Preservation New Jersey is was founded in 1978 as the only statewide private membership-supported historic preservation organization in New Jersey. It’s primary focus is to advocate for and promote historic preservation as a sustainable strategy to protect and enhance the vitality and heritage of New Jersey’s richly diverse communities. We met them at the Spirit of the Jerseys State Historical Fair earlier this month.
Their 2013 10 Most Endangered Historic Places list rallies support for important character-defining landmarks and historic resources that teeter on the brink of extinction. The 2013 list was announced earlier this week and we thought their picks were so interesting that we’re going to share them with part of the write-up that Preservation NJ did for each. In addition to 10 remarkable places, they’re also calling for quick legislative action to save the Garden State Preservation Trust, a funding resource that is imperative to heritage statewide. Follow the linked headings for more information on each place on the list.
Over the course of a few days in October 2012, New Jersey was forever changed. Superstorm Sandy washed communities away, and turned once familiar landscapes unrecognizable. Although the tide has receded and the winds calmed, the long-term impact of Superstorm Sandy on New Jersey– particularly, its built environment– is just beginning to come into focus, and remains fraught with uncertainty and unanswered questions.
Recovery from the impacts of Sandy has been and will continue to be particularly challenging for historic places- the recovery process is by nature not one that necessarily allows for the time, thoughtful planning, and holistic assessment that appropriate historic preservation requires. Anytime a historic resource is significantly damaged, it is threatened. Although many of the historic buildings that were impacted by Sandy have weathered similar storms in the past and could be repaired, misinformed property owners and decision makers too often see damaged historic properties simply as expendable old buildings.
The seriousness of the threat to the Benjamin Cooper House is quite obvious from the photo of the damage caused by a fire on Thanksgiving Day 2012. The building is privately owned, and was vacant at the time of the fire. It is badly in need of a future rescue plan beyond the short-term immediate stabilization for which planning is currently in the works.
This Dutch Colonial stone house was built by Benjamin Cooper in 1734 and is not only one of the earliest remaining buildings in Camden, but is also one of the most significant extant ferry-related properties in the city.
The village of Feltville was founded in 1845 by entrepreneur David Felt who purchased over six hundred acres in what is now the Township of Berkeley Heights in Union County. Felt was a businessman from New York who ran a prosperous stationery and book finishing business. He built a workers’ community based around his printing business with a large mill, two lakes, eleven multi-family worker houses/dormitories, a church and store in one building, a schoolhouse, and a residence for himself. The buildings were constructed in a vernacular version of the Greek Revival. The village’s location on the Blue Brook was ideal for powering his mill, and the village appears to have been prosperous, as the 1850 Federal Census shows 178 people living there at that time. It thrived for fifteen years until Felt closed the mill and put his holdings on the market in 1860. The village sold several times in the following years to various unsuccessful entrepreneurs.
The village fell into a state of decline until 1882 when Warren Ackerman purchased it and turned it into a resort. Looking to attract vacationers from urban New Jersey towns, he turned the workers’ housing into resort cottages, added Adirondack-style porches and renamed the village Glenside Park. The resort was successful into the early twentieth century when expanding mobility and development turned tourist preferences toward the Jersey Shore and other vacation areas. Ackerman’s heirs closed Glenside Park in 1916 and the village again fell into decline. Individual properties were sold off and some were purchased by Edward Grassman, a civil engineer, who used the village as a club. Grassman was a world traveler with a fondness for Mexico, Latin America and the Southwest. He decorated two of the cottages to reflect his interests, one being known as the “Mexican Cottage” and the other the “Indian Cottage.” Visitors to his club were received in the Mexican Cottage and ate dinner in the Indian Cottage next door. It was Grassman who apparently persuaded celebrated Nicaraguan/Mexican artist Robert de la Selva to paint themed murals throughout the first floor interior of the Mexican Cottage. In the late 1920s, during his first trip to the United States, de la Selva spent months in rural Union County painting the murals, which depict native Mexicans at work, play and worship, including statues of both ancient gods and the Virgin Mary. As the only murals de la Selva, who was primarily a sculptor, is known to have painted, these murals are significant to both the history of Feltville and the international art world.
The Collins House is a rare surviving example of an East Jersey Cottage located in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Notable for its age and architecture, the house also has direct ties to the Morris Canal, which was significant in the state’s transportation and industrial history in the nineteenth century. The Collins House has been determined eligible for the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
John Collins, an Irish immigrant, fought in the American Revolution and was a founding member of the Presbyterian Society of Bloomfield, for which Bloomfield Township would get its name. He married Mary Baldwin of the prominent Baldwin family who owned three of the first mills in Bloomfield. Circa 1790, John constructed a one-and-one-half-story home along the Third River, which is the third main tributary of the Passaic River. The Collins House dates from the earliest period of residential building in New Jersey. The oldest portion of the house still today exhibits the typical East Jersey Cottage form: one-and-one-half stories in height with a gable roof over a three-bay facade and the entrance located in one of the side bays. The house retains intact original rubble nogging typical of 18th century construction. The property also retains its historic well.
Glen Alpin, a 22- room, 14,000 square foot mansion, has been called one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival style architecture in New Jersey.
Glen Alpin is situated in an area of Morris Country that has long attracted the wealthy seeking escape to country “cottages.” Facilitated by the extension of suburban rail lines west from the commercial centers of Newark and New York, American industrialists aspiring to the lifestyles of landed English gentry developed grand estates throughout this area during the 19th century. Constructed in 1847, Glen Alpin is one of the earliest of the area’s remaining Country Houses.
Prior to Glen Alpin’s construction, the property was the site of a 1,250-acre farm known as Mount Kemble, established in the 1750s by Peter Kemble, a longtime member and once-president of the royal council governing the English colony of New Jersey. Mount Kemble became a Continental Army encampment during the Revolution. The graves of the controversial Peter Kemble and his family remain on the property today.
The Green Hotel, also known as the Green Castle Hotel or The Green, is a significant example of a Second Empire style brick hotel. It was built in 1881 by Lewis M. Green, a five-term mayor of Woodbury and father of George Gill Green, a wealthy patent medicine entrepreneur and businessman. The Green family helped to attract residents and businesses to Woodbury in the late 19th and early 20th century when the city experienced significant growth. The Green Hotel was constructed in response to this growth, serving to accommodate visitors arriving by train at the Woodbury Station, directly across Railroad Avenue. The Green Hotel is a contributing building within the Green Era Historic District, which is listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, and the municipally designated Woodbury Historic District.
As originally constructed, the building had a mansard roof, red brick exterior, windows with decorative keystones (one of which on the main elevation retains L. M. Green’s carved initials and the construction year), and a wrap-around porch with decorative brackets and posts. While the building has been modified over the course of its use: the front porch was removed, an addition was constructed on the front facade and a new entry and porch were added to the side elevation: the building’s main block, stylistic form (including its signature roof) and decorative details remain remarkably intact.
The Jacob Vanderbeck Jr. House, also known as the Vander Plaat House, located off Dunkerhook Road sits on a three-acre parcel near the Naugle House -– another Revolutionary War-era home. The single-story home overlooking the Saddle River was built in 1754 and remained in the Vanderbeck family until 1800. It is listed on the National and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places as one of Bergen County’s early stone houses.
The dwelling, said to have been one of General Lafayette’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, is constructed of coursed ashlar sandstone that remains intact except for the south façade, which was stuccoed prior to 1938. It has a gambrel roof, characterized by two slopes on both symmetrical sides, clapboard gable ends and broad shed dormers, which were likely added onto the home. The gable-end chimney is not original but the fireplaces that feed it are. The interior has floors, woodwork and built-in cabinetry that date to at least the late 18th Century.
The Layton Farmstead, situated at the intersection of Baileys Corner and Allaire Roads, functioned as a successful farming complex during the heyday of Wall Township’s agricultural industry in the 19th century. Adjacent to Layton’s property were Mrs. Bailey’s Inn and the Baileys Corner’s school, which was established in 1866 and enrolled more than 100 students by 1880. The blacksmith shop, mill house and other grain shops on Layton’s nearby farmstead most likely played an integral part in the development of the Baileys Corner settlement. None of these outbuildings exist today, but two houses remain to tell this property’s story.
The Joseph Layton House is a two-and-one-half story vernacular frame, wooden clapboard clad farmhouse constructed circa 1860. The house retains its historic massing, including a two story cant bay window on the primary facade, and a one-story partial width wraparound porch. The porch has been completely boarded as have all the windows save two on the second story. The neighboring John Layton House is a two-story vernacular wood-frame farmhouse constructed circa 1880 closer to Baileys Corner Road. It measures six-by-two-bays and has a side gable asphalt shingle roof with a central open pediment on the primary facade. The house retains historic detailing, including exposed rafter tails at the cornice, gable ends and pediment and fish scale shingles within the pediment. The primary central entry is sheltered beneath a full-width, wraparound porch. The former agricultural fields surrounding the farmstead buildings have been largely preserved and converted into recreational fields, allowing a continued understanding of the dwellings’ historic context, despite the land’s new use.
The Morris Canal Rockaway River Aqueduct is located in Denville Township and is part of the Morris Canal Historic District, which is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. Abandoned in 1924 when the canal was closed, the remaining masonry components of this historic engineering accomplishment are now threatened with demolition by Denville Township in an attempt to alleviate flooding along the Rockaway River. While the ownership of the aqueduct site is in question- the state, a municipality, or the owner of the adjacent restaurant – the extant masonry piers and abutments are clearly a contributing resource to the Morris Canal Historic District, and deserve to be protected.
The Morris Canal opened in 1831 and was an international engineering marvel of its time. In its 102-mile-length the canal overcame more elevation change than any other navigation canal ever built. In addition to a series of locks and inclined planes, the Morris Canal relied on a number of other structures – aqueducts, culverts, waste gates, stop gates, spillways, – to enable it to function as a navigable waterway. The Morris Canal Rockaway River Aqueduct was one of eight documented aqueducts along the entire route of the canal and allowed the canal to traverse the Rockaway River within what is now Denville Township. As constructed, the aqueduct was a large wooden trough supported on stone masonry abutments and piers as it crossed the river. The water-filled trough was large enough to allow the 90-foot-long, 10.5-feet-wide canal boats carrying 70 tons of cargo to pass over it and continue either easterly or westerly along the canal channel.
Valley Road School, now nearing 100 years old, is one of the Princeton area’s last remaining historic public school buildings. The original two-story school was designed by Robert A. Schumann and built on land given to “the inhabitants of Princeton Township” by Ernest and Grace Richardson. It opened in 1918 and today includes later additions added in two phases: cafeteria and gymnasium wings were built in 1927, and a two-story classroom wing, a one-story library, a gymnasium and locker rooms were built in 1949. The Collegiate Gothic architectural style of the original Valley Road School building- particularly its three arched entrances- was inspired by buildings on the nearby Princeton University campus, and in turn inspired the design of the adjacent Mercer No. 3 Firehouse.
This well-constructed building represents Princeton’s immigrant heritage, as many of the skilled masons who built it were Italian-Americans from the village of Pettoranello in the Molise region of Italy. They used their craft to construct not only the Valley Road School, but also many of the masonry buildings on the Princeton University campus. When it opened in 1918, the school became the first regional school in Princeton Township, and in 1948 it became the first integrated elementary school in Princeton (the high school had been integrated since 1915). The school was further distinguished by its innovative programs in the sciences which made it a national educational model during the mid-twentieth century.
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