Recent Project(s)

Renovation of the 2nd Union Schoolhouse

Denville Historical Society & Museum

502 Openaki Road, Denville 07834


Situated on land once part of William Penn’s lot No. 77 dating to 1715, the 2nd Union Schoolhouse remains as testament to 142 years of Denville’s early education and history. “No other place in southern Denville so aptly embodies the struggles, hopes, unity, and legacy of Union Hill’s early settlers as does this simple schoolhouse.” Denville’s Union Hill.

Before the American Revolution through the end of the War of 1812, a string of small communities thrived along the Den Brook centered upon iron forges that helped support the war efforts. Each community was able to support its own school. After 1815, however, small iron forges rapidly fell victim to American Industrialization; these small communities dwindled, and public resources needed to be consolidated.

In 1816, leaders throughout southern Denville and part of Randolph, including Daniel Ayres whose farm is also on the Pathways Tour, banned together to form one school district for the education of the area’s children. Most of these early organizers were connected to the emerging separate Presbyterian community in southern Denville, who wanted their own meeting place and a place for religious education. As a result, money raised from both the religious community and through taxes were combined to construct a simple one-room stone schoolhouse which stood behind the present structure. The 1st Union Schoolhouse would serve the community for over 40 years: public school was held during the work week; religious education was offered on Saturday mornings; and church service were held on Sundays.

In the wake of a mysterious fire that burned the first schoolhouse to the ground in the spring of 1860, the community was resolved to rebuild that same year. The stones from the smoldering rubble were gathered for use in the foundation of the new structure. By the end of the year, the 2nd Union Schoolhouse was completed in time for the opening of the 1861 winter school term. What a fascinating first term it must have been in that schoolhouse: the students would have heard that Abraham Lincoln had been elected president of the United States; that South Carolina had seceded from the Union; that Confederate troops had fired upon Ft. Sumter; and that America was engaged in a Civil War. Through the end of the 19th century, the schoolhouse would continue to be used for religious purposes as well.

The 2nd Union Schoolhouse continued in use through the fall 1907 term. In January 1908, the new two-room 3rd Union Schoolhouse opened across the street. Thereafter, the building was sold and converted to a residence. It was eventually acquired by the Township of Denville, and restored by the Denville Historical Society, the Township, and several eagle/gold scout projects. It remains as a rare example of a pre-Civil War New Jersey one-room schoolhouse.

Current and Future Projects

1908 School House

By the beginning of the 20th century, the continued growth in the area prompted the building of the third Union School. The new school opened in 1908 and is located directly across Openaki Road from the 1861 school.

The DHS has acquired the building and is currently in the process of renovating it. More information and pictures to follow.

Future Project(s)

There are a few Eagle Scout Projects in the works. More information to follow...