OUR HISTORY AROUND US
From the Harrison Township Historical Society
Richwood Academy, located at the corner of Mullica Hill and Lambs Roads, has continuously served as a focal point of community life since it was built in 1870 and is the oldest of the three village schoolhouses still standing in Harrison Township. Ewan School was converted into a residence, while Mullica Hill’s stately Union Academy sits empty and abandoned. Once, however, there were many one and two room schoolhouses scattered throughout the township. Schools needed to be within walking distance before bus transportation was available. There were three schoolhouses in Mullica Hill alone.
The present Richwood Academy, however, was not the first educational structure in that part of the township. It replaced Mt. Pleasant School, a small one-room building built in 1850 at the same location. When the larger schoolhouse was completed, the old building was purchased by Elisha C. Heritage and moved to his property near the village’s western crossroads. Moving and repurposing buildings instead of demolition was not uncommon locally in the 19th century. It remained in use until destroyed by fire in the 1930s.
Originally the Academy housed multiple grades, lower grades on the first floor and upper on the second floor. The number of grades varied through its years of service after bus transportation was introduced and the Township began to rethink how to use its many buildings.
The village school era ended in 1950, when the consolidated township school was built in Mullica Hill, at which time the Township disposed of all the old schoolhouses. All the old schoolhouses entered private ownership except Richwood Academy, thanks to the civic spirit of a group of local residents who valued its history and envisioned its preservation as a much-needed community hall. The Richwood Academy Association was founded to purchase and maintain the building. Private contributions and an annual baked ham supper with home-grown applesauce called “Old Home Day” provided the support needed to secure the Academy’s future. Today French Lodge #89, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the township’s oldest fraternal organization, uses the building as its headquarters.
With so many of Richwood’s historic buildings already razed or boarded and slated for demolition, Richwood Academy stands out as a symbol of the village’s past and a beloved Harrison Township landmark.
You can discover more about our history at the Harrison Township Historical Society’s Old Town Hall Museum, 62-64 S. Main St., Mullica Hill. The Museum is now closed for the summer, but you can explore our current exhibition, “Eyewitnesses” at the Society’s website, www.harrisonhistorical.com Listen as objects from the collection tell stories about our community’s past and then vote for your favorite!
This historic photograph shows students and teacher Margaret Nutt in front of Richwood Academy in 1909. Harrison Township Historical Society Collection