Source: Exerpt from pamphlet issued by the captain Stephen T. Schoonmaker Post 1429, Veterans of Foreign Wars, no date (circa 1930).
The Story of Our First School, Sunday School, and Town Hall
By William C. Fay
There are in Teaneck a great many people who have not visited the renovated building now known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Building, to whom the structure means much.
For as church, schoolhouse, Sunday school, and Town Hall, the history of the Township of Teaneck is so closely woven into the affairs of the building that no story of the one could be told, without narrating the tale of the other.
Mrs. Elizabeth S. Sample in her, "Historical Sketch of Teaneck" says that:
"According to notes found in an early history of this section, a school district was formed in Teaneck in the spring of 1841, called Union District No. 10. A building was built at a cost of three hundred dollars, timber, sand, stone and labor furnished gratis by the inhabitants. On May 5th, 1851, a meeting was held and a resolution passed by the taxable inhabitants to conform to act of incorporation that Union School District No. 10, Upper Teaneck, shall be called Teaneck Institute.
"On the 21st of May, 1851, D. L. Van Saun commenced school at the Teaneck Institute, having been engaged by the trustees at $60 per quarter, and then he must find himself. In 1869 a -school building was built at a cost of $3,677.75 and was considered an 'elegant two story frame building.' This was located on Teaneck Road and Forest Avenue where Kobbe and Flanery's garage now stands."
This building is the present Veterans of Foreign Wars home.
"This served the school needs of this part of Teaneck for many years and also took care of the needs of the Sunday School, which, in after years, became first a Union Sunday School, and then the Teaneck Presbyterian Church. When a new school was built this old building was moved to the corner of Church Street and Teaneck Road, and was known as the Old Town Hall. In 1929, the Veterans of Foreign Wars bought the building, and renovated, it now stands on Bedford Avenue as their clubhouse."
Further light is shed on the origin of the building by Mr. J. H. Ackerman of 1474 Teaneck Road, West Englewood, who wrote as follows February 25th, 1930:
"I thank you for the invitation to be present at the dedication of your post headquarters and clubhouse, and regret my inability to be present on the 22nd.
"My rather indifferent condition of health compels me to forego all social functions, and I am pleased that the younger men who have grown up here, together with the new men who have come in, see fit to carry on.
"This building was erected in 1869.
"Mr. Samuel B. Bogert was paid $25 for drawing the plans in January, 1869.
"Mr. Arthur D. Bogart, a builder doing business in Englewood, erected the building. The contract price was $3,150. The total cost including all extras was $3,257.65.
"These men were both Teaneck boys, the homestead of the first being where Amsterdam Avenue now is, and of the other, where Franklin Road is located."
Captain Frank DeRonde was one of the boys who went to school in our old building. In 1869, he says, there was but one school in Teaneck--a tiny house at Fort Lee and Teaneck Road. This had been in operation some fifteen or twenty years, and the average registered attendance was perhaps 8 or 10 pupils.
The "elegant building" which we now own was used as a schoolhouse on the lower floor only. There was one teacher, and the roster bore the names of some thirty pupils. The upper floor was used as a Sunday School.
One of the loading men in Teaneck then was Lebbeus Chapman, father of Dr. Frank A. Chapman, curator of the Museum of National History in New York City. In those days Teaneck Road was also known as Washington Avenue, and Mr. Chapman called his first Sunday School the Washington Avenue Union Sabbath School, and it was conducted by the Washington Avenue Union Sabbath School Association.
After serving several years as the first Superintendent Mr. Chapman was succeeded by Mr. Lyman E. Bunnell. Mr. Bunnell lived in a rather small and very old house, which was later enlarged and became the home of the late Bernard Lippman, and is now a portion of the Square Circle clubhouse:
Theodore F. Lozier followed, and was succeeded by Mr. John Ackerman, who is quoted in earlier paragraphs. Mr. Ackerman was followed by William Johnson, who made his home in the Stevenson house, which old building lies in the path of the wreckers and will disappear shortly when the new highway is constructed across Teaneck Road.
George S. Coe succeeded as Superintendent of the Sunday School. He was a son of a leading family of his day. His father was Captain William P. Coe of Company "F", afterward commanded by Captain Frank De Ronde, our informant, in the days of '98. George was the third of eleven children. He came to Teaneck to perform his duties for twenty-odd years, walking as a rule, from his home in Englewood.
The business of the day school continued during all these years, and finally required the use of both:doors of the School House. William Walter Phelps gave the land for the present Presbyterian church, and he, Mr. Marvin Coe, and Captain L. DeRonde, by contributions of $200 apiece, started a fund which resulted in the construction of the new church. It is now thirty-five years since Sunday School was held In the V. F. W. Building.
It is worth noting that in those days but fifty families resided in Teaneck. It was rather a drab place, from all accounts, but while the fun and jollity seemed to settle in the neighboring towns of Hackensack and Englewood, there was much wholesome enjoyment in the outdoor life of those days in Teaneck.
Austin A. Hover was the schoolmaster during many, many years. He too, lived in the house on Teaneck Road now owned by the Square Club. His name is still associated with educational work in this section, as his daughter Lillian is now principal of the Franklin School in Englewood.
One night George and Louis Coe walked past the building at midnight, and detecting a flickering light, entered the old schoolhouse. George Coe was a fearless fellow, and without hesitation he walked into the schoolroom on the lower floor. To the right there was a raised dais where the teacher presided, and on this platform a dark figure of a man was seen, with the lid of the desk raised. Without warning a bullet song through the air, and caught George Coe in the eyebrow. Many residents of the Town who knew Mr. Coe until his death a few years ago, will recall this sear, although a few knew its history. This assailant escaped through the window in the room now used as a kitchen by the veterans. Before be got away, however, a second shot entered George Coe's stomach, as the burglar stood on the ground outside the window.
Thinking his brother dead, Louis Coe followed the man, whose name was John Hugg, and outside the window, the two grappled in a desperate struggle. Louis must have matched his brother in fearlessness and brawn, because the encounter ended with Hugg lying insensible, tightly bound with ropes quickly assembled by Mr. Coe.
Everyone in Teaneck knows Mr. Jacob Brinkerhoff, the custodian of the new Municipal Building. His father lived nearby in what is now known as the O'Hare house, on Teaneck Road. The Brinkerhoffs owned fast horses, and barebacked, Louis trotted to Englewood to the nearest physician. Neighbors looked after George Coe, but meanwhile Hugg had made good his escape. For days Hugg concealed himself in the apple orchard surrounding the house which is now used as the rectory of St. Anastasia's Church, and finally he was captured, tried, and imprisoned. Later George Coe interceded in his behalf and he was pardoned.
Conrad N. Jordan, Treasurer of the United States some years ago, sent his sons to school in the old building. Mrs. Cox, his sister, lived in the house now tenanted by Mr. August Hanniball, on upper Teaneck Road. This was a half century ago.
In a library which was established in the small room in the front of the building, on the second floor, Jacob Brinkerhoff for many years acted as Teaneck's first librarian.
The first really modern system of heating was installed only when the Veterans of Foreign Wars moved the building to its present site at 33 Bedford Avenue. In the early days there were two great-bellied stoves in the centers of both floors, and the old principle of using the beat as it traveled across the room was utilized. Black, polished pipes bore the smoke to the chimney. Wooden spitoons accommodated the Board of Election member in those cloudy days. That was before women had the vote, and the sterner sex considered real social art the ability to strike a spitoon at thirteen paces.
In the cupola of the Washington Irving School is a bell which for many years called the boys and girls of Teaneck to Sunday School. This bell was in the tower of the old Town Hall, which was demolished when the structure was modernized.
In 1895 the citizens of Teaneck gathered in this building and formed a new municipality-the Township of Teaneck.
William Bennett was the first Township Chairman. William Bodine, thirty years later, was the last Chairman to preside in this building, which was the seat of government during this interval.
The first township Treasurer was Henry J. Brinkerhoff, Jacob Brinkerhoff's father.
There was only one polling place in Teaneck from 1869 until about :1909, and people came from the distant points in those days on foot, or in horse drawn vehicles, or on bicycles. This was our building.
When the school was first constructed, it occupied what was then a portion of the old Carson farm, which ran south along Teaneck Road to the site of the new highway, about to Mr. Jacob Schilling's house.
The herds of cows owned by Borden's dair3, used to roam southward to the shadows of the school in the warm days. Mr. Borden lived with his family in a fine old house on the west side of Teaneck Road, opposite Bedford Avenue. Across the road is still a small building used as a Service Station, where for some years the present Library Board conducted the public library, and in this cabin for thirty years Benjamin James resided. There are stories that this building was erected in colonial times. The larger house, the Borden home, was built nearly a century ago, according to the recollection of some of the "old timers."
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Building is one of the most precious landmarks in Teaneck. Captain Stephen T. Schoonmaker Post rightly considers its preservation the finest piece of civic work which it has attempted. In the post there are a number of men who left Teaneck to go to France, who attended school there. And there are ladies in our Auxiliary who had the same distinction.
Years ago, before the building was moved to the corner of Church Street--that was in 1909, as the structure now rests on its third side--there was a deep well just in front. There was no cellar under the schoolhouse then. That came in 1909. There was just a step from the doorway to the around. Some years there were draughts, when every well in Teaneck, went dry except the deep well at the school. At such times people came from far and near to draw water for their use.
As the community grew many civic organizations met in the building, some of which (notably the Joint Civic Committee) were inaugurated in our building. Here came the people to pay their taxes, to fight assessments, to register deeds, obtain marriage licenses. Here sat the judge. In the "cooler" where the post kitchen now is, were two cells, and this was the township jail.
About seventeen years ago** Teaneck's first murder was committed. and shortlv thereafter a police force was started. The police department until 1926 used the room now employed as an officer’s room in the clubhouse. In this room was a switchboard and signal box.
Until 1926 all the municipal departments were located in the building.
From 1926 until 1929 when the new High School was completed, the Board of Education used the building as its headquarters.
The old School House is still a center of Teaneck life. Brighter and pleasanter because of modern touches and improvements, it still serves the community. as a meeting place for fraternal and civic organizations, as a polling place for the election district, and a gathering point for veterans throughout Bergen County, it is still dedicated to public service. Always available for a worthy cause, free and accessible at any time where the relief of the needy or the welfare of our neighbors is concerned Schoonmaker Post feels justly proud of it's new clubhouse--the Old Town Hall; Teaneck's oldest school house.
**NOTE: this article was written approximately in 1930, so all references to the present are accurate with respect to that date only.