the "old" Haddon Township. Champion played and important role in resolving a title issue that concerned the land where the school is situated. With the title in dispute, Champion obtained the deed to the land from the former owners and tranfered it to a set of four trustees elected by Newton Township, who payed him back. Among the buildings on Champion's farmland was a house in present day Collingswood, near Collings Avenue that is the supposed birthplace of Elizabeth Griscom Ross, better known as Betsy Ross. Champion died in 1847; his other land passed through heirs eventually to a company called the Champion Land Company. Upon passage of the New Jersey Public School Act, the Champion School was named as the first free public school in Camden County. In late 1860s the district name changed from Union to Champion; it would later change again to Newton School District. Students from parts of Collingswood, Woodlynne, Haddon Township, Gloucester Heights, Camden and Oaklyn attended the school. The school became outmoded in the late 19th century, particularly with the building of a new school in Collingswood. The Champion School building still stands on Collings Avenue at Lynne Avenue, near the railroad tracks in the West Collingswood Extention section of Haddon Township.
In March of 1986, the Township of Haddon which owned the property was faced with the decision to tear down the building. Extensive water and structural damage over the years resulted in a wall caving in and the worsening of an already tattered roof. The Township debated what to do considering the liability issues of the unsafe old building. In April 1986, the decision was made to remove the back part of the school (a later addition) while carefully retaining the original front part of the school.
In 1988 the schoolhouse was added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. In 1989, the movement to restore the school (The Newton Union Society) adopted a logo designed by Lorrainne Prince of Collingswood. In early 1990, blackboards were discovered under layers of paint in the old school. later that year the school was awarded $26,875 by the New Jersey Historic Trust as part of the New Jersey Historic Preservation Bond Program; and the following year it recieved $74,111 as part of the same program. The grants funded stabilization of the school's roof, structural improvements, and the removal of stucco to expose the original red brick walls.