On June 26, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., Garden Club R.F.D. will look forward to the future and celebrate their past 75 years with an open house. Organized on September 18, 1941, the club found its permanent home in 1954 at The Little Red Schoolhouse, on the corner of Middletown Lincroft and Dwight Roads in Middletown. As the years went on, this corner became the “Middletown Schools Crossroads.”
Currently, there is the Nut Swamp Elementary School, Thompson Middle School, and the originally named Union (one room) Schoolhouse that was built in 1842. It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places in New Jersey and Washington, DC as The Little Red Schoolhouse. This happened in 1976 through efforts by the Monmouth County Historical Society, history teacher Edgar Van Houten of Thompson Middle School, and members of the Garden Club R.F.D.
But how did the Union Schoolhouse become the home of the Garden Club R.F.D? Historical records tell us that the schoolhouse was sold to the Field family in 1909 because of the need for a larger building for the children in the area. Then, in 1937, it was sold again with surrounding property to Hattie Carnegie, a famous New York dress designer. Just past the schoolhouse, Hattie Court and Carnegie Court still exist as evidence of Hattie’s influence in the area, where she maintained a mansion and gardens.
Finally, in 1954, because of a friendship between Garden Club R.F.D. club member Mary Brasch (of Brasch Farms and former principal of River Plaza School) and Hattie Carnegie, the 112-year-old building and corner property was leased to the club for $1 a year. Hattie also granted them permission to renovate it for the club’s use. At Hattie’s death in 1961, the land was eventually deeded to the Township of Middletown, which continues to provide much appreciated help in the maintenance of an historic building.
Throughout the years, the Garden Club worked on the ‘not-always-easy’ building restorations. The original building had no water or bathroom. In the early ‘70s, with the township’s permission, the club added the small kitchen and indoor powder room, along with running water and a heater. What luxury!
Another frequent question is, “Why is your name Garden Club R.F.D.? What do those letters stand for?” The answer goes back to 1941, when members had to choose a name for the club. At that time, Middletown was quite a rural area and most members mailing addresses had the letters R.F.D., which stood for Rural Free Delivery. This service allowed mail to be delivered directly to rural farm families.
Everyone is invited to learn more about the club’s history and plans for the future at the June 26 open house. Garden Club R.D.F. is a member of the Garden Club of New Jersey and the National Garden Club. Call June Smith at (732) 671-9216 to learn more about the open house event and/or Garden Club R.F.D.