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PNJ Explores Mount Tabor at 2012 Annual Meeting

June 29, 2012

On June 2, PNJ members and friends were treated to a peek behind the scenes throughout a lesser-known Morris County treasure. The community of Mount Tabor, founded in 1869 as New Jersey’s first permanent Methodist camp meeting site, evolved from a tent community to a district of small summer cottages built within the original 25′ x 16′ tent-lot dimensions.  Its architecture and community plan remain today a celebration of the Victorian era- visiting

this gem is a lot like stepping back in time.

The Mount Tabor Historical Society is working to preserve and promote Mount Tabor‘s unique historic character. An in-progress preservation master plan element will help guide preservation efforts and better integrate preservation with other municipal objectives, while events including concerts at the Tabernacle and an annual house tour that draws thousands, are allowing more and more people to discover and appreciate Mount Tabor each year.  MTHS also acquired the J. Smith Richardson House, an 1873 Second Empire cottage, in 2007. The house remains today largely intact to the 1870s, including such craftsmanship as trompe l’oeil painted recessed-panel walls, ornate original hardware and expansive original glass doors and windows. It is open and interpreted for the public, thanks to MTHS‘ dedication and hard work.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for this exciting day! Your support of PNJ helps us help places like Mount Tabor- together, we’re saving and celebrating New Jersey’s “someplaces!”

PNJ Board Member Margaret Newman leads a walking tour of Mount Tabor, discussing the preservation planning currently underway in the community.


2012’s “10 Most Endangered Historic Places” in New Jersey Announced

May 18, 2012

Neglect. Limited viable reuse plans. Ownership challenges. Environmental concerns. Vandalism.

Kastner Mansion, Newark- one of New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places 2012

These are just some of the threats to the resources included on PNJ’s 2012 list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey. Each year, our 10 Most Endangered Historic Places program spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural and archeological resources statewide that are in imminent danger of being lost. The act of listing these resources acknowledges their importance to the heritage of New Jersey and draws attention to the predicaments that endanger their survival and the survival of all historic resources throughout our state. The list aims to attract new perspectives and ideas to sites in desperate need of creative solutions.

This year’s list is diverse. From a fairy tale amusement park in need of it’s own happy ending in Hamburg, to a 19th century Salem County Insane Asylum ready for rehabilitation, to a Jersey City railroad resource falling apart in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, to a Somerset County inn that’s hosted over 300 years of history, as always, this year’s list aims to celebrate the vast expanse of significant heritage in the Garden State. Simultaneously, it aims to highlight the varied threats that jeopardize that heritage’s survival, and remind everyone that these same threats, and calls to action, exist in every community statewide.

Previous Most Endangered listees have seen continued or amplified threats in 2011 and 2012: Bergen County funding scheduled for stabilization work at the Hackensack Water Company has been redirected, vandalism and deterioration of resources in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area has increased and is not being addressed, and recent efforts to restore and interpret the Belcoville Post Office appear to again have been abandoned. Additionally, two previous listees have been lost gone forever: the majority of Cape May’s Beach Theatre has been demolished, as has all of Newark’s Polhemus House.

Mount Peace Cemetery, Lawnside- Apathy and encroaching development threaten this place’s historic integrity

However, there’s also incredible progress: Clinton’s 18th century Vought House has been officially acquired by an advocacy group, Mercer County and the state are collaborating to stabilize and interpret Petty’s Run in Trenton, the Penns Grove High School is no longer scheduled for demolition, the McCloughan Mansion has been acquired for restoration. These success stories represent the possibilities that abound for New Jersey’s heritage. We hope that the 2012 list of New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places will serve as a catalyst for positive change and that creative, preservation-conscious solutions will be found for this year’s 10 Most, and many more resources statewide that need attention.

See the 2012 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey list here >>

Join PNJ in working to save our state’s incredible historic places!

Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, Plainfield: Proposed Redevelopment Plans Unveiled for the Former Hospital Complex

April 11, 2012

Tracy & Swartwout Buildings at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center

This guest blog was written by PNJ intern Lauren Giannullo. Lauren is a graduate student at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Public Policy. She is studying for a master’s in City and Regional Planning with a certificate in Historic Preservation. 

After 4 1/2 years of languishing on and off the real estate market, Plainfield’s shuttered Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center (a 2011 PNJ 10 Most Endangered Historic Place) may to be targeted for redevelopment.  Citing what they consider to be unsustainable continued expenses for property maintenance at Muhlenberg, and a dearth of prospective buyers for the site during its time on the market,  owner JFK Health Systems has turned to a different concept : marketing the property as a prime location for new luxury rental housing and retail development, thanks in large part to the transportation options offered by the site’s proximity to the Plainfield train station.

The new redevelopment concept for the site, announced in March, calls for luxury rentals and retail space spread over 11 acres, with continued operation of the satellite emergency room, lab services, and dialysis clinic currently housed on the rest of the property. Initial cost estimates for demolition of the historic Muhlenberg campus have come in at more that $5 million – quite a financial hurdle for any potential buyer.  The good news is that there is no compelling reason for the historic hospital buildings to come down.  Actively used through 2007, these buildings are in good condition and offer an ideal opportunity for rehabilitation to accommodate any new use, including the  apartments or retail space outlined in the new redevelopment plan.

Muhlenberg Hospital, as it was originally known, opened at this location in Plainfield in 1903.  The core of the complex was built by the noted New York architects Tracy & Swartwout that same year; these buildings are some of the earliest examples of the firm’s work.  Over the years the hospital complex expanded, but the original Read more…

President Obama’s 2013 Federal Budget Proposal- How Does Preservation Fare?

February 24, 2012

This guest blog was written by PNJ intern Lauren Giannullo. Lauren is a graduate student at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Public Policy. She is studying for a master’s in City and Regional Planning with a certificate in Historic Preservation. 

In preparation for Federal Preservation Lobby Day 2012, Preservation Action is keeping us up-to-date on how preservation is faring in FY 2013 federal budget discussions. President Obama released his 2013 budget proposal last week, and as PA relays, this proposal is just the beginning of the lengthy process that will determine federal-level preservation funding during the coming year. From Preservation Action:

The President’s proposal for preservation spending in FY 2013:

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 FY 2012 President’s Request FY 2013 President’s Request
SHPOs $39.3 $42.5 $46.5 $46.4 $47 $50 $46.9
THPOs $6.4 $7 $8 $7.9 $9 $11 $8.9
SAT $25 $20 $25 0 0 0 0
PA $7.5 0 $4.6 0 0 0 0
ACHP $5.3 $5.4 $5.9 $5.9 $6.1 $6.1 $5.7
Heritage Areas $15 $16 $18 $17.8 $17.4 $8.9 $9.3

Funding for the Historic Preservation Fund would remain level with the FY12 enacted amount of $55.9 million. With last year’s elimination of Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America, State Historic Preservation offices, Certified Local Governments, Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, and Tribal Heritage Grants are the only programs funded out of the HPF. Preservation advocates continues to lobby Congress for full funding for the HPF as well as a competitive bricks and mortar grant program to be funded from the HPF and administered by the States (want to help? Join us at Federal Preservation Lobby Day,  coming up March 8!).

The President has once again proposed cutting National Heritage Area (NHA) funding in half to $9.3 million, once again citing a lack of criteria and programmatic language for NHAs. To address this issue, the National Alliance of Heritage Areas has been working on the introduction of the Heritage Area Act of 2012, currently seeking original sponsors to join Charles Dent (R-PA), and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY). A Dear Colleague letter is available for circulation to your Representatives.

Under the President’s budget, many of the Federal Highway Programs would be consolidated Read more…

Help the NJ Historic Trust Survey Historic Places in Need

February 11, 2012

The New Jersey Historic Trust(NJHT) is the most significant source of publicly-available state-level funding for

The James and Ann Whithall House, within Red Bank Battlefield Park in Gloucester County- just one of the thousands of NJ's historic places that have benefited from NJHT grant funds.

historic preservation in the Garden State. The importance of documenting NJ’s vast preservation funding needs cannot be understated in the continued fight to sustain NJHT funds.

To answer to this, NJHT has just launched a new Capital Needs Survey aimed at collecting comprehensive information on the repair, restoration and improvement needs of historic places throughout the state- and everyone should participate!

“The Historic Trust recognizes that even our state’s most notable and celebrated historic sites and attractions have significant needs for repairs and improvements, all of which will ultimately serve the public better,” said Acting NJ Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable. “This survey will help the Trust identify those specific needs and begin to quantify the costs associated with making these historic buildings relevant and useful in their communities.”

The survey, which will remain open for input until May 1, relies on public participation. Anyone aware of a resource Read more…

Historic Penns Grove High School to be Repaired, Not Replaced

January 16, 2012

The Penns Grove-Carney’s Point Regional School District has announced a promising 180 degree change of plans regarding the future of Penns Grove High School (now Penns Grove Middle School), listed as one of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places

Penns Grove High School (now Penns Grove Middle School), Penns Grove, Salem County

in New Jersey in 2011.

The local landmark, which was built in 1935 by the Public Works Administration and has served generations of area residents during its 76 years in continuous operation as a school, retains a high degree of historic integrity. Aside from a  rear addition, few architectural changes have  impacted its Classical Revival design, the product of Byron H. Edwards of the noted Philadelphia, and later Camden, firm of Edwards & Green.

When included on the 2011 list of the state’s most endangered places, the school building was threatened with demolition.  In November 2010, a local task force charged with determining whether to rehabilitate or replace the school voted to replace the building with a new structure.  The decision was influenced by input from an architect, stating that it would be more expensive to modernize the building than to replace it. The new building project would’ve cost an estimated $28 million, including approximately $9 million in funding from the State of New Jersey.  Local tax rolls would have been responsible for contributing the needed additional funding.

Concerned about how this decision was made, local advocates took action, forming the friends group Save Our School and pressing the school board to reconsider, and it appears that their hard work has paid off. The school board announced this weekend that instead of demolishing the current building, they will instead focus on needed repairs and upgrades.

What turned the tables? According to a January 14 article in area newspaper The Sunbeam, Penns Grove-Carney’s Point Regional School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Massare cites the economic downturn and state influence, but also, local pressure: “We received a tremendous amount of email from the older alumni, people that graduated in the ‘80s, ‘70s and ‘60s who went through the middle school and voiced a strong opinion,” Massare said. “That has influence, they have an opinion, it was part of the factor.”

We’ll continue to keep you posted, but for now, it appears that another once-endangered resource has a new lease on life, thanks to people caring enough to raise their voices.

Preservation New Jersey is proud to promote the rehabilitation and continued use of New Jersey’s historic schools. We know that rehabilitation is more sustainable, creates more jobs, and saves money. But most importantly,  we know that only this approach creates the ideal learning environment that every child deserves: 21 century technology and education in an engaging, unique atmosphere.

Check out PNJ’s website and previous blog posts for NJ historic school rehabilitation case studies, and information on Trenton Central High School, another historic NJ school that deserves to be rehabilitated. Also, you can find information on case studies of rehabilitated historic schools nationwide on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website.

Woodbury’s G.G. Green Building: the New Year Brings New Hope for this Presumed-Doomed Landmark

January 3, 2012

As October 2011 came to a close, few people had hope that the G.G. Green Building, a landmark of downtown Woodbury, would still be standing at Christmas.

G.G. Green, or Green’s Block, occupies an entire block of downtown Woodbury along busy Broad Street. The  former opera house, constructed in 1880 by a prominent local businessman determined to spur Woodbury’s growth and development, housed a variety of community spaces and commercial ventures through 2002, when the building was

vacated. The building suffers from significant deferred maintenance, and is currently subject to two tax liens totaling approximately $331,000.

City inspectors deemed the building “unsafe” after chips of brick were reportedly seen falling from the top of a facade during the August 23 earthquake that rocked New Jersey. The week following the quake, as concern over the fate of the  building spread, preservationists sprang into action.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), Main Street New Jersey, and Preservation New Jersey joined with the Woodbury Olde-City Restoration Committee (WORC) and Main Street Woodbury to strategize and buy time. Was the building really  a “hazard?’ Only an engineer familiar with historic buildings could make an adequate assessment. The groups went to work, contributing funding, attending City Council hearings to advocate for additional analysis and time,  and finding an engineer willing to provide a “second opinion.” As luck would have it, an engineer both familiar with historic buildings, and familiar with the Green Building itself, took on the task.

Simultaneously, the city hired a preservation architect to provide a third assessment, as a condition of applying to the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office to spend public funds to demolish the building (since it is listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places). By October, the results were in, and the G.G. Green Building’s future was looking bleak. Both assessments raised serious concerns about the building’s structural integrity, and especially that of the facade that had reportedly sustained

The G.G. Green Building in 2008.

earthquake damage. It seemed the city’s concerns about public danger were valid, and something needed to be done to address the building’s needs immediately. Even the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office authorized demolition, as the requirements for declaring the building a “hazard” had been met.

Many ideas were offered, but nothing seemed to answer all of the outstanding issues: the building had been severely neglected, and the owner now had neither the money nor the desire to maintain the building, but also had not been able to sell it. The building had been confirmed to be in imminent danger – it could wait no longer for attention. The building needed either an angel, with the willingness and capital to purchase it, pay off the liens and make immediate repairs, or the city would have to step in, in which case demolition would likely win out.

With no one stepping forward to offer to take on the project, despite local advocates’ pleas, the city obtained demolition estimates in November.

Fast forward to this past week, when the fate of the G.G. Green Building seemed to change overnight. On December 28, Woodbury City Council announced Read more…