Newton Public Schools
Sussex County’s first free public school was constructed on Halsted Heights, above the railroad station, in January 1869. Architect J. Digby Daly designed the Newton Public School to accommodate six to eight hundred students, using locally abundant materials: limestone for the basement, Newton pressed brick for the next two stories; pitched Ashlar limestone for the belt course, frieze, under cornice and other details; Newark brownstone for window sills and string courses. Contractors Hoppaugh & Moore built it for $34,168.05. The school grounds encompassed three acres. The two-story building, 60 by 100 feet, included a public hall, 60 by 70 feet, in the Mansard roof, capable of seating 1,090 persons. The basement, eight feet high, served as an indoor playground in inclement weather. The school departments on each floor were divided into two nearly equal parts, with benches, desks, recitation rooms and platforms for teachers. The architect A large crowd attended the school’s dedication on December 16, 1870. On opening day, December 19, 1870, Principal Elisha M. Allen registered about 400 pupils. By 1880, the school operated for ten and a quarter months annually, with an average attendance of 297 students. Sevry, Jeffrey & Co. built an addition to the school in July 1893 for $8,749. Carpenter George F. Frace and masonry contractors O’Donnell & McManiman were contracted to build an addition in April 1898.

Dr. Charles J. Majory departed as Principal in June 1908. During his sixteen years of service, the capacity of the building had been more than doubled; the Annex and High School buildings built; a heating and ventilating plant installed, the number of classrooms increased from eight to eighteen, and the number of teachers increased from 8 to 20. The course of study was also extended, the kindergarten added; music and drawing were effectively taught and the High School course, increased to four years, was placed on the State approved list. The old Public School Building on Halsted Street was demolished in 1962.

By 1916, the Newton Public School was overcrowded, housing not only the primary grades, but the Academic Department of the High School as well. High School commercial classes were conducted in rented space in the Park Block while the gymnasium occupied leased space in the Newton Gas and Electric Plant. On March 31, 1916, the Newton Board of Education employed the New York architectural firm of Rasmussen & Wayland to draw plans for a high school building to stand on Halsted Heights on grounds already part of the school campus. The design was to accomodate the entire High School enrollment with classrooms, a gymnasium for the entire student body, and a steam heating plant equipped to heat the old building as well as the new. The public voted its approval in May 1916. In September 1916, Charles E. Preston, of White Plains, New York, submitted the low bid for general construction of the new High School, at $50.459. He specialized in school construction, having built schools at Cherry Valley, Monticello, North White Plains, and Scarsdale in New York, and at Flemington in New Jersey. Callahan, Kingsley Company, of New York, received the plumbing contract for $2,489. George D. Gardner, of Dover, got the electrical contract for $602. As the winning bids totaled $60,442, practically $5,000 under the architects’ estimates, the Board of Education decided that complete fireproof construction alternates be added at an extra cost of $5,633; that face brick be substituted for common brick at an additional cost of $975; and that wardrobes in several classrooms be substituted for the original plan of locker rooms in the basement, at an added cost of $500; and provided for three more classrooms than planned.

Contractor Charles E. Preston, of Dover, was supposed to have the new High School completed by July 25, 1917, but the First
World War caused a general shortage of manpower and greatly inflated prices. The Newton Board of Education agreed to contract extension until April 1, 1918, during which time, the original cost of $57,000 passed $60,000. The need to excavate more rock than was originally anticipated was also a cause for delay. By January 31, 1918, only the excavation and foundation work were finished. In July 1919, Newton voters approved an additional $35,000 in bonds to finance the school’s completion. The new auditorium of Newton High School opened with a concert on March 5, 1920.

A substantial addition was built onto the High School in 1935-36. In July 1945, the Newton Board of Education awarded a contract to Harris Brothers, of Hoboken, to build a new Agricultural Department Building for Newton High School on a five-acre section of a twenty-acre tract on the west side of Ryerson Avenue, recently purchased by the school district. The new Agricultural Building, 106 feet in length, was to be built of concrete block in the form of a “T.” It contained two classrooms and a shop on grade and a basement. The site chosen for the new building was at the side of the twenty-acre tract, adjoining the property of Electus S. Cole. The remaining fifteen acres were reserved for construction of a new High School at sometime in the future and for new athletic fields. In 1954, a new High School was built on Ryerson Avenue at a cost $1,250,000 and the former High School building on Halsted Street was converted to a grammar school. At that time, thirteen school districts sent students to Newton High School while two districts sent elementary school children here. Frankford, Lafayette and Branchville students departed Newton High School in 1964 when the High Point Regional district was formed. Kittatinny Regional District subtracted students from Hampton, Stillwater, Fredon, Sandyston and Walpack Townships in September 1975.

The landmark Newton Grammar School on Halstead Street was demolished in 1962.

Copyright 2000 Kevin W. Wright. All rights reserved.