Building Community

The History of the Martinsville Community Center

If you live in Martinsville, then there’s a good chance that you’ve attended an event at the Martinsville Community Center (MCC). A member-owned, volunteer-run, self-supporting organization, the center hosts a variety of classes and activities such as yoga, Zumba, pilates, ballroom dance, classical Indian dance, robotics and Footlights of Martinsville. Additionally, they provide meeting space for town groups at no cost for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, MOMS Club, Stay Strong Tote Foundation, AARP offerings and Friends of Bridgewater History.

The MCC has a long history. In the early 1920s, Martinsville suffered a devastating fire that burned half the town to the ground. Recognizing the need for a gathering place, the Bartle family donated the land, and residents pitched in to build the community center. The property is a little more than 15 acres and houses both the MCC and the Washington Valley Library.

The library building was the original Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department. When the current firehouse—Station One at the bottom of Mt. Horeb Roadwas built in the early 1950s, the building was converted to a library. Today, the MCC still maintains and staffs the library through volunteers, with the books provided by the Somerset County Library System.

Through the 1960s, the MCC was the hub of Martinsville, offering many recreational and social activities. Then there was a societal shift, and membership at the MCC drastically declined. Families started to have disposable income and began spending time traveling rather than staying in town. In many families, both parents worked, and their time off was spent shuffling children to sports and activities. By the late 1980s, the MCC could no longer sustain itself, and the facility was rented out to a church group. Following an issue with mismanagement, the State of New Jersey eventually took over the property.

In November of 2008, members of the community came together and decided to bring the MCC back to life. They formed a new organization and appealed to the state for ownership. It was a struggle since funds were limited, but thanks to the tireless effort of volunteers, the MCC was proudly re-opened to the public in October 2011. 

Since its reopening, the MCC continues to update the facility. To be as inclusive as possible, the price of a family membership is only $25 per year and includes discounted room rentals. A well-known secret in the community is that the MCC offers one of the most inexpensive room rentals in the area. Options include a large ballroom that houses a stage, a mid-size meeting room and a conference room. 

All monies from rentals and donations are used to maintain and renovate both the MCC and the Washington Valley Library. Substantial changes have occurred, including updated restrooms, air-conditioned rooms and an upgraded kitchen. Future projects include paving the driveway, outdoor lighting and a covered pavilion for outside events.  

The MCC is always looking for new ways to support the community and remain self-sustaining. The center hosts two annual fundraising events: MCC Fall Festival in September and Christmas in Martinsville coming up Dec. 7. Additionally, the MCC published a historical picture book, Martinsville and the Washington Valley, which provides a pictorial history of the area.

When asked why she volunteers at the MCC, the president, Jane Gandolfe, gets teary-eyed and says, “I love how many people I’ve met through this process. For so many years, I worked a lot and couldn’t be involved. Since bringing the MCC back to Martinsville, I see people I know everywhere now. ”

“We want to see the community come back here. We work every day to fulfill our mission.” —Jane Gandolfe (MCC President)

MCC Executive Board Members:

Tim Hurley, John Cronin, Rich Lepik, Steve Barthelmes, Rich Barnett, Al Beronio, Virginia Consalvo, Carole Juth, Jane Gandolfe and Tom Belardo

To learn more about joining the Martinsville Community Center, visit MartinsvilleCommunityCenter.org

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