Denville’s History, Right in Your Own Backyard

Denville’s History, Right in Your Own Backyard

By: Melissa A. Kay

 

There is a rich and important history in Denville, with an interesting past that some of the locals may not even be aware of themselves. But thanks to the Denville Historical Society & Museum, the many milestones and memories of Denville’s past make their way into the here and now of the present day, allowing visitors to become better educated and therefore more interested in and involved with their beloved community.

Denville’s historian and Vice President of the Denville Historical Society & Museum, Vito Bianco explains the main reasons the Denville Historical Society & Museum exists in the first place, “Our purpose is to preserve, research, promote, and teach Denville’s vast history.” Without dedicated and devoted individuals like Bianco to keep this rich Denville history alive, today’s Denville residents would not have the honor of knowing how the place they call home came to be. 

As per Bianco, “The Denville Historical Society was formed in 1971. The museum building was acquired in 1981 and moved across the Rockaway River to its present location for a cost of $25,000, raised through donations. We opened the the Denville Museum in 1982, and restored and opened the one-room 2nd Union Schoolhouse in 2005. Currently, we are restoring the two-room 3rd Union Schoolhouse. It is not open to the public during restoration.” Surely this current restoration will give way to a renewed spirit for the schoolhouse, adding even more charm to the “back in time” atmosphere. Maintenance such as this is important to keep the structures strong today and for the generations to come. 

There are a variety of ways the Denville Historical Society & Museum contributes greatly to the local community. Bianco shares, “We have made history presentations to many organizations and conduct periodic walking tours of Denville’s downtown, the schoolhouses, and Denville’s haunted history. So far, we have published two books on Denville’s history, and produced a documentary film for Denville’s centennial celebration in 2013. We typically participate in community events when invited as well.” With lots of enthusiasm for this sort of enlightening education, it is easy to see why Bianco and others involved with the Denville Historical Society & Museum are inclined to keep the information flowing and growing. And the more people who learn about the Denville Historical Society & Museum, the more meaningful it will become as they come to visit, tour, and explore for themselves. It’s not your “typical” day out and about, but it’s one that is unmatched in its importance. 

When asked what are some of the “must-sees” and “must-dos” at the Denville Historical Society & Museum, Bianco had a bunch. “The museum collection was assembled over (a span of) 30 years and focuses on Denville’s vast history. Many everyday Denville items can be seen on display. Some of our hand-blown glass bottles can also be found in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. There are some special collections and a library for genealogical research. The Haunted History walking tour (held during the last weekend in October) is the highlight of our fall events. The colonial herb garden next to the museum is maintained by the Historical Society and blooms in spring, summer, and fall.” There will be a fall yard sale coming up in September as well. A wide array of interesting items will be available to the public for sale, something collectors can’t wait for in the coming season. Plus, it is always nice to come by on a crisp fall day to mingle with friends and Denville neighbors while perusing the many yard sale finds. With so much to see and do, returning to the Denville Historical Society & Museum time and time again is a smart idea and something to look forward to. There is certainly no shortage of adventure, inspiration, and in-depth background to enjoy. Each visit provides a new tidbit of knowledge and another memory is kept alive and well. 

Is the Denville Historical Society & Museum suitable for young kids? It absolutely is. Bianco notes, “We tailor tours of the museum and schoolhouse to the needs of the public. Children particularly find the schoolhouse interesting; learning what school was like 150 years ago in Denville. Class trips and scout groups are always welcome at both locations. Senior groups are welcome as well. Each location is accessible for disabled persons.” No matter one’s age or stage, the Denville Historical Society & Museum has something for everyone. What kid doesn’t love a class trip, and when it is to a place as interesting as the Denville Historical Society & Museum, the “day off” from school is even more special. 

As far as the schoolhouse Bianco mentions, its quaint and quiet appeal is a far cry from most of today’s public schools, those in Denville included. Kids have to use their vivid sense of imagination to picture themselves learning in such a different kind of environment, especially the one-room schoolhouse – no hallways or homerooms to escape to. Today’s endless technology makes it even harder for the children to imagine, but with the in-depth tours and teachings the kids are exposed to at the Denville Historical Society & Museum, the “blast from the past” becomes more understandable. When they head back to their modern-day school, the kids must feel fortunate for all they have in terms of education. That said, the schoolhouse’s structure and surrounding grounds are kept impeccably, making the visit to the old-fashioned schoolhouse a real pleasure. 

The Denville Historical Society & Museum is free to visit to the public, but Bianco mentions that for special or private tours, a donation of one’s choosing is kindly suggested and greatly appreciated. Donations help keep the place up and running, so folks are happy to do what they can to keep it going. 

The Denville Historical Society & Museum is located at 113 Diamond Spring Road, right next to the Denville Library. The 2nd and 3rd Union Schoolhouses are located at 501 and 502 Openaki Road in Union Hill. The Denville Historical Society & Museum is open each year from the middle of March through the middle of December on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the 2nd and 4th Saturdays during July and August. The 2nd Union Schoolhouse is open by appointment only or on special occasions. Don’t miss out on this special historical Denville gem, a place that Bianco is proud to be an integral part of, along with the rest of the supporting staff and various volunteers throughout the year. Visitors always come away with a newfound appreciation for Denville, its important history, and where it is headed. 

For those who may be interested in becoming involved in some capacity with the Denville Historical Society & Museum, Bianco is always looking for helping hands, as they operate solely through volunteers. Be part of Denville’s history! 

The Denville Historical Society & Museum is a federal 501(c)(3) organization and a New Jersey not-for-profit corporation.

Contact the Denville Historical Society & Museum at 973-625-1165 or email denvillemuseum@gmail.com

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