|The South River Museum--Old School Baptist Church is a museum of South River history. Exhibits include all aspects of Borough history including: schools; churches and houses of worship; local businesses and organizations; daily life; events and celebrations; and more.|
July 7, Aug. 4, Sept. 1, Oct. 6, Nov. 3, Dec. 8]
The South River Museum / South River War Memorial / Old School Baptist Church building has a more than 200 year history of service to the community.
This community service began in 1785 when a small congregation of Baptists gathered in the village of Washington, now known as South River. The group purchased property in 1799 from residents Thomas Robinson and Henry Obert and constructed a church in 1805. It was the only church in this area until 1851. The Old School Baptist Church is one of the few remaining satellite churches established by the First Baptist Church of Hightstown a the end of the eighteenth century.
The original front of the building was located on the east (river) side. It was a single story, three bay, clapboard sided facade with a central entrance. The interior spatial arrangement seems to have consisted of a single worship space.
Major improvments included new floors on both levels in 1926, windows and their trim and roofing replaced in 1927, and a restroom added.
In 1932, Anna (Emma) Martin, the last surviving member of the congregation, sold the last remaining church lot to the Library Association.
In 1936, an oil-fired central heating system was installed to replace the old stove. Due to termite damage, the floor, corner posts, foundation sills, and bottoms of some studs were replaced in 1950 and a false ceiling was installed to save heat.
In 1991, due to some internal deterioriation, the large tree trunks encased within the portico columns were replaced with steel beams which were re-encased with the original cladding material.
Through the efforts of the South River Historical & Preservation Society, local residents, and the support of the Mayor and Council, the property was placed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places on November 19, 1991, and on the National Register of Historic Places on January 7, 1992.
The first floor of the restored building is used by the Borough for small meetings and by the South River Historical & Preservation Society for exhibits and meetings. The Historical Society uses the second floor as office and storage space.
Plain in design and plan, the unornamented structure serves as a lasting reminder of the simplicity of the earlier Baptist congregation who built the meeting house.