Sunday, April 6, 2014

South Middle School

This large school was constructed in 1939, just outside of the city of Newark. Originally known as Bloomfield Junior High School, it served the children of Bloomfield by offering 6th through 8th grade classes.

The building was designed in a classic Art Deco fashion. It had a large cafeteria on the top floor, a cavernous auditorium and a sprawling gymnasium. It operated for nearly 50 years until 1987 when Bloomfield Middle School was built.

The 145,000 square foot school school sat boarded up on Franklin Avenue for nearly three decades. Several proposals to redevelop the building came forward, but none of them worked out. Then, in 2013, an article was published about plans to renovate the building into condominiums.

This school was one of the first places I ever went to as a curious teenager. I remember thinking how awesome it was, despite being almost entirely devoid of relics from its past. There were no lockers in the hallways, no desks in the classrooms, and no tables in the lunchroom. The halls were empty, the chalkboards stripped.

The auditorium of the school was largely intact, and very photogenic. It was a nice break from the monotony of stripped hallways.

The building became a hangout for taggers, vandals, and local kids, who used the building as everything from a place to smoke weed and hang out to skate and BMX.

The school quickly became one of the most well known abandoned buildings in the area, drawing tons of of photographers from New Jersey and the surrounding states. 

The future of the building is uncertain, as it sits abandoned behind a fence line currently being used to house construction vehicles. The new  owners have sealed up the building, and do not take kindly to trespassers. 

I sincerely hope the building can see use as a school once again. It is an amazing structure, and to tear it down would certainly be a loss to the town of Bloomfield . All we can do is hope the company who owns it now doesn't continue to neglect it.


  1. I went to Bloomfield South Junior High School from 1979-1981. I can tell you that even at that time this building was very beautiful. Its a shame that Bloomfield let it go this way.
    I also want to share some corrections and facts about this building. First, the Bloomfield South Junior High building was built as WPA project -- yes it was a Great Depression Era government project done to bring construction jobs to the area. At the time it was built it was the only junior high school in Bloomfield so serviced the whole town, however Bloomfield built another junior high on the North side of town in the late 1960s. That was called "North Junior High"-- after that time where kids lived in Bloomfield determined whether they went to "North" or "South" junior high, since neither of these schools are anywhere near the middle of Bloomfield. When I attended BSJHS (1979-1981) I went for grades 7, 8, and 9, then transferred to Bloomfield High School for grades 10, 11, and 12.

    Once Bloomfield closed South Junior High they sent all 7 and 8 graders to North Jr High, and now 9th graders attend the high school.

    I can tell you that off the staircase on the second floor (the blocked glass double entrance pic) there was a large curved alcove with curved wood paneling and pewter-colored handrails in an Art Deco style. There were 3 stairs that led up to this alcove. Sometimes the students from the art classes would work on some of the very large projects (for school plays) in this alcove space.

    The fourth floor was smaller than the other floors, but had two very interesting features: a small greenhouse that sat on one of the roofs facing Franklin Ave. The greenhouse entrance was at the back of one of the chemistry/biology classrooms. The greenhouse also had an entrance to a cool little outside balcony. There was also a large music room that had a door that also led out onto a large part of the roof facing one of the parking lots. When it got hot during class the teacher would open the door to the roof and sometimes my friends and I would also sneak out to look around.

    Finally, the school auditorium was also pretty cool since it was designed to look like a real theater with theater seating and beautiful wood paneling on the walls, as well as a nice balcony.

    I can remember the day that Iran released the American hostages in January, 1981 (same day Reagan became president). The school's administration held an assembly in the auditorium so that the students could watch the hostages being freed. Back then there were no hi-tech large projection screens or flat screen TVs-- so the AV dept. set up 3 19-inch color TVs at the front of the auditorium, then piped the sound through the AV system. I sat in the middle of the auditorium so really couldn't see much of the TVs, but I remember hearing the reporters talk about the hostages being released as it was shown live on TV.

    Of all the schools I've gone to, including college, Bloomfield South Junior High School was hands down the most beautiful and interesting school building I've ever attended. It is an absolute shame and embarrassment that Bloomfield let it deteriorate to such a huge extent. Perhaps the new owners will restore some of the nice art deco designs and wood paneling someday.

    Thanks for posting those pictures--hope I was able to provide a bit of context :)

  2. I went to Bloomfield Junior High in the 1950s. It held the 7th, 8th and 9th graders from the entire town. The classes were divided into homogeneous groups, meaning that the high achievers were in one or two classrooms, the medium achievers in several more, and the slow achievers in other homerooms. (Yes, they told us that.)
    The building next door housed the Essex County Vocational School and those kids were scary to little seventh graders! One of the boys lifted up his pants leg to show us that he had a knife tucked in his sock (probably just to impress us "kids"
    It was over 1.5 miles to my house but there were no school buses for us, only for the kids who lived at the North end of town. We walked out the back door, down the hill, and past the canal that often smelled like perfume because it backed up the the Prince Matchabelli Perfume Factory. (Who know how much they dumped into that canal -- sometimes the surface of the canal was shiny from various oils used in manufacturing perfume. )
    Everyone in town attended Bloomfield Junior High and then went to the High School on Broad Street for 10th through 12th grade.

  3. I attended "South" from 1975-1977. This was a great time to live in Bloomfield. I still have many friends from that time and we STILL identify as being "south" or "north" enders......We actually then further identify with our elementary schools...or "grammar" schools...when I say this my kids laugh. Grammar schools?...what are they? ...anyway I went to Watsessing and there was Berkeley, Carteret and Fairview on the "south" end of town. Nobody bussed to matter that we had to cross Bloomfield Ave....walk though the park...under the GS parkway...we didn't even think about it and it was more than a mile from my house. The thing I remember most, and funny now to think about, is that they classified us by how smart we were. No hiding it. The smartest kids in 7th grade were in 7/ came 7/8...up until 7/12 then it snaked down to 7/1...up to 7/6 which was the lowest category. 8th grade worked the same...8/8 were the brains....then 8/9.....etc. How funny to think of that now.

  4. It sucks that such at beautiful place was left in disarray. I personally never went to SJHS but i was always curious about that huge abandoned place. I always have wanted to visit it.