Constructed 1962-1963, the New Jersey Department of Health and Agriculture Buildings are a complex of two pre-cast concrete buildings, one cylindrical and one cubed, connected by steel-and-glass pedestrian sky bridges. The complex was designed by Alfred Clauss and Jane West Clauss, husband and wife architects who worked in the International Style and other Modern styles. The buildings were designed as part of a larger complex that also includes the adjacent Department of Labor and Industry building, which was designed by the architectural firm of Frank Grad & Sons. In January 2017, a SHPO Opinion found the New Jersey Departments of Health, Agriculture, Labor, and Industry Complex to be eligible for listing on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. The complex is architecturally significant as an “outstanding example of New Formalism-style architecture designed for government use in the City of Trenton.” (NJ SHPO Opinion 1/11/17). The complex may also be significant “for its associations with the development of a master plan for the New Jersey State Capitol Development Commission and associated urban renewal in the City of Trenton.” (NJ SHPO Opinion 1/11/17); additional research is required on this possible area of significance. The complex is currently threatened by demolition as part of New Jersey’s “State Office Building” project, which has a goal of attracting more private investment in Trenton by reducing the footprint of state office buildings in the downtown area.
Alfred Clauss (b.1906 in Munich) received B.A. from Munich Technical Architectural School in 1926. He worked with Karl Schneider in Hamburg before joining the studio of Mies van der Rohe in 1928 where he worked on the German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona Exposition. He emigrated to the United States in 1929, and worked at several firms in the following decades, included his own. Alfred married fellow architect Jane Beech West in 1934. Jane West Clauss (b.1907 in Minnesota) received a B.A. in interior architecture in 1929 from University of Minnesota. She then went to Paris and worked in the atelier of Le Corbusier, being the first woman to do so. From 1934-1945, Alfred and Jane collaborated on the “Little Switzerland” suburb outside Knoxville, considered one of the earliest examples of the International Style in the United States and funded by the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of FDR’s New Deal program. The couple settled in Philadelphia in 1945. Alfred established the firm of Clauss & Nolan, of which Jane was also an associate in addition to her work as a professor at Beaver College. Alfred and Jane collaborated on several projects in Philadelphia and the Health and Agriculture buildings in Trenton.
The State plans to demolish the Department of Health and Agriculture buildings, and likely the Division of Taxation building, in order to open those areas to redevelopment. The state will build two new smaller buildings to house these departments at existing parking lots owned by the state. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) is overseeing and financing the project. After preliminary studies of building conditions (2011-2013) and a feasibility study (2015) to weigh the options (which included rehabilitation of the existing buildings), the State decided on demolition, saying this would reduce the state’s footprint in downtown Trenton and that this is the more cost effective option. In 2016, the EDA issued RFQs and RFPs for the two new buildings, and as of February 2017, the EDA approved selection of Architectural/Engineering firms and Construction Management firms for the projects. A preliminary timeline on the EDA website includes demolition of the Health and Agriculture Buildings proposed for 2019. Preservation New Jersey encourages the EDA to not demolish these buildings and instead find a new use or a sympathetic buyer.
Preservation New Jersey