Preservationists’ Role in Recovery From the Virginia Earthquake and Hurricane Irene
As the flood waters slowly recede, closed roads are cleared, and electricity is restored across New Jersey, we’re beginning to comprehend the true magnitude of the impact last week had on our state’s built environment. It’s no surprise that in a state with so
much history, treasured historic resources have not escaped unharmed. While the situation appears to be better than feared for places like Asbury Park and Cape May, in towns such as Somerville and Cherry Hill, both NJ Main Street communities, Montville, Little Falls, and Paterson in the wake of flooding and downed trees, a nightmare clean-up awaits.
Of course, we can’t do anything to prevent damage inflicted by Mother Nature. However, historic buildings are particularly vulnerable to irrational and unsympathetic decisions during recovery. Already, municipal officials in Woodbury have issued a demolition order for the National Register-listed G.G. Green Building, which was witnessed shedding a few bricks during the earthquake. And in Bridgeton, we understand that a historic downtown commercial building was demolished within 48 hours of the earthquake, amid what may have been unfounded concerns about stability. In situations like these, it falls to preservationists to be alert and proactive, prepared to question rash decisions regarding damaged properties and educate everyone from owners to Mayors about appropriate alternatives.
To help you with this challenge, we’ve posted a compilation of resources on disaster preparedness and recovery for historic resources on our website (many thanks to Andrea Tingey, NJ Certified Local Government Coordinator, and Wendy Nicholas, Director of the Northeast Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, for your recommendations). From funding assistance to craftsman directories to response techniques, the good news is that there are resources and professionals available to help.
PNJ offers our heartfelt support to everyone affected by the Virginia earthquake and Hurricane Irene. Visit our website or give us a call for information on funding, finding a local contractor, engineer, or craftsman, local historic preservation commission review, and more.
The survival of our heritage depends upon preservation advocates to stand up for the unique needs of historic places, even in times of strife. Historic resources will play a major role in New Jersey’s recovery from recent events: let’s make sure their consideration is a top priority.