DESCRIPTION: Constructed in 1908 as a four-room schoolhouse known as the Union Academy, the Cope Building sits in the center of the Mullica Hill National Register District in Harrison Township, Gloucester County. The Colonial Revival-style schoolhouse was built as a response to the growth of ... » Learn More about Cope Building
2009 Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites in NJ
Everyone in New Jersey is affected by historic preservation. In a state so enriched by history, it is difficult to miss the historic places that tell our stories. Whether it’s a Revolutionary War battlefield you drive by each day, a bank on Main Street you stop in during your lunch hour, a historic building in which you work, or if you’re really lucky, a historic house that you call home, some part of the historic built environment touches each of us daily.
But do we appreciate these places that help define us and our communities? Are we doing all that we can to ensure that these unique, irreplaceable treasures continue to exist and to prosper? In an effort to call attention to the ever-pressing needs of New Jersey’s historic resources, Preservation New Jersey, the statewide non-profit membership-based group advocating for historic preservation, publishes the annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in New Jersey. The 2009 edition was announced yesterday at the State House in Trenton, and includes three Mercer County historic resources, each facing distinct threats representative of the dangers bearing down upon historic properties all across New Jersey.
Most prominent is Princeton Battlefield, now threatened by the potential for encroaching development by both the neighboring Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton Township. The Institute has proposed new housing construction on unprotected land east of the Battlefield, while the Township also has the right to develop acreage adjacent to the park. Contemporary development would visually encroach on the protected lands and destroy opportunities for further archaeological study of these areas, study that could potentially revolutionize our understanding of the Battle of Princeton.
The First Presbyterian Church of Ewing also made this year’s list. In a classic preservation emergency, the structural stability of the church’s sanctuary has been questioned after falling debris and professional measurements indicated severe deterioration. While the extent of the required stabilization is debated, whatever solution is deemed necessary will require significant funds. Church leaders have agreed to put demolition on-hold while the congregation undertakes a massive fundraising campaign, but the deadline is fast-approaching.
Robbinsville Industrial Track, a railroad right-of-way that spans portions of Hamilton and Robbinsville Townships, is the third Mercer County site to make the 2009 list. The right-of-way and related historic structures is an original portion of New Jersey’s and one of the nation’s first railroads, the Camden and Amboy line. Unused for several years, the right-of-way is now threatened by proposed official abandonment, which would permit sale of the land to Robbinsville Township. The Township has indicated plans to subdivide and sell the property for commercial development.
Other resources on this year’s list include: the BPO Elks Lodge 128, also known as the Charms Building, in Asbury Park, a circa-1914 commercial building threatened with ongoing deterioration; The Cope Building in Mullica Hill, a turn-of the century schoolhouse threatened with demolition; The Fell House in Allendale, a Revolutionary-era homestead threatened with demolition for residential development; The Lampkin House in Plainfield, an abandoned but intact example of one of New Jersey’s earliest house types that is deteriorating and in need of a buyer; Liberty Hall in Union, a National Historic Landmark, threatened with the loss of much of it’s significant landscape; and the historic Police Headquarters building in Maplewood, recently vacated and in need of a plan for adaptive use. The tenth spot on this year’s list is dedicated to the Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT), which is not a property, but the state’s funding resource for historic preservation and open space and farmland conservation. The programs supported by the GSPT, including the New Jersey Historic Trust’s grants for preservation, have run out of funds, endangering countless properties that could potentially be rehabilitated or restored with these grants, and rendering the need for a new funding source exceptionally desperate.
In the current economic climate, typical preservation challenges such as a dearth of funds, a lack of historically-sensitive and financially-capable buyers, and intense pressure to create new tax rateables via new development have become particularly menacing. In New Jersey, we are the fortunate beneficiaries of a rich, diverse, and extraordinarily significant historic built environment. It is up to us to respect this privilege by finding and advocating for creative, viable solutions that respect our past and preserve and celebrate the unique character of every community. Preservation New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites list aims to connect people with such ideas to the properties that need their help, and facilitate the understanding that every loss of any historic resource is a loss to every citizen of New Jersey.
UPDATES: 07/2010 Update: No official action has been taken by Conrail of the FRA to finalize the abandonment process, but additional encroachment along the right of way has taken place. In Windsor, NJ the tracks were taken up and the crossing paved over. DESCRIPTION: The Robbinsville Industrial ... » Learn More about Robbinsville Industrial Track
UPDATES: 7/2010: The PBA has completed a mapping project funded by the National Historic Battlefield Protection Act that confirms not only the probable location of Saw Mill Road, the long-forgotten path Washington used, but also confirms that the location of Washington's attack sits on the 22-acre ... » Learn More about Princeton Battlefield Site
DESCRIPTION: A National Historic Landmark, Liberty Hall was constructed in 1772 for William Livingston who became the first Governor of New Jersey (1777-1790). Livingston’s original purchase included 140 acres of wetlands, woods, orchards, and farmland. Today after land sales to Kean University, ... » Learn More about Liberty Hall Landscape
UPDATES: 3/2010: The City of Plainfield has issued a violation on the Lampkin House, declaring it an unsafe structure and fire hazard. A court hearing is scheduled for April. PNJ has received word that an entity named U.S. Bank Custodian for Pheonix intends to redeem a tax sales certificate on the ... » Learn More about Lampkin House
DESCRIPTION: For more than 40 years, the State of New Jersey has recognized the importance of preserving and rehabilitating important historic landmarks owned by the county and local governments and non-profit organizations. In accord, the citizens of New Jersey, in each decade since the 1980s, ... » Learn More about The Garden State Preservation Trust and the New Jersey Historic Trust
UPDATES: 7/2009: The Session, or governing body, of the First Presbyterian Church of Ewing has announced plans to proceed with demolition of the sanctuary, despite congregation uproar. Read more detail on the PNJ Blog. 8/2009: PNJ has offered to acquire the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian ... » Learn More about First Presbyterian Church of Ewing
UPDATES: 3/2010: After a three-year struggle, the nonprofit Concerned Citizens of Allendale (CCA) has acquired the historic Fell House. The long-term goal of CCA is to restore and maintain the house and 2.8-acre property, return it to its former grandeur and operate the home and grounds as an ... » Learn More about John Fell-Thompson-Ackerman-Cable-Taylor House
UPDATES: 1/2010: The BPO Elks Lodge 128/Charms Building was demolished between December 28, 2009, and January 1, 2010. According to local newspaper The Coaster, "City officials had deemed the almost 100-year-old building in danger of collapse and ordered it demolished because it was considered a ... » Learn More about Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks Lodge 128 / The Charms Building
UPDATES: 07/2010 Update: The Maplewood Township Committee voted to proceed with negotiating a redevelopment agreement with a developer for the purchase and development of the old police station. A multi-unit residential development of three floors of housing above one floor of parking is proposed ... » Learn More about Maplewood Police Headquarters