Mayor’s Message: Holiday ornament commemorates Richwood Academy

Proceeds will support the Harrison Township Historical Society

The township’s 2020 Holiday Ornament commemorates the Richwood Academy and its 150th Anniversary. (Special to The Sun)

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving will be here in a few weeks and with that the transition to the holiday season. This year the holidays will probably feel even more special because of what we have endured – and continue to endure – with the novel coronavirus this year.

Mayor Louis Manzo

Recently, we were excited to roll out our 2020 Holiday Ornament, which commemorates the Richwood Academy and its 150th Anniversary. Perhaps better known as the “Red Schoolhouse” located at the corner of Lambs Road and Route 322, the Richwood Academy has been a focal point of the community since it was built in 1870.

Our Harrison Township Historical Society (HTHS) records tell us the Richwood Academy is the oldest of three village school houses still standing in Harrison Township today. The Ewan School was converted into a residence years ago and the Union Academy, across from Old Town Hall on Woodstown Road, was recently purchased and will begin its magnificent renovations soon.

We have a rich schooling history in Harrison Township, with the Quakers establishing the first school in Mullica Hill as early as 1720, which was one of the first in Gloucester County.  By the 19th century, one-room schoolhouses were scattered throughout the township, including the Mt. Pleasant School built in 1850. The Richwood Academy replaced it 20 years later and remained active until the village school era ended in 1950, when the consolidated township school was built in Mullica Hill.

All the old schoolhouses were disposed of at that time or they entered into private ownership, except Richwood Academy. Local residents who valued its history founded The Richwood Academy Association to purchase and maintain the building. Within the last year, the HTHS assumed ownership and responsibility for this historic landmark. The society does an incredible job preserving our cultural history and every resident should visit their website to learn more about them and our hometown history at www.harrisonhistorical.com.

Earlier this year, the historical society accepted our invitation to sponsor our annual Holiday Ornament project that featured Old Town Hall in its inaugural year in 2019. This year’s ornament is beautiful, featuring the vibrant red schoolhouse, and it serves as a great second entry to the collection. The ornament is available at the Harrison Township Municipal Building, The Candy Box at 764 Lambs Road, and The Old Mill Antiques Mall at 1 S. Main St. Cost is $20. Last year’s ornament is also available and you can purchase both for $35. All proceeds benefit the society’s programs. To order from the township, call the clerk’s office at (856) 478-4112 or email lmoore@harrisontwp.us with your name and phone number.

We intended to begin another holiday tradition connected to this wonderful place we call home with last year’s ornament. That tradition gains traction this year with the Richwood Academy ornament and will grow every year, along with the collection. A generation from now, I envision a tree or mantle filled with our annual Holiday Ornaments, each depicting another distinctive structure or site in our community. How cool will that be?!