The NJ Office of Historic Preservation and the National Park Service recently recognized the historic significance of Richwood Academy, a distinctive and beloved landmark along Route 322, by adding it to the National and State Registers of Historic Places. This achievement represents the culmination of a four-year project sponsored by the Harrison Township Historical Society, which owns and operates the property as the Richwood Academy Cultural Center.
On Sunday, Sept. 17, 3 p.m. , the public is invited to come back to school to learn about the Academy’s history and architecture that earned it national recognition. J. Patrick Harshbargar, Vice President and Principal Historian, Hunter Research, Trenton, NJ, led the Register nomination process and will present an illustrated lecture about his findings on-site at the Academy.
Richwood Academy is the second schoolhouse to be built at the intersection of Route 322 and Lambs Road. Built in 1870, Mt. Pleasant School, as it was called at that time, replaced a smaller, one-room structure constructed in 1855. The builders were Thomas S. Sharp and James Fletcher. Coincidentally, Sharp also built the Historical Society’s museum in Mullica Hill, Old Town Hall, in 1871. The Academy functioned as a schoolhouse until Harrison Township Elementary School in Mullica Hill opened in 1950. A group of the Academy’s alumni purchased the building in 1951 and formed the Richwood Academy Association. The Association operated the Academy as a community center until it was acquired by the Historical Society. Through its programming, the Society has returned the school to its original educational purpose.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. A program of the National Park Service, the Register is part of a national undertaking to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources. The New Jersey State Register is a parallel program designating significant historic resources statewide. The NJ State Historic Preservation Office supervises this program and recommends nominations for national review.
“The Mount Pleasant School stands as a remarkable testament to the rich heritage of 19th-century architecture and educational progress,” said Elizabeth Dragon, Assistant Commissioner for Community Investment and Economic Revitalization at NJDEP. “This well-preserved two-story, two-room schoolhouse serves as a local treasure, embodying a broader effort in 19th-century New Jersey to adapt schoolhouse architecture to meet the challenges and changing educational requirements of the time. By shining a spotlight on the Mount Pleasant School, the DEP upholds the department’s commitment to preserving history and acknowledges the school’s rightful place on the esteemed New Jersey Register of Historic Places.”
Mr. Harshbarger’s program, “Richwood Academy: Local Landmark, National Treasure,” kicks off Richwood Academy Cultural Center’s Fall lecture and concert series, located at 836 Lambs Rd., Richwood, NJ. There is no admission fee; free tickets are available online at the Harrison Township Historical Society’s Ticketleap.com site. Programs are also live-streamed and archived at Facebook for future viewing. Facebook membership is not required to access the program. Information can be found at Facebook and the Society’s website, HarrisonHistorical.com. The Harrison Township Historical Society’s arts and history programs are made possible in part by funding from the Gloucester County Cultural and Heritage Commission at Rowan College of South Jersey, in partnership with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State and the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey Historical Commission/Department of State.