Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tuckerton's Giffordtown Schoolhouse: Now in Little Egg Harbor

Tuckerton's Giffordtown Schoolhouse: Now in Little Egg Harbor

A block in from Route 9 in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey not far from the border with Tuckerton is an unsuspecting building clad in light gray siding. It looks like a small ranch-style home, complete with front door and a row of windows on each side. Above the door though, is a sign declaring it the Giffordtown School. Yes, one of Tuckerton's one-room schoolhouses, later expanded into two, exists in Little Egg Harbor! And once you step inside, you will see that although it looks modern on the exterior, it is quite authentic on the inside and filled with antiques, artifacts, and memorabilia from the local area.

Giffordtown Schoolhouse, Little Egg Harbor, NJ.
The Giffordtown Schoolhouse, home to the Tuckerton Historical Society, was originally located on Route 9 between the present-day municipal building and the hardware store. The school was built circa 1884 as a one-room school on land donated by Eli Gifford that same year. The Giffords were a prominent family in the Tuckerton area, as is evidenced by lasting tribute to the family - a local thoroughfare called Giffordtown Road. Students from the surrounding area, including Little Egg Harbor Township and West Tuckerton attended school there. Toilet facilities were never installed at the school but a pump in what is now the entrance vestibule, or historically known as the cloakroom, provided water. Wood burning stoves kept the schoolchildren warm in the winter.

Giffordtown Schoolhouse, shortly after being moved. Source: Tuckerton Historical Society
The school was enlarged to two rooms in 1912 as the school's population grew. Roughly forty students were housed in each classroom, with kindergarten to fourth in one room and grades five through eight in the other. It operated as a school until 1951 when a new school opened in neighboring Little Egg Harbor. The school, after sitting vacant for over twenty-five years, was slated for demolition in 1977. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Leitz of West Tuckerton, owners of a local Pontiac car dealership located next to the school building, offered to donate the school and a new piece of property to the Tuckerton Historical Society in June 1977. Two months later, in August, the building was moved to its present location in Little Egg Harbor, on the corner of what is now Leitz Boulevard and Wisteria Lane. After working to restore the interior and protect the exterior from further degradation, the building reopened August 7, 1982 as the Giffordtown Schoolhouse Museum, headquarters of the Tuckerton Historical Society.

Today the museum features many artifacts from the area's history. There are school-related items, exhibits on local families, businesses, and buildings, a case highlighting the Tuckerton Railroad, a display on the Tuckerton Wireless Tower, the Tucker's Island Lighthouse, and much more!

Display of model buildings of Tuckerton on display at the Giffordtown Schoolhouse.
Currently, the museum has a display of model buildings from Tuckerton built to scale that were present from 1900 through the 1930s. They were carefully built by Mr. Bob Hewitt, who has been working on them over the past 30 years. These fine hand-crafted buildings are beautiful and the layout is impressive.

Tuckerton Wireless Radio
On the front lawn of the museum is a large steel object, painted gray. It is part of the base of the 820 foot tall Tuckerton Wireless Tower that stood in the meadows of Hickory Island, now Mystic Island, from 1914 through 1955. This extremely large communications tower was built by the Germans and was the most powerful transmitting station in the United States, allowing for communication with Europe year-round. The piece of the base on display at the museum was recently repainted and installed upright, although it is technically upside down - the narrow end of it belongs at the bottom. Numerous guide wires and concrete anchors supported and balanced the tower. Large glass insulators from the tower on display inside the museum. During World War I, the tower was operated by the U.S. Navy. After the war, it was purchased by Radio Corporation of America (RCA), who used the tower until 1947. The tower was torn down in 1955. Today, a housing development is located where it once stood and homeowners from time to time uncover insulators and other objects related to the tower in their backyards.

Additional photos of my trip to the Giffordtown Schoolhouse on Pinterest

For More Information
Tuckerton Historical Society

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