NEWTON, NJ (Sussex County) – Sussex County Community College (SCCC) students in the Building Construction Technology program are getting first-hand experience by working on an important historical project.
The students are participating in a restoration of the 1858 Horton Mansion on the College’s main campus. The entire project, which started in September, is expected to take two to three years and will be achieved in multiple phases.
The four-story Mansion was built by John Horton, a county native, who made his fortune in saddlery and harness making. He died shortly after it was built, but it remained in the family until 1921 when it was sold to several members of the Galente family, who quickly sold the property to the Missionary Society of the Salesian Congregation.
After many years as Don Bosco Prep, training priests and educators, the county purchased the property in 1984, including the Gothic Revival mansion which is a centerpiece of the campus, standing in contrast to the red brick buildings surrounding it. County residents associate SCCC with the Horton Mansion, even if they don’t know its name.
The College faculty and about ten students are working to bring the Horton Mansion back to its former glory. The project gives students real-life, real-time construction experience and allows them to work effectively with tools and materials necessary for the trade.
The students are doing “a little bit of everything from framing, sheet rocking, and carpentry,” according to adjunct instructor Frank Semplenski. The added bonus is that it is a historic building, noting, “They love this project and are learning many new skills. They look forward to getting into the building to work.”
Semplenski, who also owns his own company, FMS Construction, added “It’s just a beautiful building,” and commented on the opportunity for his students, “You are not always going to get the new jobs.”
College officials believe it is important for the students to gain experience in this type of restoration. Two of the goals of the Building Construction Option, which results in an associate of applied science degree, are to demonstrate effective problem-solving skills based on knowledge and practice and understand, integrate, and apply construction knowledge and skills professionally. The Horton Mansion project is a perfect way to meet these goals.
Building Construction is only one of several technical programs under the AAS degree programs. Others include baking and pastry, cosmetology, culinary arts, diesel service, electrical linesworker, machine tool, optics, robotics, technical theater, and welding. All provide opportunities for students to learn career skills to help them enter the workforce upon graduation.