Howell council authorizes lease agreement for historic schoolhouse


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HOWELL – The members of the Howell Township Council have authorized a lease agreement between the municipality and the Howell Heritage and Historical Society regarding the Old Ardena Schoolhouse.

The historic one-room schoolhouse is on Old Tavern Road in Howell.

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During a meeting on Sept. 14, Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Thomas Russo, Councilman John Bonevich, Councilwoman Pamela Richmond and Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the ordinance.

Members of the public were able to comment on the proposed lease agreement prior to the ordinance’s adoption.

Bob Novak is the president of the Howell Heritage and Historical Society and he thanked Township Attorney Joseph Clark and Deputy Director of Community Development Justin Yost for their efforts in the matter.

“For sectioning a portion of that parcel out for us for the Ardena schoolhouse. We are happy to be at this point, appreciate if you all vote for (the ordinance) and we are looking forward to getting the school open again. … thank you,” Novak said.

O’Donnell said, “I know the historical society will do a good job with this. I know they wanted this for quite a while. So I applaud your energy and I am very happy to have been a part of bringing this to fruition.”

Russo recalled visiting the historic Ardena schoolhouse on class trips as a youngster in Howell and said, “the town is really going to benefit from this (agreement) … (I want to) thank the historical society for all the work you have done.”

Bonevich said the historic one-room schoolhouse will be in good hands under the township’s lease with the Howell Heritage and Historical Society.

A previous lease agreement regarding the Ardena schoolhouse existed between the township and a now defunct historical society for the purpose of operating and managing the building.

According to the ordinance that was adopted on Sept. 14, for each year the lease is in effect, the Howell Heritage and Historical Society will be required to submit a report listing the activities to which the leasehold was put during that year; the activities taken by the society in furtherance of the public purposes as identified in the ordinance; and the approximate value or cost, if any, of the activities undertaken by the society in furtherance of those public purposes.

The Howell Heritage and Historical Society formed in 2019 to take ownership of another Howell historic site, the MacKenzie Museum and Library on Lakewood-Farmingdale Road (Route 547). Efforts are being made to renovate and restore that building.

The Old Ardena Schoolhouse is at the intersection of Old Tavern and Preventorium roads and is one of the few remaining one-room schoolhouses in Monmouth County.

The Ardena schoolhouse’s first home was on Adelphia-Farmingdale Road (Route 524), across from the present-day Ardena Baptist Church.

The original Ardena schoolhouse was built in 1835. The schoolhouse the society is leasing from the township was constructed in 1855 to replace the original building.

When Howell’s consolidated school opened in 1939, the one-room Ardena schoolhouse was sold and moved to the East Freehold section of Freehold Township where it was used as an upholstery shop.

The one-room schoolhouse returned to Howell when a now defunct historical society purchased it in 1973 and made plans to move the building to its current location at the corner of Old Tavern and Preventorium roads.

For some time after the building was moved to Old Tavern Road, the historic Ardena schoolhouse was open to the public on a regular basis.

According to a history of the building, a pot-bellied cast iron stove provided the only heat for the schoolhouse. Older boys would move the stove to the center of the room for more even heating on frigid days. The worn wooden floor is a testament to the decades of students who learned their lessons in the single classroom.

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