The History of Ramsey High School
PLEASE NOTE: The following text was copied exactly from the program used for dedication of the “New Ramsey High School” in 1937.
Ramsey’s First School
The early history of the town of Ramsey is what might be called cloudy, so far as data for our activities is concerned. Now and then some historic spots are revealed, and then will come a break for a period of years. For instance, it is claimed by a reliable research authority, that the Indians inhabited the section now known as Ramsey, about the year 1746.
We see no reason to dispute this statement, so far as we are concerned with tabulating a history of our early educational facilities, for no Indian was ever deeply concerned with education, especially in the seventeenth century. The question we are concerned with is: just when was the first school house erected in Ramsey.
It has long been thought that the first building used for school purposes stood on the corner of Cherry Lane and Dater Avenue, later called Main Street, on the site where the home of Mr. Thomas Decker now stands. However, we have since learned that there was an even earlier school house.
Mr. William J. Pulis was one of the early purchasers of land in Ramsey, and his son, Mr. William W. Pulis, flow residing in Campgaw, gives the information that the first school building stood on Dater Avenue, approximately on the lot now occupied as a dwelling by Mr. Walter Hopper. He says that as a boy, his father pointed out to him the old stone foundations on which this school house stood. The date on which this building was built can only be guessed at but it was very -likely in the early part of 1800. How long this little school was occupied remains clouded in uncertainty.
Our second school house was built in 1840, and was located, as indicated above, on the corner of Cherry Lane and Dater Avenue, later changed to Main Street. Both of these little buildings were, of course, one-room affairs, and all the furniture was of the crudest design. We have been told that the first one had benches made of rough slabs of wood, with bark on one side, and just what the teacher used for a desk can only be guessed at. Of course, there were no blackboards in either of these buildings an 'd light was admitted to the class room on both sides through tiny windows.
This little building must have been occupied for a number of years, for it was not until the summer of 1874 that a movement was started to provide A larger and better equipped building. We have before us a page of the minute book of the District Clerk; and the man who held that position in that year was A. A. Ackerman. The books contain the following information regarding a meeting of the voters to determine the question of a new school. The voters were expected to prepare their own ballots and plac,3 thereon the sum they felt should be spent. The re- port follows:
" A ballot was taken as to the amount of money to be raised for the school house, resulting as follows: In favor of $20,000, one vote; $10,000, two votes; $3,000, one vote; $2,500, forty-five votes; $2,000, fifteen votes and two votes for $100. The sum to be raised was declared to be $2,500.
"A committee, consisting of Messrs. B. Winter, A. W. Conklin and 1. W. Halstead was appointed to examine plans and report the probable cost of same."
Then followed another motion to "sell the old school house to the highest bidder and apply the proceeds to the new school, as Trustees may direct."
Next the terms of sale for the old school were fixed by resolution at ninety days. The next item in the old minutes follows: "The old school was then offered for sale and sold to John Y. Dater for $42.00."
The next business was a report of the committee to examine plans and they reported in favor of Mr. Winter's plans and specifications, probable cost to be $1,500.
Another leaf from the minute book of District Clerk Ackerman tells of a meeting held on, Sept. 5, 1874, at which it is stated: "the following proposals were received: Van Blarcom & Bro, $1,740; Thomas Ackerman, $1,736; Barnev Winter, $1,675; John J. Hopper, $1,424."
Further we read: "The contract was awarded to John J. Hopper, 6 being the lowest bidder. Also the putting in of four additional windows at $10 each. Whole amount of contract, $1,464." This, then, was the total cost of the first real school building erected in Ramsey.
The carpenters must have worked quite rapidly to complete this new school house. The contract was let, as stated, on Sept. 5, 1874, and on Dec. 21, a special meeting was held in this now building, for the purpose 'of-voting funds to furnish it. In the notices which the District Clerk posted, calling the meeting, which was to convene at 7 o'clock, it stated, "there will be submitted the question of ordering a district tax to furnish the new school rooms. The amount thought necessary for this purpose is $200.
Of course there were no such things in those days as electric lights, or any other kind of lights, except kerosene oil lamps, in this section. And what is more to the point, there were not even any oil lamps in the school. On nights when meetings were called, the Trustees brought oil lamps from their homes and most of those coming from outlying districts brought their lanterns along. By the aid of the dim and spooky lights, the business of the school district was transacted, but transacted it was, and the question of voting the sum of $200 to furnish the school was carried, with, of course, several dissenting votes.
Present Grade School and First High School
This agitation continued and resulted in a vote of the district, which by the way we failed to mention was known as District No. 56, and at that meeting it was voted to erect a new building and bonds of the district were voted for that purpose. An architect was engaged to draft plans and Edwin R. Storm, of Ramsey, was given the commission. On March 14, 1892, the Trustees entered into a contract with Barney Winter & Bro., to erect this new building at a total cost of $5,999, which included an carpenter work, mason and plumbing work and painting.
The old 1874 building was ordered sold at auction and was purchased by George Bartholf, and with the material he built a house on the lot adjoining the school on the south. This building still stands but has since been remodelled and modernized.
The school house, built in 1892, is still the south wing of the present grade school building. It was two stories high, containing four large class rooms, large halls and a board room, and was heated by steam, which was the only modern convenience to be installed.
Ramsey, as a village, continued to grow, and with that growth came once again the need for additional school facilities. In 1902 this situation had to be met, so additional ground was purchased on the north side of the school. On this plot of ground stood an old blacksmith shop which was demolished and the plot cleared. To John 0. Ryerson was given the contract to erect the now four-room addition on the north.
This new wing made quite a pretentious looking building, and it stands today practically as it was built. In this new wing a gravity ventilating system was placed, which conveyed fresh air to the class rooms through large ducts, or stacks, and these stacks were heated by steam radiators. Later, a Ke-wanne water system was installed, which provides running water to toilets, etc., by the aid of a small electric motor and pump.
A little later, a modern toilet, with tile floor and sidewalls was installed on each floor of the building and electric lights were placed at first in the meeting room of the Board, and later in all the class rooms. Of course, the students' desks, blackboards and all appurtenances were the beat that could be obtained at that time.
The plot of ground at the rear of the school was leveled and made a fine playground. The grounds in front of the building were also graded and on Arbor Day many trees were planted by the students and several of these trees, now grown in height above the building, still stand. A few of the pupils who attended that school will tell you the names of some of the boys who planted the trees.
It is interesting to go back over the years, in the history of our High School and to make note of the fact that in the early eighties, the term "High School" was used rather loosely. It is noted in the early records that the first High School Commencement was held in Journal Hall in 1896, but we really did not, at that time, have a right to use the term High School".
Standards, such as are now required I)y the State Department of Public Instruction, were unknown in 1896. However, when the Ninth year was added to the course, it was considered proper to use the term. This is possibly the right spot to say something about those who administered our school affairs in those early days. Willard A. Stowell was the Principal in charge when the Ninth year was added to the Grade school work. Mr. Stowell came to Ramsey in 1886, and we have the original of his second year contract, which reads as follows:
"It is hereby agreed between "The Trustees of School District No. 56, in the County of Bergen", and Willard A. Stowell, a qualified teacher, possessing a license in full force and effect, that the said Williard A. Stowell is to teach the public school of said district for a term of ten months, for the sum of sixty dollars per month, commencing on the fifth day of September, 1887, and for such services, properly rendered, the said Trustees are to pay the said Willard A. Stowell monthly, the amount that may be due, according to this contract.
Dated this 17th day of June, 1887.
C. A. SWEET
CHAS. R. RHOADES
Trustees of District No. 56
in the County of Bergen.
WILLARD A. STOWELL
This contract was in Mr. Stowell's handwriting, on a little sheet of note paper five by seven inches in size. Of the original Trustees to sign the contract, el Charles R. Rhoades alone is with us today.
School District No. 56 comprised the schools at Darlington, Mahwah and Masonicus, and this old district remained until the Borough of Ramsey was formed in 1908. J. D. Lester succeeded Mr. Stowell, who taught in our schools for 19 years. Mr. Lester came in September, 1905 and remained until February 1, 1907, when W. D. Tisdale was given charge of the schools.
The full, four year High School course was instituted and approved by the State authorities in 1909 and the first class to graduate consisted of two members. The Commencement exercises were held in Journal Hall, in June of 1909.
The present school at Mahwah was erected while we were still known as District No. 56, and the board, consisting of nine members, some from Mahwah and Masonicus, as well as Ramsey, the district being coextensive with the boundary line of the Township of Hohokas, serving as members. When the Borough of Ramsey was formed in March, 1908, the board retired from office automatically but County Superintendent Wooster reappointed all the old members, for Ramsey, who served until the next election.
The school grew in enrollment and the course of study was enlarged under the guidance of Principal Tisdale. At the suggestion of Mr. Dater, President of the Board, an attempt was made to add a course in Manual Training. A few saws, hammers, etc., were purchased, and an effort was made to get some semblance of a course started. The greatest handicap, however, was a proper room in which to place equipment for the work.
This obstacle was discussed for some time, when finally, a committee was appointed to help solve the problem. The committee disagreed in its report, some favoring an addition to the present building, and some for arranging a room in the basement, or in reality, cellar, of the old building. Some of the members disagreed with both the majority and minority reports of the committee, and said: "Why don't we meet this situation properly and build a new High School building."
It is interesting to note that the response was practically unanimous, and the President at once appointed a Special Building Committee to secure sketches and plans and present the proposition to the voters. This was in 1911, and the committee ap- pointed was: E. P. Carpenter, John Frank DeBaun and John Y. Dater.
Plans were prepared by Charles E. Sleight, a resident of Ramsey, and the committee recommended to the board that a piece of ground be secured on which to erect the new building. The site submitted to the voters was that adjoining the school property on the rear and fronting on what is now known as High School Place. The sum of $4,000 was voted for the purchase of the ground and $36,000 for the building. 'I'his was the first High School building erected in Ramsey, and the cornerstone bears the date 1912. William M. Christopher was the con- tractor and did all the carpenter work and Samuel May the mason work.
Things jogged along then for a few years, until there was a demand for an athletic field and a real school playground. Public discussion of this project followed and finally in 1920, by vote of the taxpayers the plot of ground adjoining the school on the west was purchased for the sum of $6,000. This was laid out for a baseball diamond and later a football field and still later a running track were built.
Our town now possessed a school building ample to care for all our needs, including an auditorium, and in it the first Commencement exercises were held in June, 1913. In this new building our Commercial Department was started on a small scale. It has now grown to be one of the most popular departments of school work.
But the growth of our borough and schools continued and although we had two school buildings. One for grades and one for high school work, room was lacking. Every available bit of space was utilized, even the hallways, and the library was relegated to a snall room, and the room it formerly occupied used as a el:iss room. It became evident in 1923 that something, would have to be done, so once more the board sought out an architect-this time the son of Charles E. Sleight, Albert E. Sleight.
Mr. Sleight started work preparing plans for an addition extending to the west of the 1912 structure. An election was called but the plan of the board was defeated. Another election was soon called, however, and at this time the sum of $175,000 was voted for the large addition. The old portion of the building, was altered greatly. The auditorium was enlarged and a large gym provided beneath it.
In this new structure, which was completed in 1923, many improvements were added. An interior telephone system was installed and also a master clock in the Principal's room, which carried the pro- ,-ram for the day, by a system of buzzers in each class n room. Secondary clocks were placed in all of the new class rooms. The gym was fitted -up with shower rooms, and new furniture was placed in the class rooms, and the heating and ventilating systems enlarged and improved.
At this point it might be interesting to run through a few figures, which as a general rule are rather dry, but since they show the growth of our High School enrollment, we venture to list the enrollment by years and also give the number of graduates each year. We start with the solemn announcement that in the year 1907 Ramsey High consisted of just fourteen students. As one looks back, it is evident that it took courage to even dream of establishing a full, four-year high school course in this section. The Board of Education and the Principal, however, had just the right type of courage to make for success and they kept on the pathway, which now has led to The making of Ramsey High School into one of the strong and outstanding schools of the State.Three More Class Rooms Added to High School
As the school year of 1932 was drawing to a close, discussion was rife as to what should be done to provide additional rooms for the students. At the meeting of the Board of Education on May 24, 1932, the plan of constructing a three-room extension to the present building was brought to the attention of the board b y the President. It was anticipated that a sufficient balance would be on hand at the close of the school year in June, with which to defray the cost of such an addition.
Once again Architect A. E. Sleight was called in and submitted sketches for study by the board. Plans were prepared and at a public meeting called for June 14th, the board asked the voters for permission to transfer the sum of $13,500 from a balance in the current expense ,account, to the building and construction account. Only ... 4 small number of voters came out to this meeting and out of 79 votes cast only two voted in opposition.
Bids were solicited and the contract let to J. H. Steele for the work. Work was started in July and the three rooms were completed and ready for occupancy by September, when school re-opened. The total cost for this work, including furniture, etc., was slightly over $10,000.
These class rooms were soon filled but it gave a much needed relief. Still, many of the citizens wished to have the old grade school abandoned and in April, 1934, a petition was received by the board for a new grade school to cost $200,000. This petition was held on file by the board. In April of the following year, High School facilities once more were discussed by the members of the board. Several members visited Hawthorne High School, and were shown through the building by Mr. John Shaw, of the firm of Fanning & Shaw, Architects, of Paterson.
At that time the board thought that possibly a solution to all their problems would be to submit to the voters a plan to erect a new grade school on the athletic field, to the west of the high school. Also to suggest an addition to the present high school, with rearrangement of the existing building.
A meeting of the voters was called for May 20, at which was submitted the question of voting $130,000 for a new grade school and $205,000 for additions and alterations to the high school. These propositions were both defeated by more than a two to one vote. Not discouraged in their attempt to assist the voters in providing some plan for the greatly- needed additional facilities, every subsequent meet- in, was given over, to discussion of plans and ways and means.A Start Made For Our New Building
In the public press the Roosevelt Administration announced a new plan, by which the PWA would give an outright grant of 45 per cent for worthy projects, municipalities to contribute 55 per cent. When this word was received, a special meeting of the board was called to consider it in connection with our needs. The plan was discussed by the board members and a group of interested citizens, and resulted in a motion to make application for a $600.000 project.
On June 24, 1935, a special meeting of the voters was held, at which was submitted a proposition to purchase a parcel of land, at a cost. not to exceed $30,000. To float a bond issue for $330,000 and to accept a Federal grant for the sum of $270,000. At this public meeting, 1,055 votes were cast, and the proposition to issue bonds and build a $600,000 High School was carried by more than a four-to-one majority.
However, with two proposed sites for the new building on the ticket, neither received a majority of all the votes cast. The Main Street site received 448 votes and the Central Avenue site 404. It was therefore necessary to call a second election to determine a site. This meeting was called for July 9, 1935, with the, result that the Main Street site was selected by the voters, 499 to 414.
All necessary papers were prepared at once, sent to Newark, Trenton and Washington, and closely followed up by Attorney Walter W. Weber and President Dater. Both spent considerable time on the project, including three days in Washington, by which the whole plan was speeded up. Official word was anxiously awaited but nothing developed until, on Sunday morning, August 19th, the New York Times published a list of approved Federal projects, and the amsey- project was included.
It is superfluous to say that there was great rejoicing, in the borough. Very early in the following week President Dater sent a telegram to Washington asking for official confirmation. A reply was received which stated that President Roosevelt, had approved the grant of $270,000 for our school, and that it now I)ore the official number 1047-NJ.
At a special meeting of the board, held on Sept. 3, the grant was officially accepted by resolution, which was forwarded to the Newark office of the PWA. The firm of Fanning & Shaw was engaged as architects by the board and Engineer James A. Conk engaged to make a survey of the site selected for the new building.
The plans were finally approved by the State Department of Public Instruction and by the PWA office in Newark. At a meeting of the board held on Oct. 29, a motion was passed to advertise for bids, which were to be received on May 25. Opened on this date, the board found that the figures exceeded the estimate and the amount of money available.
It was necessary to revise the plans, cutting down the size of the building to some extent. This accomplished, new bids were asked on Dec. 23. These figures came within the sum allotted and some alternate bids were also received. Contracts were awarded subject to the approval of the PWA.
Approval was given by the PWA and on January 7, 1936, contracts were signed with the following contractors, for the amounts set forth.
General contract to Hugh Montaque &, Son, for. mason and carpenter, work, painting and roofing, $327,646.00.
Structural steel and ornamental iron work to Lehigh Structural Steel Co., for $40,365.00.
Plumbing work to JaJaehnig & People, Inc., $27,067.00.
Electrical work, Badaracco & Co., $25,900.00
Heating and ventilation, Frank A. McBride Co., $45,742.00.
Under the terms of the contract all work was to be completed one year from the signing of approved contracts, which date was made January 17, 1937.
On the afternoon of January 16, 1936, the ground-breaking exercises were held. A parade was formed, with the line of march starting at the high school building on High School Place. The parade was headed by our local police, then followed the town clergy, members of the Board of Education, a goodly delegation of business men. Also a delegation from George Hemion Post, American Legion, Boy and Girl Scouts, and a long line of private cars.
Arriving at the site of the new building, a circle was formed at the spot selected for the exercises. Rev. 0. A. Boyer, of the Church of the Redeemer, offered the invocation, the audience sang "America" and then the silver-plated shovel, provided for the occasion, was put to work. John Y. Dater, President of the Board, turned the first shovel full and then handed the shovel to Mrs. Rudolph Schweizer. Mrs. John M. Van Gelder, H. R. Parvin, Charles Eidel and W. D. Tisdale also helped to dig the first hole for the foundation of the new structure. The school band played several selections and the exercises were brought to a close by Rev. P. H. Asheton-Martin, Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, who pronounced the benediction.
Actual work was to have been started on the following Monday but Old Man Winter said "No", and an exceptionally heavy snowfall blocked roads. The firm of George Brewster & Son, who bad the contract for excavating, found it impossible to get the shovel to the site of the work, delaying the start until March 5th. However, with such a capable contractor as the firm of George Brewster & Son, equipped with the very latest machinery, an immense hole was dug in an incredibly short time, considering all the handicaps of the weather.
As quickly as a portion of the foundation was excavated, forms were placed by the carpenters and the work of pouring the concrete was begun. Work continued all summer, with a regular fleet of trucks conveying material to the job. Soon steel erectors, masons, bricklayers and representatives of other trades swarmed over the job, and by early fall the structure began to take form.
The members of the Board of Education waited patiently for a day to lay the corner stone. Finally, after one postponement, this task was completed op. Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1936. To these exercises board members from each of the seven sending districts were invited, as well as the townspeople and many others.
H. R. Parvin, Chairman of the Special Building Committee, presided and Rev. Harold E. Davis, of the First Presbyterian Church, offered prayer. County Superintendent of Schools Roy W. Zimmer- man was then invited to speak, and he brought a word of praise and satisfaction over the good work the townspeople had made possible. President Dater also made a brief address, Contractor Montague, Architect Shaw, John Barth, PWA representative, and others, were present and spoke.
Before the copper box was placed in its receptacle in the corner stone, copies of the enrollment in the High School, as of Oct. 17, 1936; enrollment of the grades of the Grammar School, with the names and number in charge of each teacher, were placed in it. Also a list of figures showing the growth of the school since 1907 and the number of Graduates each year; copies of the teaching, schedule; copies of the Students' Handbook; a copy of the High School Commencement program; a copy of the Grade School graduation pro,-,ram and several copies of The Ramsey Journal, which told the story of much of the work of the board, incident to the erection of the new building. Quite a collection of 1936 pennies and other coins was placed in the box.
And now a brief description of our new building. It is three stories high, with basement under the auditorium and also under the gym. The entire building is just under 400 feet in length. Separate entrances are provided for both the auditorium, which is on the north end of the building, and the gym, which is on the south end. The class room section is in the center and has three entrances, facing the west; and the cafeteria has two service-entrance doors.
On the third floor of the class room section, there are a bookkeeping room, a typing room, a business practice room and five general class rooms. On the second floor a large room has been furnished with all the latest equipment for a physical and chemical laboratory. There, is also a biology laboratory, a general science room, an art room, a sound proof music room, with a small stagee, flve general class rooms and a rest room for men teachers, also an exceptionally large library.
The first floor contains a domestic science room, equipped with gas ranges, refrigerators, steel closets, etc., ill so divided as to make six complete kitchens. Next comes the sewing room, equipped with electric sewing,, machines and all other necessary equipment; a clinic, women teachers' rest room, three general class rooms and a large cafeteria and study hall. Adjoining this are a kitchen, a serving room, and a dish-washing room. To the right and left of the main entrance are respectively, the Supervising Principal’s room, the Board of Education room and the general offices and Principal's office.
The auditorium is furnished with upholstered leather chairs, and the main floor and balcony will seat 1,021. A very stage has been provided and this is fully equipped with velour curtains cyclorama, back drops, side curtains, border curtains, red, white and blue border lights and foot lights, A picture screen his also been provided on the stage and in the balcony, is a fireproof booth for projectors. All electric lights are controlled by a "dimmer" system.
Beneath the stage is a large scenery storage room and in the basement two dressing rooms. A room for bicycle storage and a receiving room for supplies adjoin the boiler room, in which there are three steam boilers, a vacuum pump, hot water boiler, etc. Also a janitor's room, a meter room and a transformer vault. All ventilating and exhaust fans are also operated from the boiler room.
The large gym is divided by folding doors, electrically operated, to provide for separate instruction for boys’ and girls’ classes. Adjoining the gym are shower rooms for both boys and girls, also locker rooms and rooms for both the men and women instructors, also provided with separate showers, and another shower room for use of visiting teams.
The balcony of the gym, which is arranged on two sides, will seat over 600. The sidewalls of the gym are faced with tile and an acoustically treated ceiling provides receptacles for 28 lights. The room is heated by convectors placed inside the tile sidewalls, and booster radiators have also been provided., as well as a ventilating system.
A large metal working shop, with ramp leading to it from the roadway is found in the basement. Adjoining this is the general woodworking shop and also a finishing room for painting, etc. Special lighting fixtures have been provided in these shops.
Each class room, as well as all of the special rooms are provided with separate temperature control, by means of thermostats and electrically operated radiator valves and cold air ducts. Also in each room is a secondary clock, program bells and intercommunicating telephones. The library is decorated in two shades of ivory, and book stacks are arranged on three sides of the room, and this room is furnished with Windsor chairs and oval tables. Adjoining the library is a large book room.
The grounds, on which the new building is located, consists of just over ten acres, practically all of which will be landscaped. The project sponsored by the Board of Education to acquire another eleven acre tract, to the east of the new building, was endorsed by the voters and is now being drained, graded and cleared of brush by aid of a WPA grant and Board of Education funds. On it will be built a quarter-mile running track, football and baseball fields. By the acquisition of this tract of land, the high school property consists of nearly twenty-two acres.MORE TO FOLLOW