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The List: What Price Historical Preservation in New Jersey?

Colleen O'Dea | December 2, 2013

The New Jersey Historic Trust pays to protect and preserve Garden State’s rich legacy

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As one of the original 13 colonies, New Jersey has a lot of buildings and places that are rich in history. The New Jersey Historic Trust, created in 1967, is tasked with helping preserve the state’s legacy. One way it helps do this is by providing grants to sites across the state for planning, repair, preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, and improvement of properties.

These are the sites that have received the most money from the trust over since 2000:

1. $1.58 million, Bivalve Shipping Sheds and Wharves, Commercial Township, Cumberland County

The shipping sheds and wharves built in 1904 were erected by the Central Railroad in New Jersey and employed thousands of workers as a centerpiece of the Maurice River Cove oyster industry, which was important in shaping the region’s economy. Today, it is owned by the Bayshore Discovery Project and serves at the base of operations for the A.J. Meerwald, New Jersey’s official tall ship, as well as a museum and educational facility and Bayshore Discovery’s headquarters. Grants have funded interior and exterior restorations, interpretive materials, and a marketing campaign.

2. $1.55 million, Castle at Felician College, Rutherford, Bergen County

The original two-story stone structure was built in 1869 by a New York newspaper man and land developer who called it Hill House because it was on one of the highest hills in the borough. In 1887, publisher David Brinkerhoff Ivison bought the house and remade it into a castle-like structure, naming it Iviswold. It was part of Fairleigh Dickinson University for a half-century and Felician bought it as part of the 10.5-acre former FDU-Rutherford campus in 1997. The college has removed paneled walls and drop ceilings to restore the castle to its original beauty. Grants have funded interior and exterior restorations and a preservation plan.

3. $1.5 million, New Milford Plant/Hackensack Waterworks, Oradell, Bergen County

The waterworks was a state-of-the-art facility for purifying water and making it safe to drink when it began operations more than 100 years ago. In 1906, its rapid sand filtration method became a national and international standard for water treatment. It was expanded and updated through between 1912 and 1955 to provide clean water to North Jersey. It is the only one of the three sites in the country that initiated the use of rapid sand filtration that survives. The complex closed in the 1980s. Grants helped fund a preservation plan for stabilizing the treatment building and pump house and pay for site and safety improvements.

4. $1.5 million, Hudson County Courthouse, Jersey City, Hudson County

Built in 1910, the columned courthouse is a classic example of a public space built in the American Renaissance and Beaux Arts Styles. An imposing granite structure with a copper cupola sitting atop a grassy hill, the building remained vacant between 1966 and 1985, when it was restored and reopened. Its impressive exterior features tall Corinthian columns, balconies, decorative scrolls, and the heads of lions. Grants have funded the restoration of bronze chandeliers and other lighting, interior marble, and murals by such American artists as Edwin Blashfield, Charles Turner, and Howard Pyle.

5. $1.5 million, Roebling Machine Shop/Invention Factory Science Center, Trenton, Mercer County

The 45-acre complex of red brick buildings founded by John Roebling in 1848 was internationally known for producing steel cables for suspension bridges, including the Brooklyn and George Washington in New York and Golden Gate in San Francisco. The Roebling Co. also made wire for telephones, telegraphs, and elevators, as well as lightning rods and railway cables. Its machine shop is the oldest and most intact structure, dating to the 1890s. Grants have helped fund exterior renovations, site improvements, and interior rehabilitation for the Museum of Contemporary Science, an onsite educational facility.

6. $1.49 million, Woodrow Wilson Hall, West Long Branch, Monmouth County

A National Historic Landmark, this three-story Beaux Arts mansion serving as the administrative center of Monmouth University was originally called Shadow Lawn. It was built in 1929 for the president of the F.W. Woolworth Company on the site of an estate that served as the summer White House of President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Monmouth College acquired the property in 1956 from the borough, which bought it for $100 after the stock market crash devastated owner Hubert Templeton. Grants have funded the restoration of the roof, conservation of murals and finishes, and the preparation of construction documents guiding the repair of the portico.

7. $1.29 million, Saint Peter the Apostle Church, New Brunswick, Middlesex County

This Gothic-revival brownstone church across from Rutgers University was designed by Patrick Keeley, the architect of many Roman Catholic churches. The church was built between 1854 and 1865, when its cornerstone was laid. A chime of bells and sacristy were added later in the 1800s. A rectory, which predates the church, and convent, are also on the site. All three are on the state and national historic registers and separate funding the convent has received is included in the total. Grants funded exterior restoration of the church and rectory, and structural stabilization and new slate roofs for the church and convent.

8. $1.17 million, First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Union County

The church’s history dates back to the 1660s with the establishment of a meeting house in Elizabeth. Its members were among the founders of the New Jersey colony. Its pastor during the Revolutionary War was outspoken, and the British burned the original Meeting House, pastor’s manse, and academy. The current church was built in 1790 and restored in the 1940s following a devastating fire. Its missing steeple was added in 2008. Grants have helped fund exterior restorations, preservation of the adjacent cemetery, where one signer of the Declaration of Independence is buried, and rehabilitation of the parish house as a visitor and community center.

9. $1.14 million, Ellis Island, Jersey City, Hudson County

Ellis Island was the primary immigration center for the United States between 1892, when it opened, and 1954, when it closed. More than 12 million immigrants passed through the 27.5-acre island, a majority of which is landfill. The New Jersey portion of the island includes the 1901 hospital complex, designed by James Knox Taylor, as well as the laundry building, which has also served as a morgue and nurse’s residence; Ward G, the contagious diseases war; the power plant; and the 1936 Art Deco recreation building, which has a red brick and terracotta exterior and large vaulted theater. Save Ellis Island, Inc. has used grant funds for engineering studies, interpretive plans, internal rehabilitation, and internal and exterior restoration work.

10. $968,000, Franklin Street School, Cape May, Cape May County

This three-story red brick school building opened in September 1928 as an elementary school for African-American children in Cape May. It operated as such for only 20 years, since the new state constitution ratified in 1947 banned segregation. It is part of the Cape May National Landmark Historic District and is a state-designated African-American Historic Site. The Center for Community Arts is leasing the building from the municipality with an eye to turning it into a community arts center. Grants have funded a preservation plan, mold and asbestos removal and building restoration, including structural reinforcement, window repairs, and mechanical and electrical upgrades.

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