Lambertville High School was demolished in the autumn of 2012. Today the small patch of forest where it once stood bears few reminders of the old school, or that it had eerily overlooked the town in a state of abandonment for over fifty years. Though now gone, the stories from Lambertville are still very much alive, mostly recounted in the form of hushed tales told around campfires.
Like many buildings that have fallen into decay, there were numerous urban legends that surrounded the old school. However, none were more prominent than the tale of “Buckeye”. The story goes that the Buckeyes football team, from New Hope, PA were playing a game against Lambertville High. During the game, the Lambertville team dog-piled a Buckeye player named Billy. When the Lambertville team dispersed to allow the Buckeye player up, it was discovered that the boy was dead. Most stories claim he had broken his neck, and that his head was turned completely around on his sprawled corpse. It was said Billy haunted the halls of the school from that day on, even after its closure and eventual abandonment. The tale claims that if you stand in the abandoned school at night and say “Billy, I challenge you to a football game.” that you would have your neck snapped.
Football players aside, there is indeed an imposing presence to be found in that forest atop the hill. The phantom of an abandoned school so ingrained in local legend and New Jersey lore that the tearing-down of its physical form did little to remove it from society’s collective consciousness. What follows is the history of Lambertville High School, in memoriam.
Lambertville High School, originally constructed in 1854 on a hilltop overlooking the town of the same name, enjoyed a pleasantly uneventful existence until 1926, when a fire devoured substantial portions of the original schoolhouse. The following year, it was rebuilt and remodeled, and would continue to see service until June of 1959, when the completion of the larger, modern South Hunterton Regional High School pushed it into obsolescence. The vacant edifice remained perched firmly on its hilltop for another 30 years, overlooking the growing town and the unchanging blue ribbon of the Delaware, until vandals set a fire in 1992 that ripped through the structure and destroyed the entire roof.
Approaching the school in its abandoned state, it was clear that the forest has reinstated itself as grounds warden. Whatever lawn there once was had been completely absorbed by the wood, and everywhere trees pressed close against the decaying red brick walls. The building itself was traveling down the road to total collapse, with only its reinforced concrete floors and fire-proof stairways providing a skeleton to support the decaying carcass of the construction. Entering through the torn doors, one was immediately greeted by the familiar smell of decomposition. This, though, is in some ways a different odor than one finds in most of forgotten places; This is an ancient rot: the subtle, musty perfume of a place where everything compostable has long since turned to dirt. Save for the largest structural members and the last disappearing sections of wall, nothing remained. It was difficult to even see this place for what it once was, to imagine the sound of children in what now look more like caverns than hallways. The interior perpetually dim, bound by windowless hallways and an all-surrounding forest canopy.
Climbing the stairwell, leaving the abyss of sunless hallways below, one emerges to a surreal vision, as they step onto the floor of a forest that had taken root three stories above the ground. The school’s roof, burned and collapsed for almost twenty years ago, had become a rich bed of topsoil on what was once the third floor. Ivy, bushes, and even full-size trees flourished under the open sky of the upper story. Wandering through this young wood, one might forget that the ground lay far below, at least until happening upon a window...
- Historical Images -
For some time a collection of beautiful murals existed upon the school's weathered chalkboards. They were long gone by the time of our visit, however we were lucky enough to have received an email from a Pat Grother, who lived in Lambertville for some time. She was able to photograph the murals while there were still up, and was kind enough to share them with us to post.
(Click on the images below to view in a higher resolution)