Bordentown Historical Society starts ‘Raise the Roof’ campaign to fix Clara Barton schoolhouse roof

The Bordentown Historical Society has created a campaign called "Raise the Roof" to replace the roof atop the Clara Barton Schoolhouse.

BORDENTOWN – The Clara Barton Schoolhouse has been a historic landmark in the Bordentown community since 1852 when the world-renowned nurse helped build the first-ever public school in the state of New Jersey.

Barton, who also founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and was the first woman to be a full-time employee of the federal government, taught at the school from 1852-54.

Her impact on the community and the public school district led to one of the elementary schools being named the Clara Barton Elementary School.

The schoolhouse has been preserved as a historical landmark by the Bordentown Historical Society.

People can access the first-ever public school in the state during tours of Bordentown City by the Bordentown Historical Society and every year during their fall house tour.

The schoolhouse is a big part of the Bordentown community and it’s why the Bordentown Historical Society wants to continue to keep it well maintained.

That starts with the organization raising funds to help replace the roof on top of the schoolhouse.

There are currently eight holes in the roof that the Bordentown Historical Society wants to fix, along with adding new heating, a new fence and electrical work, said historical society trustee Bonnie Goldman.

The Bordentown Historical Society’s goal is to raise $50,000 to solve the issues and preserve the schoolhouse.

“The schoolhouse is a landmark in the town,” Goldman said. “Its historical significance means a lot to our community.”

The organization created a campaign called “Raise the Roof” which they have been promoting around the Bordentown community.

Signs have been placed in front of the schoolhouse itself and at the Bordentown Meeting House Museum, where Bordentown Historical Society headquarters are located.

The organization has also sent letters to members and contacts for donations and promoted the fundraiser on its social media platforms.

Two Bordentown residents have donated $5,000 each to the cause. The organization had currently raised a little over $12,000 as of press time, Goldman said.

This past weekend, a group of four girls, Mackenzie Weckenbrock, Mackenzie Mayer, Samantha Archer and AJ (Anna) Sury, ran a lemonade stand to raise money to restore the schoolhouse. Sury came up with the idea, according to Goldman.

“We’ve gotten tremendous support from the community,” Goldman said. “It’s very uplifting. We’re on the right track and hopefully we will get the job done.”

CJ Mugavero, who owns the The Artful Deposit in Bordentown, is donating a portion of sales she makes on various paintings through the end of the year to the cause.

Mugavero is also the president of the Downtown Bordentown Association (DBA), and understands the importance of the historical influence the schoolhouse has on the community.

It’s why Mugavero is trying to find creative ways to bring the Bordentown Historical Society together with the DBA to promote different events to help out both parties and the downtown area.

“We’re all part of this one square mile area and right now everyone needs to step up and help out,” Mugavero said.

Since the Bordentown Historical Society won’t be able to hold its annual fall house tour this year due to COVID-19, the organization instead has partnered with the Bordentown City Creative Team and local artists to host a fall art show to raise money for the campaign.

“Visions of Bordentown,” a virtual art exhibit, will feature 15-30 artists who will have their work on display, which will include paintings of historic homes of Bordentown.

The event will run from Sept. 25-Oct. 2 and be held on the Bordentown Historical Society’s new website that will be launched in the next two weeks, Goldman said.

According to Goldman, 20% of the proceeds that each artist makes will be donated to the Bordentown Historical Society and some of that money will go toward restoring the schoolhouse.

The organization will also see if they can apply for any grant programs that will be offered next year to help get funding for their campaign to fix up the building.

Goldman said the institution has been consulting with Margaret Westfield, an architect at Westfield Architects and Prevention Consultants, who specializes in historical preservation on what steps they need to take to restore the schoolhouse the safest and best way possible.

Westfield has told the Bordentown Historical Society that if they keep the blue tarp over the fence that no additional damages should happen.

The hope is for construction to replace the roof to start in the spring of 2021 and be ready later that winter when the Bordentown Historical Society plans to celebrate what would have been Barton’s 200th birthday.

Goldman said the historical society is planning to have many events to honor Barton that will include professors with deep knowledge on Barton speak at each ceremony.

“Clara Barton was a true trailblazer,” Goldman said. “She inspired legions of women of all ages and continues to do so today. We intend to celebrate her 200th birthday with many special events and honor her for the impact she has made on our community.”

To donate to the Bordentown Historical Society, visit bordentownhistory.org or send proceeds to P.O. Box 182, Bordentown 08505.

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