Dear NJHM:

I am moving into a co-op on Church Street in Matawan. I understand it used to be a school at one time, maybe as recently as 1830. I am just looking for some information, and have had no luck so far. I would greatly appreciate any info you could offer.


Dear Mike:

I checked our 1876 Matawan map (it's a copy, so don't plan on robbing us) and it shows a "Matawan Institute" on Church Street near Wyckoff Street. I am sure that is the school you are asking about. Once we had the name, the research proved easier than I thought. My assumption based on the old map proved correct, and it was a snap from there. Here is a short history of the Matawan Institute, originally known as the Glenwood Institute, in Matawan:

The Glenwood Institute in Matawan opened in 1834 in a single room above a bank on Main Street. It was originally named the Middletown Point Academy and soon outgrew its quarters. Building began for the new school building around 1836 at the northwest corner of Church and Jackson Streets. It was a two-story building and, "With a handsome cupola and pillars, the school was a pretentious one." With the new building and prominent location, the school quickly became known as one of the finest private schools in the country and many famous families from as far away as St. Louis and New Orleans sent their children there. Philetus Phillips became principal of the new school and designed a course of co-educational educational. In the early years he attempted to make keep the boys from becoming preoccupied staring at the girls (and visa versa) by hanging a curtain between the two groups, but the result was a curtain with many tears. Painting and embroidery were among the studies of the young women. One of the first two graduates was Henry Stafford Little, who later became very prominent and a great benefactor to Princeton University.

In 1857, a larger school was needed and erected on a site opposite the original school. The name was changed to Collegiate Institute of Middletown Point. In 1859, Garrett A. Hobart, later vice-president and the namesake of Garrett Mountain Reservation in Passaic County, was a student. The most famous teacher of this period was Robert Laird Borden, who arrived from Nova Scotia in 1873 to teach mathematics and the classics. Thirty-seven years later Borden became Prime Minister of Canada and represented his nation at the Peace Conference in France following World War I.

The building was enlarged in 1874, and the name was again change to Glenwood Institute. In the early 1900's, it became a military school under the ownership of Colonel C. J. Wright, and it was re-christened for the final time as the Matawan Military Academy. In 1915, competition from the free public high schools in Matawan forced the school to close. It stood empty for a while, but eventually the building was renovated into an apartment house, and now, I suppose, a coop.

I hope you enjoyed our little history lesson and I hope you find it helpful. If you want more information you should visit the Matawan Public Library on Main Street, across the street from Boro Hall. When the Academy closed, its library was merged with theirs and they still have many books and documents from the school. Below is a photo of the Matawan School, circa 1918.