Haste may lay Ewing Church to waste
Time is what makes historic buildings and places historic. It is time that creates the patina of age that makes the copper facades of the Hoboken Ferry Terminal a rich green. It is time that has helped add to the significance of Eeero Saarinen’s masterwork Bell Labs, as his architectural innovations have come to be more appreciated while world-changing scientific advancements have occurred within its glass walls. And it is time that has made the “someplaces” of countless historic neighborhoods in New Jersey and across America the fondly remembered and presently cherished homes for our people.
Time was available for a moment for the First Presbyterian Church of Ewing recently, when PNJ offered to take the 142-year-old-landmark, assume responsibility and liability, lead a fundraising effort and a rehabilitation project, and find a community-friendly ongoing use. Haste may see the church’s demise.
The church Session – the governing body of First Presbyterian – gave PNJ representatives, and supportive congregation members, 45 minutes on a recent summer evening to propose saving the sanctuary while saving the church more than $100,000 in demolition costs. Only at the meeting did PNJ learn that the church leadership would not agree to a future use that included any religious functions, because of feared “competition” across the street. We proposed that PNJ would lead in creation of a community-based organization that would help craft a long term plan for the sanctuary’s use and agreeing to abide by the Presbytery’s restrictions and expectations. PNJ was in it for the long term: it is our mission to preserve historic places! All we asked for was time: a delay in demolition plans while PNJ, the Church and the regional Presbytery could negotiate for a happy conclusion to this sad and long-boiling conflict.
Time was not, however, on the side of the stone sanctuary at the bend of Scotch Road: a two hour closed door meeting of the Session ended that evening with a brief statement whose conclusion meant that no more time was available to find a solution, make a plan, reach an agreement.
Historic buildings are all about time. Haste usually has sad consequences. Certainly it has created them at the bend of Scotch Road.