Town's First School House Still Stands; 150 Years Old
By Mildred Taylor
(From: Teaneck Sun, 1963)
The one-room school built 150 years ago to serve Little Ferry and Ridgefield stands today, practically unnoticed in the traffic whirring up and down Fort Lee road at the edge of the meadows. Nearby is the schoolmaster's house also built long ago.
The schoolhouse, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bauerlein of 365 Fort Lee Road, is located below a gas station at Fort Lee and Teaneck Road across from an apartment house. The belfry is gone. dormers have been added to provide three rooms on the second floor. The hand hewn shingles have been covered with composition siding, but some of the original shingles may be seen in original shingles may be seen in the kitchen. The large square room that served pupils from the first through the eighth grades has been partitioned to form a pleasant living room, a dining room, a bedroom and bath.
The long, narrow coatroom at the back where generations of girls and boys hung their wraps on pegs has been converted into a modern, compact kitchen. Initials carved by children of long ago are visible through the white paint on the window frames.
The kitchen windows look out on a garden which was once a playground. At the back of the property is a small building, now used as a tool shed. It was originally marked "Girls." Mrs. Bauerlein's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Gloeckler moved it when they bought the property in 1920. For a time it was used as a chicken house.
Mrs. Bauerlein's parents moved into the school house when Raymond Witham and his family moved out. Raymond Witham was the brother of Lt. Jesson Witham, retired, one of the first two officers appointed when the Teaneck Police Department was organized in 1914.
Teaneck School No. 1 first structure built in the area for school purposes, served the southern end of the area while children in the New Bridge section were going to classes in James Purdy's Chair Shop on New Bridge road. It was used until Longfellow School was built in 1910. On Sundays it was used by the lower Teaneck Sunday School Association of which the Teaneck Methodist Church is an outgrowth.
George V. Demarest of 12 DeGraw Avenue, who will be 93 next month, went to the Fort Lee Road School with his sisters. He was a member of the Teaneck Board of Education when Longfellow School was built and brought to the new school house the bell that had hung in the old belfry. Unfortunately, the bell was lost, probably during a fire which broke out many years ago in the present school No. 1.
Mr. Demarest's wife, the former Rachel Moore, says that her father went from his home in Leonia to the Fort Lee Road school, often crossing the creek in a boat when the water was high. Lt. Witham says that children used to go to the school from as far away as Tenafly.
The age of the building is apparent in the foundation of squared red stones. The original oak beams may be seen in the basement. Mrs. Bauerlein says that during remodeling workmen uncovered five floors -- one plank floor had been laid on top of another. The walls are built of timbers so stout that it was impossible to bore through for utility connections.
Bringing the building up to date has presented many problems to the Bauerleins and the Ray Lawrences, owners of the former schoolmaster's house at 381 Fort Lee Road. Their water meter is located in the gas station on Teaneck Road.
The Bauerleins were fortunate enough to be just on the right side of the line to connect with the sewer line. Not so the Lawrences. If they want to connect with the Bergen County Sewer they will have to pay several thousand dollars. Both homes use bottle gas. The expense involved in connecting with the gas line would include tearing up a section of Fort Lee Road and replacing it.