MIDDLETOWN, NJ - The Little Red Schoolhouse is the home away from home for members of Garden Club R.F.D. in Middletown, nestled under the trees at the corner of Middletown Lincroft and Dwight Roads.
The name, Garden Club R.F.D., came about because nearly all of the original members of this club, founded on September 18, 1941, had a mailing address with R.F.D. in it—Rural Free Delivery! Middletown was quite a rural area with lots of farmland.
Meetings were held in the Fellowship Hall in Holmdel but, as the club grew, they decided that they wanted to meet elsewhere, somewhere that was just for them. Eventually, because of a relationship one of the club’s members, Mary Brasch (of Brasch Farms), had with a neighbor, Hattie Carnegie, a famous fashion entrepreneur in New York (at that time), the club was offered Hattie’s tenant’s place-- if the club could fix it up. It would be theirs for $1.00 a year. It had been a one-room schoolhouse built in 1842 and it was a mess! Nevertheless, when the Board members went on an inspection tour, it was decided to undertake a cleanup and move in after a summer of hard work. They would have a home.
Members successfully completed the cleanup but there was no running water or powder room facility. Therefore, to solve the second problem, Mary Brasch donated a 100-year-old outhouse. It was a 2 ½ seater! As for water, the Hostess Committee would just bring it to each meeting and use a hot plate to heat the water for coffee or tea and served it with fancy sandwiches and cakes-homemade, of course. That tradition remains to this day—73 years later.
Current members of the Garden Club R.F.D. still meet in that Little Red Schoolhouse across from the homes built on Mary Brasch’s farmland and down the block from Carnegie Court. Of course, the outhouse is now a storage area and a proper powder room has been added with a small kitchen and running water. The property is owned by Middletown Township and the Club is allowed to remain there, as it always has. However, because it is a small building, meetings slated as fundraisers (with a potentially larger attendance) are held at Middletown Arts Center at 36 Church Street in Middletown.
The Club’s November Meeting will take place at the Middletown Arts Center on Thursday, November 13, when the Director of Rutgers Gardens, Bruce Crawford, will be on hand to discuss “Exotic Flowers and Unusual Bulbs”. He will present a slideshow to enhance his discussion and have plants from Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick available for sale at the end of the program. There will be a $10 fee to attend the lecture with profits going for the maintenance of that Little Red Schoolhouse. This meeting is open to the public. If you desire information about this program, call Linda Paula at (732)-547-2593. For information about the club, contact June Smith at (732)671-9216. The Club is a member of the Garden Club of New Jersey and the National Garden Club.