TRENTON, NJ – In recognition of national Preservation Month, Preservation New Jersey, Inc. (PNJ) announced its annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey at a press conference in the Founders Room of the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton on May 17. PNJ was joined by the advocates for this year’s endangered historic places at a rally to support New Jersey’s threatened cultural and architectural heritage. (Pictures from announcement.)
The 10 Most Endangered Historic Places program spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archaeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost. The act of listing these resources acknowledges their importance to the heritage of New Jersey and draws attention to the predicaments that endanger their survival and the survival of historic resources statewide. The list, generated from nominations by the public, aims to attract new perspectives and ideas to sites in desperate need of creative solutions.
Several challenges face properties on this year’s endangered sites list, including neglect and deferred maintenance, threats incurred by redevelopment and new construction, difficulties raising adequate historic preservation funding, the need for creative adaptive reuse proposals, inadequate recognition and protection by government agencies, and political influences. This year’s list also includes several resources of not only historic significance, but that are also cultural landscapes representing New Jersey’s agrarian and water faring past. As the economy continues to improve, the impacts to historic properties and places are more imminent. The list demonstrates increased development pressures resulting in threats of demolition of the historic resource; the need to incorporate history and historic preservation in redevelopment plans for neighborhoods, towns, and cities throughout the state; and the value of using preservation as a positive tool for revitalization.
As we acknowledge each year, selections to the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places list are based on the likelihood that historic buildings and places can be brought back to useful and productive life. PNJ proudly points to many properties previously listed among the 10 Most Endangered that have now been saved and preserved or rehabilitated and have once again become character-defining assets to New Jersey’s communities. As we announce this year’s list, we are encouraged by the recent opening of the Van Wagenen/Apple Tree House in Jersey City, which was included on our 1998 list. Over the almost 20 years since it was originally listed, City officials and advocates worked tirelessly to raise the funds necessary to restore the City’s oldest surviving structure in a responsible and authentic manner – earning them an Historic Preservation Award from PNJ in the fall of 2017. Now, the Apple Tree House is the home for the City’s cultural affairs and economic development offices. Through partnerships with the NJ State Council on the Arts and NJ Council for the Humanities, the City has also been offering arts, heritage, and other programming for both residents and visitors in the space. Although PNJ’s 10-Most Endangered Properties list is published once per year, the fight for the preservation of our historic and cultural resources is daily, and the news of the Apple Tree House is evidence that bringing awareness of such threats can bring about creative solutions.
The 2018 List:
Captain William Tyson House, Township of Rochelle Park, Bergen County
The Captain William Tyson House is a boldly detailed two-and-one-half-story home that was built about 1863-64, and is one of the most elaborate of Bergen County’s few remaining grand Italianate houses. The house was purchased by the Township of Rochelle Park in 2015, and was issued a Certificate of Eligibility for listing on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in the same year. Since that time, the Rochelle Park Township Committee has changed in composition, and the current majority wants to sell or tear down the structure. The Rochelle Park Historical Society, who has been assisting with upkeep and has interest in offering public programs at the house, is attempting to forestall either of these actions by the Township Committee.
Since 1989, grant funds have been available in New Jersey for the preservation and restoration of our historic buildings and structures, including those owned and occupied by religious institutions. Unfortunately, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled to prohibit Morris County’s Historic Preservation Trust Fund program from funding historic buildings owned by religious organizations. The ruling has the potential to have a cascading impact on historic preservation programs statewide, putting many of our most valued architectural resources and historic landmarks at risk. In early May 2018, the Morris County Freeholders authorized the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to file an appeal to the US Supreme Court to overturn the NJ Supreme Court decision. Preservation New Jersey supports the efforts of Morris County to continue to fight for a valued and worthy historic preservation grant program that benefits all residents of New Jersey.
South Jersey’s Virtua Health System purchased the 110-acre Hogan Farm to build a new $1 billion medical campus, which will replace the nearby aging Mt. Holly hospital. The farmhouse on the Hogan property was built around 1830, and according to the NJ Historic Preservation Office, it provides “a well-preserved example of a 19th-century agricultural complex with its complement of farm buildings, cultivated fields and pasture lands.” The farm house itself is a “minimally altered representation of early 19th-century vernacular architecture with late Georgian and Federal influences”. Hospital representatives have stated in public hearings that they plan to demolish the historic structures on the property to make way for several medical buildings that will make up the new Virtua campus. PNJ strongly urges Virtua to reconsider its stated plans to demolish the farmhouse and barn, and to find a way to appropriately incorporate these historic buildings into its plans for the medical campus.
The Homestead Farm at Oak Ridge was first established c. 1720 – 1740, and was made up of 208 acres of open space and a farmhouse, both of which remain, and outbuildings that were removed over the years as the farmstead was converted from a farm to an 18-hole golf course. Since 2009, the farmhouse has been closed and lays fallow while the former golf course serves as a regional park for passive recreation. Union County is now planning to construct a track with multi-use athletic fields in the park, potentially disrupting the unique 5-mile vista of the Watchung Mountains as seen from the back porch of the farmhouse. PNJ encourages Union County to find a more viable site for its athletic fields that would not have a negative impact on either the environment or historic and cultural heritage.
The 668-ton, steam-propelled Light Ship Barnegat was designed and built by the New York Shipbuilding Company in Camden, New Jersey, in 1904; and was used as a beacon to warn commercial ships along the New Jersey coast of shallow water and shoals in order to avoid strandings or sinkings. It was bought by a private investor in the 1980s who intended to refurbish and move it to the Camden waterfront; but due to a lack of resources, the vessel currently sits in dire need of maintenance and repair. PNJ recommends that the owner proceed with retaining a preservation architect/maritime engineering team to prepare a Preservation Plan for the Light Ship Barnegat, and make use of the lessons learned about fundraising and programming from other saved and rehabilitated light ships like the Light Ship Nantucket and Light Ship Overfalls.
Patterned brickwork is the delineation of designs by a mason using darkened “vitrified” bricks against a background of ordinary red brick. New Jersey (and especially South Jersey), which hosts approximately 95% of examples, is the principal location of patterned brickwork in the United States. In 2017, two patterned brick examples were lost when the Hugg-Harrison-Glover House (on the 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites list in 2016) was demolished by the NJ Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Samuel Tyler house was demolished at the direction of the City of Salem because it was vacant. Currently, the Abel Nicholson House, a National Historic Landmark in Lower Alloways Creek, Salem County, is threatened by rising water levels and by a lack of funding for maintenance. There is no overt opposition to the preservation of patterned brickwork buildings; the threat is apathy, lack of appreciation, and lack of funding. PNJ believes education to promote awareness of the significance of patterned brickwork to New Jersey’s architectural heritage will allow threatened buildings to be recognized, and threats mitigated before more examples are lost.
Saint Lucy’s Parish was established in 1884 in Jersey City’s Horseshoe section, and served the burgeoning, but poor Irish immigrants who flocked to the area in around the turn of the 20th century. The complex includes a school, church, and rectory of Italianate and Romanesque Revival elements. The church and rectory have been long vacated, while the school currently serves as a homeless shelter. Since the church’s closing in the 1980s, encroaching development has been a constant threat to the complex as developers look to build mixed commercial and residential projects in Jersey City’s transit-rich and walkable downtown. In addition, the City is in talks with the Archdiocese of Newark to replace the homeless shelter at St. Lucy’s with a new, modern facility across the street, which would leave the only currently occupied building in St. Lucy’s Complex without a use. PNJ recommends the City of Jersey City investigate ways to protect St. Lucy’s Roman Catholic Complex, and that the Archdiocese of Newark find an interested partner to assist them in forming a vision for the next chapter of St. Lucy’s history.
The First National Bank of Woodstown was constructed in 1892 and is a testament to the growing influence of banking in the US economy in the late-nineteenth century. The Romanesque Revival building, detailed with Perth Amboy Pompeiian brick and red sandstone, was designed by Philadelphia architect Albert W. Dilks and dominates the main intersection of Woodstown. While the building is not immediately threatened, and no one opposes preservation of this site, the building has been vacant since 2013. PNJ hopes that listing this building may catch the eye of a potential buyer, and in a more general way, bring attention to the plight of other vacant local bank landmarks throughout the state.
The Belle Mead train station was built in 1913 along the West Trenton Line. The station includes red brick with chestnut trim buildings on both sides of the tracks that were used until 1982, when the passenger rail line was deactivated. In the early part of this century, NJ Transit conducted feasibility studies to re-activate the West Trenton Line for passenger service; but to date, funding has not materialized to make this a reality. PNJ hopes that an updated environmental assessment commencing soon by NJ Transit will not only recommend the rehabilitation of the station should the passenger line be reactivated, but actively call for CSX to stabilize and secure the structures to limit further degradation. PNJ also recommends that CSX be proactive in finding an interested party to take on the responsibility of determining a compatible new use, and undertake the necessary planning and preservation work to ensure the station’s long-term viability through adaptive reuse.
Eight small cabins, accessible only by boat, are scattered over the thousands of acres of the state-owned Mad Horse Creek Wildlife Management Area and adjacent private land. There is no record of the origins of the first cabins; but undoubtedly, they dated back to the nineteenth century, if not earlier. Shelters for watermen caught in a storm or wanting to stay close to the source of their livelihood, would have been necessary wherever fishing, trapping, and hunting were a way of life. The cabins are slated for demolition under NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) rules but have wide support in the Bayshore communities of Salem and Cumberland Counties. The DEP policy of demolishing buildings on land it acquires for open space preservation is insensitive to New Jersey’s cultural landscape and folkways, which are often manifested in the properties it acquires. PNJ urges DEP to permanently reverse its demolition order and work with the cabins’ owners to arrive at an acceptable compromise for their preservation.
- historic significance and architectural integrity,
- the critical nature of the threat identified, and
- the likelihood that inclusion on the list will have a positive impact on efforts to protect the resource