Ramapo College of New Jersey President Peter Mercer and his wife, Dr. Jacqueline Ehlert-Mercer, welcomed the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and special guests to the Havemeyer House for the first in a series of briefings the Trail Conference has launched regarding plans for the adaptive reuse of the Darlington Schoolhouse.
The $2.5 million capital project will create a center for conservation service learning and a trail visitor center at the Darlington Schoolhouse on Rt. 202 in Mahwah. Plans include a two-story addition to the 1891 schoolhouse that will serve as the Trail Conference’s new headquarters.
Gathered for the occasion were long-time Trail Conference members, neighbors of the Schoolhouse, and other individuals whose interests include conservation, historic preservation, hiking and recreation, education, and environmental sustainability. Holding the event at the Mercers’ home was symbolic because of the Havemeyer House’s historical ties to Mahwah and the origin of the Darlington Schoolhouse.
Edward Goodell, Executive Director of the Trail Conference, energized the room with talk of the Trail Conference’s history, from its unorthodox beginnings in a lean-to on the roof of Abercrombie & Fitch to the wide-ranging demand for its volunteer stewardship approach. “From very modest beginnings, we have grown to become an essential part of the parks and recreation system throughout the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. With help from our diverse community, we will transform the landmark Darlington Schoolhouse into a vibrant center for learning once again,” he said.
Mahwah historian Carol Greene, author of The Ramapough Chronicles: A 300-Year History of Mahwah New Jersey and Its Surrounds, spoke at the Jan. 10 event. She emphasized the great significance of preserving the Darlington Schoolhouse and making it a center to serve the public again in the 21st century. Greene presented to the Trail Conference several photographs of the schoolhouse as it was in its prime. These photos, a gift from Greene and the board of trustees of the Hermitage Museum in Ho-Ho-Kus, are to be hung in an historical exhibit planned at the Schoolhouse.
Compared with most late 19th-century schoolhouses of a similar size, Darlington Schoolhouse was executed with little expense spared. It stands as a well-preserved example of the infusion of wealth into the Mahwah area with the arrival of New York City industrialists in the 1870s.