More than 80 years ago, kindergarten teachers at Roosevelt Elementary School would sit in front of an ornate tile fireplace, decorated with whimsical barnyard scenes, and read stories to young Cranford students.
The school has since been torn down, but the fireplace remains, its pieces packed away in boxes. Local historians believe they have found the right place to rebuild the fireplace so that a new generation of children can enjoy it.
According to Maureen Strazdon of the Cranford Historic Preservation Advisory Board, the Roosevelt Elementary School was opened on Sept. 10, 1928. The tile fireplace in the kindergarten room featured a scene portraying a duck and two hens in a barnyard. The 8-foot-by-6-foot hearth was featured in the Flint Faience Company’s 1926 company catalog, the historian added.
In 1979, the Roosevelt School was purchased by the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union Counties. It closed its doors in 2008, however, due to declining enrollment. In July of 2010, the township signed a contract to buy the 4-acre parcel of land where the building stood for $1.9 million.
"When the Roosevelt/ Solomon Schechter Day School was scheduled to be demolished in mid-September of 2010, the Cranford Historic Preservation Advisory Board alerted the Union County Cultural and Heritage Programs Advisory Board, and the Union County Board of Freeholders hired Mobley and Company, a noted tile restorer from Michigan, to remove, pack and store the tiles until an appropriate new location was determined," Strazdon said. "The tiles are still with Mr Mobley in Michigan."
At its Feb. 14 conference meeting, members of the Township Committee supported a proposal submitted by HPAB to the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders that the fireplace be installed in the entrance lobby in the Cranford Community Center on Walnut Avenue.
Historians are now urging residents to help them convince the county freeholders to return the fireplace to Cranford and install what Strazdon considers to be a work of art, in the Community Center.