TRENTON, NJ – In recognition of National Preservation Month, Preservation New Jersey (PNJ) announced its annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey at a press conference at the State House Annex at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, May 17th 2022. PNJ was joined by the advocates for this year’s endangered historic places to support New Jersey’s threatened cultural and architectural heritage.
The 10 Most Endangered Historic Places program spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archeological resources in New Jersey 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 historic resources statewide. The list, generated from nominations by the public, aims to attract new perspectives and ideas to sites in desperate need of creative solutions.
Selections to the 10 Most Endangered list are based on three criteria:
- historic significance and architectural integrity,
- the critical nature of the threat identified, and
- the likelihood that inclusion on the list will have a positive impact on efforts to protect the resource
Several challenges face properties on this year’s endangered sites list, including neglect and deferred maintenance, threats incurred by redevelopment and new construction, difficulties raising adequate historic preservation funding, and the need for creative adaptive reuse proposals. This year, in addition to individual sites, we list two categories; places associated with New Jersey’s underrepresented histories, and twenty-five years after its first listing in the ‘10 Most,’ cemeteries.
Although PNJ’s 10 Most Endangered Places list is published once per year, the fight for the preservation of our historic and cultural resources takes place in communities around our state on a daily basis. At Preservation, New Jersey, our educational programming and advocacy efforts continue year-round. Many properties previously listed among the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places have once again become assets to New Jersey’s communities. Others continue to need more attention, resources, and care. A first-of-its-kind, comprehensive research project is underway to update PNJ’s 10 Most Endangered Places listings, as well as contact information for all the 200+ places, so that we can better understand and share these stories.
We are fortunate that this year’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places Program is supported by the following sponsors: HMR Architects, Kreilick Conservation, Architectural Window Corporation, Jablonski Building Conservation, Inc., and Mills + Schnoering Architects.
The 2022 Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in NJ are:
Anchor Café, Perth Amboy, Middlesex County
- The Anchor Café is a 3-story brick and terra cotta structure with a steep slate roof and dormers built in 1905. A round tower with a conical roof gives it a commanding presence on the streetscape. The building is dripping with architectural terra cotta in the form of keystones, brackets, window molding, roof cresting and a large terra cotta plaque depicting an anchor. Perth Amboy was the center of a thriving terra cotta industry, and the city has an unusually dense concentration of buildings designed with architectural terra cotta. Storefronts, schools, municipal buildings, and private homes sport decorations made from carved and molded terra cotta. Perth Amboy’s immigrant population worked in the terra cotta factories and produced the very products that adorned their community. The Anchor Café embodies the unique terra cotta architecture of Perth Amboy. These architectural details survive on the good will of their owners and with little oversight. Their preservation is threatened. Preservation New Jersey strongly encourages special municipal recognition of the terra cotta buildings and the special story that they tell about Perth Amboy.
Caldwell Public Library, Borough of Caldwell, Essex County
- The Caldwell Public Library is a 1917 Classical Revival Carnegie library, designed by architect and Caldwell resident Lynn Grover Lockward. It is one of four Carnegie libraries in Essex County still in its original building. The Library is a 1 story, 3 bay brick building, and is distinguished by its temple-like austerity and diminutive size. The civic and formal appearance is reinforced by decoration derived from classical elements, including tri-partite vertical division with a projecting central bay, round arched multi-paned windows and a frieze parapet. The Borough is planning to demolish the Caldwell Public Library and redevelop the area as part of a Municipal Complex to include Borough Hall, the police department, a community center, and a health and human services facility. It is special for a town to have a Carnegie Library. The Library and its ability to tell the story of Caldwell and the legacy of Andrew Carnegie to future generations is irreplaceable. The building can be adaptively reused or at minimum the façade can be preserved and incorporated into the plans for the new building. Preservation New Jersey urges the Borough of Caldwell to reconsider their plans for demolition and adopt a policy of adaptive reuse for this landmark building.
- Cemeteries are important repositories of history and culture, in addition to memorializing the deaths of individual people. Cemeteries associated with historic events such as the Civil War can be pathways into historic records. Sometimes cemeteries contain genealogical records otherwise not available prior to routinization of vital records reporting in the early 20th century. Lack of maintenance and the abandonment of cemeteries threaten these important historic resources. In New Jersey, major causes of cemetery decline include ethnic population movement, dissolution of congregations associated with religious cemeteries, government policies that explicitly promote cemetery desecration, and prioritization of development. The impact of decline and abandonment on New Jersey cemeteries can be significantly reduced by changes in the New Jersey cemetery laws as follows:
- The New Jersey Cemetery Act currently focuses only on privately owned cemetery companies and exempts religious cemeteries from its provisions. Religious cemeteries are not required to have trust funds to ensure maintenance and upkeep, to register with the cemetery board, or comply with other provisions that facilitate preservation.
- The New Jersey Abandoned Cemetery Maintenance and Preservation Act’s definition of abandoned cemeteries excludes religious and publicly owned cemeteries, requires no more than 10% of burials to have occurred after 1880, and is limited to cemeteries that are less than 10 acres.
It has been twenty-five years since Preservation New Jersey first declared cemeteries were one of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey. Now with 10 Most nominations in 2022 of cemeteries including Johnsons Cemetery (Camden), Dutch Reformed Church Graveyard (Belleville), Reton Cemetery (Fort Lee) and Doremus Cedar Grove Farm Burial Ground/ Canfield Cemetery (Cedar Grove) – Preservation New Jersey reiterates the urgency with which New Jersey state law must be changed to save these keys to our individual and statewide histories.
Roebling Prestretcher Equipment & Buildings (Bldg 92 & 93) Florence Township, Burlington County
- The Roebling wire rope prestretcher and its buildings are the last remaining industrial structures from the John A. Roebling’s Sons steel and wire mill, which operated in Roebling, NJ from 1905 to 1974. The company pioneered suspension bridge construction. The prestretcher is significant as an artifact of Roebling engineering, New Jersey industrial history and the history of bridge building and civil engineering. The Roebling Museum interprets this history. The mill property was named a Superfund site in 1983. The EPA has demolished nearly every building on the property and now seeks to demolish Buildings 92 & 93 that house and provide the original context for the prestretcher. Under Section 106, EPA is required to consider the effect of its actions on historic properties. In 2004 EPA designated the prestretcher and Buildings 92 & 93 as historic and emphasized the significance of the prestretcher’s location and the spatial relation of the two 90-year-old buildings. The EPA now argues that demolishing the two buildings and moving the equipment to a new building on the property will be most cost effective. The NJ State Historic Preservation Office has suggested alternative preservation approaches to the EPA, but the agency remains unmoved. Section 106 only requires consultation with NJHPO and interested parties before it makes its final decision. Preservation New Jersey urges the EPA to allow for the prestretcher and Buildings 92 & 93 to remain on-site so future generations can view this industrial feat in its original context.
The Sandlass House, Highlands, Monmouth County
- The Sandlass House, located at the entrance to the Sandy Hook Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area, is the only surviving building of a once extensive resort complex built as part of Sandy Hook’s Golden Age. Built in 1893, the House was part of the Highland Beach excursion resort which served as a community hub from 1888-1961. It opened its doors during the emergence of increased leisure time for the middle class and served over 125,000 visitors a season at the turn of the century. The State of New Jersey owns the house with an agreement that allows the National Park Service to manage the property. The house is now under imminent threat of roof collapse due to lack of repairs and maintenance. In 2021, a petition was delivered to the National Park Service with 1,800 signatures that requested the historical significance of the house to New Jersey transportation history be recognized, and the Sandlass House be put into the new Sandy Hook NPS leasing program as an Airbnb. Preservation New Jersey supports these actions which would allow an interested entrepreneur to evaluate the house, make a roof repair, and renovate the building.
The Stockton Inn, Borough of Stockton, Hunterdon County
- The Stockton Inn sits near the site of taverns dating back to the 18th century. The Colligan family operated the Inn for several decades beginning in 1915 and it became a well-known establishment popular with creative locals and visitors for the next 80 years. A patio with a waterfall and wishing well was added in the 1930s, which inspired the lyrics for “There’s a Small Hotel,” a Great American Songbook hit. In 2015 it was acquired by an investor who tried to reinvent the Inn as a high-end restaurant, but it closed in 2017 and has since been vacant. In 2020, a developer made plans to redevelop the property with a 780-seat outdoor concert venue, additional hotel rooms and a health spa. The project met local opposition due to the scale, traffic, parking, and noise concerns. The developer asked the Borough to designate the property as an area in need of redevelopment, however, the project was withdrawn in 2021 and the designation was not enacted. Today the Inn sits vacant and deteriorating with weather-related roof damage. The extended closure of this landmark has created a “dead zone” in the center of the active downtown. Preservation New Jersey supports adaptive reuse or if needed, sensitive redevelopment of the site that allows for preservation of the much-loved Inn and respects the character of downtown.
St. Peter’s Grammar School, Jersey City, Hudson County
- St. Peter’s Parish School was built in 1861 as Jersey City’s first parochial school. In 1898, St. Peter’s Hall was constructed abutting the building. The buildings, together known as the School, function as one building. Constructed with Romanesque Revival and Italianate elements, the School boasts terra cotta ornamentation, corbeled brick arches, brownstone trim, and a cupola. The School operated for over 150 years, serving generations of immigrants. Latino and Filipino immigrants became a large portion of the School’s students starting in the mid-20th century and St. Peter’s Church was the first Catholic Church in Hudson County to offer services in Spanish. The School was also used for community and political events. Woodrow Wilson launched his gubernatorial campaign in St. Peter’s Hall. The School was purchased by St. Peter’s Preparatory School (“Prep”) in 2002. Since then, the School has been mostly vacant and falling into a state of disrepair. In 2019, Prep applied to the Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission to demolish the School and replace it with a parking lot. The application was unanimously denied, but Prep is currently appealing the denial. The School is located in Downtown Jersey City’s historic Paulus Hook neighborhood, which has experienced significant development of high-rise buildings. The School is one of the few non-residential Civil War era buildings still surviving in Downtown. Given its architectural and historical significance, and location in a historically significant neighborhood, Preservation New Jersey opposes the demolition of the School and supports its adaptive reuse.
Underrepresented Histories, Statewide
- Though one of the most diverse states in the nation, New Jersey has a long way to go in identifying and preserving historic sites that reflect that diversity. When historic sites associated with underrepresented communities are not identified, they face erasure. When sites are identified, we can fight for the stories, and ideally, the physical structures to be preserved. Just this year, Rutgers-Newark announced the addition of the former site of The Plane Street Colored Church to the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Network with the extensive research by historian Noelle Lorraine Williams into the black abolitionist movement. In Cape May, a state grant will help the Historic Preservation Commission conduct more targeted research into African American history after the opening of the Harriet Tubman Museum. New Jersey needs more funded research including local, county, and statewide context studies that match themes with specific sites, and at the same time, begin to break down the barriers that prevent sites from being listed on local, state, and national registers. Preservation New Jersey urges municipalities, counties, and statewide bodies to apply for and develop resources to identify sites that tell underrepresented stories and push forward the national conversation around retooling the criteria and process for historic designation.
First United Methodist Church, Bradley Beach, Monmouth County
- The First United Methodist Church is a Queen Anne style masterpiece in the heart of Bradley Beach. The interior boasts magnificent woodwork, stained glass windows, and the original Jardine pipe organ. The building is also significant to the town’s history. According to a 1900 article in the Asbury Park Press, its construction was made possible by a donation from the town’s namesake, James A. Bradley, to the Bradley Beach Methodists. After sitting unoccupied for six years, the Friends of Bradley Beach Community Center organized a petition with over 500 residents and successfully urged the Borough to purchase and save the vacant church. The hope was to use the church as the Borough’s new community center. Now, years later, the Borough is deciding on whether to convert it into a community center or sell it to a private developer which could spell demolition for new construction. On March 1, 2022, at a Town Hall meeting, architects retained by the Borough of Bradley Beach presented residents with three proposals for turning the Church into a community center and were met with objections from some residents and elected officials concerned with cost. It is likely to be decided by referendum later this year. Preservation New Jersey supports the view of The Friends of Bradley Beach Community Center who continue to advocate for its repurposing as a community center.
USS Ling, Hackensack, Bergen County
- The USS Ling is a U.S. Navy Balao class submarine and one of five built near the end of World War II still surviving. It came into service in 1945. With the end of World War II, it was decommissioned a few months later and became part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet until 1960. It was then used as a training submarine at the Brooklyn Navy Yard until 1971. In 1972, the USS Ling was transferred to the Submarine Memorial Association, a non-profit established to save it from being sold as scrap and to interpret its historical significance. The submarine was operated as a museum and listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding along the banks of the Hackensack River, severely damaging the museum. This, combined with silt buildup on the River, resulted in full closure of the museum and submarine by 2016, and deferred maintenance. In 2018 an inspection found that the USS Ling had sprung a leak which caused significant water damage. The submarine requires a full overhaul with significant costs. As one of only five remaining submarines of its class, and the only one in New Jersey, Preservation New Jersey calls attention to the need for the stabilization and restoration of the submarine for its ability to connect future generations to military history of the 20th century.
Founded in 1978, Preservation New Jersey is a statewide nonprofit organization that promotes the economic vitality, sustainability, and heritage of New Jersey’s diverse communities through advocacy and education. Preservation New Jersey produces this annual list of New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in addition to other advocacy programs; provides educational workshops; publishes an interactive website; serves as a resource for technical assistance and general advice for the public; and addresses legislation and public policies that impact New Jersey’s historic places and communities.
Visit Preservation New Jersey’s website at www.pnj10most.org for more information regarding the organization and the 10 Most Endangered program. For details about national Preservation Month, visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website at www.preservationnation.org.