THE FRANKLIN SCHOOL WINDOW
This window hung for ninety years above the double front entrance doors to the Franklin School on Middlesex Avenue. That building was in fact the third Franklin School to be built in Metuchen. The Old Franklin Schoolhouse (built ca. 1807) was the first, and a larger wood frame Franklin School (built 1870) located on Middlesex Avenue at Centre Street was the second. This second school was later moved to the northeast corner of New and Pearl Streets to make way for the construction of the third school, and was home to the Second Baptist Church for many years before it was demolished.
Built in 1909 by Walker & Morris Architects, the third Franklin School was a large brick Colonial Revival building, complete with keystone lintels, quoining, pedimented dormers, a hipped roof flanked with massive chimneys and a decorative cornice. Additions were made to the building in 1922, 1930, and 1939, and it survived a fire in 1957. But it was retired from service, and sold to make way for the Franklin Square condominiums.
This window was salvaged by Metuchen resident Jerry Rice during the school’s demolition in 1999. Badly damaged, he decided to notify the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society that he was putting it at his curb. New residents and Society members Steve & Tyreen Reuter took him up on the offer, and enlisted Tyreen’s grandfather, Carroll Thomas Benjamin (1917-2008) to repair it. An old New England carpenter, Mr. Benjamin was successful, but his own Connecticut home was badly burned by a fire before the Reuters could retrieve it. Luckily, the occupants of the home and the window, being stored near the Benjamin’s root cellar, survived and the window only suffered some smoke and water damage. The window finally returned to New Jersey, and after much thought, the Reuters decided the best home for it would be the Old Franklin Schoolhouse. Christopher Crane volunteered to paint the window he remembered so well, and Alan Binstein of Alan’s Enterprises, LLC. (Metuchen home improvements) generously donated his services to install it here.
On June 14, 2012, the Reuters officially donated the window to the schoolhouse to mark the 111th anniversary of the founding of the Borough Improvement League and the 10th year of her service as its president. But it in reality it is not a donation; it has always belonged to the residents of Metuchen, and there is perhaps no better home for it than the first, and now the only, of the Franklin Schools.