History of Raritan Schools
Today on First Avenue in Raritan there is a monument being constructed to commemorate the Washington School which stood at that location for over 80 years.

The Raritan Historic and Culture Committee thought that a monument should be on the site to remind people that a beloved school was once there. The county government office agreed and their architects have designed a monument that will display the original “name plate” of the school, its cornerstone, and two of its decorative windows.
While a monument to an old school may seem a bit unusual, perhaps it should not be. Schools are a major part of our individual lives as well as the community at large.

On any school day, almost 20 percent of the population can be found inside a school. But it seems like when schools close for good or move to another location that its photos, records, and even trophies disappear with it. Even local history publications seldom tell of the old schools.

So in this article we give a brief history of the Raritan schools. We hope that it will inspire people to search their scrapbooks for photos and articles so that they can be digitized and put online for everyone to see.
Raritan Teachers around 1900.
Raritan’s First School House
It is known that the first school-house in Raritan was a two-story (25 feet by 36 feet) building that was on Wall Street. The exact year it opened is not known, but it was probably around 1860 as the town’s population was quite small before that.

The school did not stay long at that location as they moved out of that building in 1871. The old schoolhouse and lot were sold to the Methodist Society who built a church there. Later Orlando’s Restaurant occupied that spot and today a house stands - the address is 19 Wall Street.
File photo of similar old schoolhouse.
Raritan Primary School
In September of 1871 a new two-story school was built on the location where the Raritan Municipal Building is today. This school was modern for its day as it had several separate classrooms. Being the only school in town, it initially covered grades one through eight.

As the population of Raritan grew, more classrooms were needed and sometime between 1903 and 1910 additions were put on both sides of the building.
Opened in 1871. Demolishied after 1969 fire. Click to see old photo of the Primary School
Raritan Primary School (continued)
This school would always be for the youngest of students. Even when other schools opened later this school would still be for the younger ones.

This school would remain in use until 1964 when JFK School opened. After the school moved away, the building would be used as the Raritan Municipal Building until it was destroyed by fire in 1969.
Former Councilman Jim Foohey
went to the Primary School.
Raritan Intermediate School
Across the open lot from the Raritan Primary School another school was built in 1915 to handle the older grades. It was called the “Raritan Intermediate School”. The building which still stands today is named the “First Growth Plaza” which rents out office space to various businesses.

When it was built back in 1915 it no doubt annoyed some local residents as the property there had been the “town square” where many events such as the St. Rocco Festival were held. This school closed in 1964.
The building that was the
Intermediate school still stands today.
Washington School
The Junior High School was opened in 1936. It was the first Raritan school that had a gym. This gym was used extensively for sports in the evenings up until around 2006. The building functioned as a school only until 1979. For decades after that it was used for county offices.

Last year the county vacated the old building and gave it back to Raritan. The town could do whatever they wanted with it. Some ideas came to mind, but a walk through by the town engineer revealed that the building needed so much repair that it was as one council person said “a knocker downer”.
John F. Kennedy Primary School
Starting in the 1950s the old two-story schools were being replaced with more modern one-story buildings. In Raritan in 1964 the JFK Primary School would replace the old Primary School (whose original structure was built 90 years before) and the Intermediate School. The new school had many more classrooms than any other school that had been built in Raritan.

When the construction first started the school was going to keep the generic name of “The Raritan Primary School”, but after the assassination of John F. Kennedy the school was named after him. In 2006 the school had a new gym added which has been used extensively during the school day and in the evenings ever since.
JFK opened in 1964Click to see the program from the Opening Ceremony for JFK in 1964
St. Bernard’s Parochial School
On Somerset Street where the Italian Bakery is today once stood St. Bernard’s Parochial School. It was open 1887-1938. The school was part of the parish of the same name which was then located in Raritan. The two-story building had four classrooms downstairs and a multipurpose room upstairs. The upstairs hall was used for dances, social events, and even for the showing of movies.

The school was for grades 1 thru 8. With just four classrooms, two grades were taught in the same room. The school is best remembered as the one attended by Raritan’s Hero John Basilone. John was a rebellious youngster, thus his parents thought he needed the discipline that the nuns of the era would give him. After the school closed in 1938, the building became the VFW Hall. That hall later burned down in the 1980s.
St. Bernard's -
The Italian Bakery is there today.
St. Joseph’s Parochial School
This was open 1920 – 1972 serving grades 1 through 8. After it closed as a regular school it later operated for a few years as a “special needs” school.
St. Ann’s School
The Church of St. Ann’s had its origin in Raritan in 1903 and built its first church in 1906. In the 1960s it purchased several lots/houses adjacent to the church property and built its own Catholic school. The school opened in 1966.

It has served grades K through eight. It is still open today. Its cafeteria has held many events over the years.
Above is a summary of the history of the Raritan Schools.
For those who attended these schools we ask that you search your scrapbooks for any old photos.
They can be emailed to brucedoorly@gmail.com.