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The Brick Academy is centrally located in Somerset County, New Jersey in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Twp.The Brick Academy
15 West Oak Street, Basking Ridge, New Jersey

Recognized on both the State & National Registers
of Historic Places.

Historic Schoolhouse Summit & Symposium2009 marked the bicentennial of this historic classsical schoolhouse that's been serving the Somerset Hills community for over 200 years.



Video courtesey of volunteer Bianca Pichamuthu

the Brick Academy is a three floor restored schoolhouse, opened originally in 1809 in Basking Ridge New Jersey.

Known also as the original Basking Ridge Classical School, the 1809 Federal-style Brick Academy located in the center of the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township has been a boys’ private preparatory school, a public school, a meeting hall for several fraternal and benevolent organizations, and the Bernards Township municipal building.

The Brick Academy is known also as the original Basking Ridge Classical School, the 1809 Federal-style Brick Academy located in the center of the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township. The structure has also served as a boys’ private preparatory school, a public school, a meeting hall for several fraternal and benevolent organizations, the Bernards Township Police Department, and the Bernards Township municipal building.

It currently serves as the headquarters of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, as well as a schoolhouse and museum to local history.

Click to Enlarge the Dedication Plaque for the Brick AcademyIn 1976 the Brick Academy was leased by the Township to The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, which uses the Brick Academy for its headquarters and public meetings, and operates a museum, a one room schoolhouse, and research library.

Click to enlarge plaque to read inscription that is enscribed on this plaque just outside the main entrance to the Brick Academy.

 


Early Schooling in Basking Ridge

In the beginning, Dr. Samuel Kennedy, fourth pastor of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, founded a classical school sometime after he became minister in 1751 in which to educate young men desirous of entering the ministry, law, education, or public service. The school was originally conducted at the parsonage farm located near the church. Around 1762 Kennedy moved the school to a farmstead he purchased four miles south of the village (now known as the Kennedy-Martin-Stelle Farmstead). Several years later Kennedy moved back to the village where he continued to conduct the school until his death in 1787.

Brick AcademyIn 1795, Kennedy’s successor, Dr. Robert Finley, re-established the private academy, known as the Basking Ridge Classical School, conducting classes first at the Presbyterian parsonage and then in a new frame school building erected near the church. In 1809, with enrollment expanding, Finley organized financing and construction of a new two-story brick building prominently located in the center of the village.

Here local boys as well as boys from New York City and other parts of the East coast were given a classical education and prepared for the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton University). Students boarded with local residents, and two buildings still standing near the Brick Academy were used as dormitories. Some of the distinguished graduates included:

  • Samuel L. Southard, Governor of New Jersey, Chief Justice of the NJ Supreme Court and United States Senator
  • Theodore Frelinghuysen, United States Senator, Whig candidate for Vice President in 1844, and president of Rutgers College
  • William Lewis Dayton, United States Senator, Republican candidate for Vice President in 1856, and Minister to France during the Civil War
  • Commodore Robert Field Stockton, hero of the Mexican War

The school closed in 1851 and in 1853 was converted into a public school by the newly formed Basking Ridge School District #12. In 1903 classes were moved to the new Maple Avenue School and the following year the building was sold to a fraternal organization which permitted Bernards Township to rent space for public meetings.

Possible Design Changes in 1900

Drawing of the planned renovation of the Brick Academy c 1900In June 1900, in response to increasing calls to improve local schools, Samuel S. Childs, President of the Board of Education, submitted a plan to remodel the Brick Academy – then known as the Basking Ridge School – prepared by New York architect John Corley Westervelt, who designed for the Childs restaurant chain. A drawing of his “proposed improvement” to the building shows a new classic temple front with raised porch and elaborate details including two story fluted columns with Ionic capitals, broken scroll pediment over the door, and a Palladian window. No details of proposed Students standing out front of the District 12 schoolhouseclassroom im-provements were given.

The grandiose plan was rejected and the familiar old land-mark was preserved. Three years later, the Board of Education built the Maple Avenue School to replace the Basking Ridge School, which in 1904 was auctioned off to the Ancient Order of United Workmen, a fraternal lodge.

Beginning in 1924 the Township rented space for its municipal offices, courtroom facilities and police department.

In 1948 the Township purchased the building and continued to use it until 1975, when township activities were moved to the current municipal complex on Collyer Lane.


Timeline

   
1797 Basking Ridge Classical School founded by Reverend Robert Finley
1809 Brick Academy is constructed as the home of the Basking Ridge Classical School
1828 Basking Ridge Brick Academy Company incorporated
1853 School District #12 in Basking Ridge opens in the Brick Academy building as a public school.
1904 The Brick Academy is sold to the Ancient Order United Workmen (1904-1925) Junior Order United American Mechanics
1924 Bernards Township rents building for municipal offices
1948 Bernards Township buys building for continued use for municipal offices
1975 Bernards Township government moves to former Astor estate at 1 Collyer Lane
1976 Township leases Brick Academy to The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills
1976 Brick Academy listed on National Register of Historic Places
2008 Dedication and opening of the top floor of the Brick Academy restoration effort. (November 11, 2008) - See Details
2009 Bicentennial Celebration of the 200 year birthday of the Brick Academy
Historic Schoolhouse Summit & Symposium Historic Schoolhouse Summit & Sysmposium (April 4, 2009)  

 


 

Brick Academy Museum

The Main Floor of the Brick Academy MuseumThe Brick Academy houses a local history museum on its main floor. Featured exhibits rotate on a regular basis with seasonal themed displays including local history from the Somerset Hills areas.

The museum is open Sundays from 2 to 4 except July and August and holidays.

Group tours are available by appointment. The main floor is also the location of the Spring and Fall lecture series.

 

The main floor was restored with grant funding from Somerset County.



Historical Society Research Library

THSSH Research RoomThe lower floor of the Brick Academy contains a Research Library with collections focusing on local genealogy, history subjects, and a collection of documents and photographs pertaining to real estate properties. Feel free to browse one of the largest collections of books and periodicals about the area.

The Research Library is open the first and third Wednesday of the month from 9:30am-Noon or by appointment, and can be accessed by the building side door off the parking lot.

 

The Research Library was renovated with funding from Bernards Township.

 


Top Floor Schoolroom

Top FloorThe latest completion to the Brick Academy is the restored school room, located on the top floor of the of the Brick Academy.

Read the dedication article - Click Here

The top floor school room has been configured and decorated to interpret the room as a c.1900 one room classroom with related exhibits on early local education.

Programs will focus on including tours & programs tailored to children of all ages.

For more information on this project, feel free to look at the Committee information, our Online Discussion Forum, or feel free to Contact Us directly.

The Historical Society restored the Top Floor School room with two grants from the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission.

 


Youth Programs

The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills is in the progress of creating a totally new educational experience for children at the Brick Academy. In partnership with the Museum of Early Crafts and Trades in Madison, the emphasis of the programs will be to create an interactive experience for children covering a wide age group. Here's to the Brick Academy kids!

Information and details will be posted in the near future. For details, or to schedule a visit
- Click Here


Grounds

The garden beds at the Brick Academy are planted and maintained with the generous assistance of the Basking Ridge Garden Club.


Parking

Limited parking is available in the small parking lot adjacent to the Brick Academy. Additional parking is located along North and South Finley Avenue and in the municipal parking lot accessed from South Maple Avenue.

Local Area


Hours of Operation:
Museum Open Sundays
2-4pm
(except Summer
and Holidays)
Library Open
First & Third Wednesdays
9:30am-12pm
or by appointment.
Street Address:
The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills
15 West Oak Street, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
Telephone: (908) 221-1770

Map/Directions
Click Here

 

 

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