The Port Colden Schoolhouse was originally built in 1869 on the banks of the Morris Canal Boat Basin. (The present Port Colden School is located in the drained basin.) According to Harvey Mowder, the late local historian, “The Washington Star, the local newspaper, reported that “the final cost of the building and lot amounted to about $4,600.” The bricks were made locally and shipped to the site on a canal boat with a good portion of the labor being donated. The locals were quite proud of this new, larger two story schoolhouse.” The bottom floor held the first, second, third and fourth grade classes and the top floor held the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Each floor contained a front hall with the stairwell and coatroom and one large classroom. There was a pot-bellied stove for heat. Two outhouses were behind the school, one for girls and one for boys, with a tall fence separating them. At different times in its history it was used for church services, as a courthouse, police station, and for Sunday school classes.
This old schoolhouse is the only one of five in the township that has not been turned into a house. It is presently the property of the Washington Township Board of Education and has been used for storage for many years. The building is largely the same as it was when it was first built. In October 2000 the Washington Township Board of Education was awarded a capital preservation grant from the “New Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund” in the amount of $234,850 for the preservation of the schoolhouse. The grant and matching funds has been used to start the preservation project which is presently underway.
For anyone with information regarding the schoolhouse or the Port Colden Community or wishing to make a donation to the restoration project, the address is Port Colden Schoolhouse, 30 Port Colden Road, Washington, NJ 07882 (908-689-0681).