New Jersey Young Preservationists

Preservation New Jersey’s Young Preservationist Award debuted in 2021 to celebrate those under 40 making important contributions to the state’s preservation field. We wanted to share stories of even more young preservationists around the state and connect with even more going forward. Read on to find out what hard-working millennial preservationists are doing to keep New Jersey heritage and history alive! Furthermore, send us an email here (info@preservationnj.org)  if you know of more great work being done by a young preservationist working in New Jersey! 

Myles Zhang, a Newark native, is currently a PhD student at the University of Michigan studying Urban History. Myles is interested in how politics, race, and culture are imprinted on the urban form. Through writing, art, digital humanities, and community engagement, he aims to introduce new audiences to history. Vanishing City for instance is a visual documentary about architecture and redevelopment in Newark. Another project, Newark Metamorphosis is an interactive map and photo project with 150 comparative views of past and present streetscapes. All historic images in his series are selected from the Newark Public Library’s collection of c.1916 postcards and all new photos were taken in 2016 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Newark’s 1666 founding. Recently, Zhang played a key role in the successful nomination of the James Street Historic District where he grew up to Preservation New Jersey’s 2021 10 Most Endangered Historic Places List.

Bonny Beth Elwell is a South Jersey historian, author, and editor of history publications. Through her work as Library Director of the Camden County Historical Society, Elwell was instrumental in starting the Camden County History Alliance in 2016 and in coordinating the annual Camden County History Month held each October. Her local history books are Upper Pittsgrove, Elmer, and Pittsgrove published by Arcadia Press in 2013, and 18th Century Documents of Pittsgrove Presbyterian Church in 2016. She has written numerous articles for Ancestors’ Attic, the Elmer Times, and the annual Greater Elmer Area Historical Society Pictorial Fundraising Book. Elwell serves as President of the Greater Elmer Area Historical Society, Vice President of the Genealogical Society of Salem County, a board member of the Salem County Historical Society, and a member of the Salem County Cultural and Heritage Commission. She was the recipient of Preservation New Jersey’s inaugural Constance Grieff Writing Award at the 2021 New Jersey Historic Preservation Awards. 

Preston Filizof, a young man with a passion for historical architecture, saved a 300-year-old estate at 409 Route 537 in Colts Neck from demolition and redevelopment. Despite a back-and-forth bidding war with a mass-production home-builder, Filizof was determined to save the 1720 farmhouse. Although the structure was condemned, Filizof saw possibilities and decided to take on the project of restoring it to its original glory while maintaining its historical integrity. After purchasing the house in 2019, he and his partner Ashley Cilento did almost all of the restoration work themselves, including bathrooms, the kitchen, and roofing. They recently put a sign out front that reads “Maple Lane Farm, Built 1720, Saved 2019.”

Andy Martin of the Historical Society of Stillwater Township has been integral in saving the Casper and Abraham Shafer Grist Mill Complex, which was built in 1764 and rebuilt in 1844 after a fire. Martin argued the mill — listed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places — is an early example of sustainable technology. Successfully nominating it for PNJ’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2021, his goal is to save the deteriorating mill and make it operational again so that it can someday open for tours. Martin has contributed to other projects in Stillwater, including cleaning the Lower Walpack Graveyard and overseeing radar-detection initiatives to locate buried historical artifacts.

Taylor Henry is President of the Wildwood Historical Society, Vice President of Preserving the Wildwoods, and founder of the @TinyChurchesNJ Instagram account. Henry authored the 2018 America Through Time volume Wildwoods Houses Through Time, arguing for preservation of the island’s residential architecture threatened by redevelopment, and was instrumental in the Wildwoods’ nomination for PNJ’s 10 Most Endangered Places in 2019. Recently Henry completed an MA in Writing at Rowan University, her thesis being Preserving the Wildwoods: A Multigenre Portfolio. Henry was honored twice by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a PastForward Diversity Scholar, was appointed to the Stakeholder Committee of Wildwood’s Neighborhood Preservation Program, and is an active contributor to PNJ’s Marketing Committee.  Taylor was an inaugural recipient of the 2021 Young Preservationist Award at the 2021 New Jersey Historic Preservation Awards.

Dr. Lynne Calamia is a public history professional with over a decade of experience in the field of preservation and public history.  Earning a PhD in American Studies from Penn State University, Calamia’s dissertation focused on an overlooked stage in the development of the field, arguing that relief money provided during the New Deal was the first federally funded preservation project in the United States. Her research included the Trent House in Trenton and Grover Cleveland’s Birthplace in Caldwell. Currently Calamia serves as Executive Director of Roebling Museum in Burlington County, a museum telling the story of a 1905 company town with a majority immigrant/migrant workforce. Calamia is also involved as a volunteer project manager for the Quaker Newton Meetinghouse, the oldest extant religious building in Camden. She was one of the recipients of the 2021 Young Preservationist Award.