An earlier, smaller Ardena School was built in 1835 on the north side of the current County Route 524, east of Vanderveer Road. It was replaced in 1855 by this building, across the street from the present-day Ardena Baptist Church. And where church services were held until construction on the Church was completed in 1861. During its time of operation, it was the parents’ responsibility to hire and pay the teacher to work in the schoolhouse, so not everyone had the opportunity to obtain an education. Since Ardena only had a single room for instruction, which was typical of the era when the sprawling rural township of Howell had up to 11 one- and two-room schools, all levels of learners were taught together. This encompassed a great range of ages and the older students would often times work independently or help the younger ones during the school day.
Although from today’s perspective the schoolhouse appears limited in space and amenities, during the time of its operation it was standard with what students had at home. There was an out-house for restroom use, glass windows, and a single stove used as a source of heat for cold days. However, for the sixty students in the classroom, attending school was a privilege and one must remember that these conditions (lack of modern plumbing, heating, etc.) were typical for the time.
Unlike modern day school systems that require 180 days of school for students, during the time of the Ardena Schoolhouse, there was only a 130-day school year. This was due to the fact that the individuals in Farmingdale and Howell relied on agriculture to survive. Since many of the students worked on their family farms, they would often have to miss class or leave early in order to help at home. Even with these circumstances, children were still given the opportunity for an education and improving their lives.
When Howell’s Ardena Consolidated School opened in 1938, the individual district schools were no longer needed. The old building was sold to an adjacent neighbor, Roy Matthews in 1939 for $300, and it became storage for his carpentry tools. In 1946 he sold it to Victor Griffin, who moved it to Burlington Road, in the East Freehold section of Freehold Township, where it was used for his carpet-making business. He painted it red, but then didn’t like how it looked, so had it covered with aluminum siding.
In 1973, there was a push by the Howell Historical Society to preserve the building. The Historical Society was able to purchase the Old Schoolhouse for $3,000, and paid $1,400 to have it moved mid-summer of 1974, and $650 to prepare the foundation to put it where it stands today at the corner of Old Tavern and Preventorium Roads.
Almost two years more were needed to raise more funds, and volunteer labor, to complete the work of putting up a new roof, adding the belfry, and refurbishing the entire building. The original pot belly stove was donated by Leroy Matthews, as it had not made the trip to Freehold, and was placed back in the schoolhouse. The original bell was located in Ohio, and the original chalkboards built in the school in 1906 were still in place. Though the desks were not originals, they were purchased from a Lancaster, PA farmer, likely made around 1900. A dedication of the Ardena Schoolhouse was done on July 3,1976 as part of the Bicentennial celebrations, and Howell’s 175thyear of founding.
The main purpose of the relocation, and refurbishing of the Ardena Schoolhouse by the members of the Howell Historical Society, was to preserve something from the old generation, to pass on to the new generation. Moving forward, the members of the current Howell Heritage and Historical Society wish to continue that spirit, and again prepare the schoolhouse to be open to public visitation.
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More information about the Ardena Schoolhouse and other Howell history can be found at the MacKenzie House Museum and Library, 427 Lakewood-Farmingdale Road.
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Watch for future announcements on the re-openings of these historic properties.
Files coming soon.