Status: Lost Forever
In June 2003, the Wanaque Board of Education voted to sell the building to a private realtor and a demolition permit was issued in October 2003.
Demolition crews began knocking down the building in early January 2004.
Industrialist and former New York City Mayor Abram S. Hewitt, who owned a summer home nearby, donated the Gladys Rhinesmith School to Wanaque. Designed by McKim, Mead, and White in 1902, it was the first school in northern New Jersey with more than two classrooms.
The school is a two-story, red-brick building with a 1915 addition. The first floor of the 1902 structure contained a meeting room, janitor’s quarters, bathrooms, a manual training room, and a furnace room. Separate staircases for boys and girls led to four, large classrooms with cloakrooms and a central assembly area on the second floor. The classrooms have twenty-foot high, tin ceilings, which are still intact above a dropped ceiling.
The building has been vacant since 2000, and the community is divided over what to do. Some citizens who hope to find a viable adaptive reuse for the building have organized a friends group to support the nomination of the property to the state and national registers. But both the school board and the borough government oppose this. They prefer selling the property for redevelopment and turning the proceeds to the school district. School officials argue that reusing the building for district offices would be too expensive, but it is not certain that a good faith effort was made to accurately investigate the costs.
There are currently no designated historical structures in Wanaque. This handsome building, which is a reminder of the role education plays in the advancement of community life, would be an excellent place to start.
Sandy Lawson, Friends of the Gladys Rhinesmith Building