Recapping PNJ On Tour – September’s Frenchtown Walking Tour and Reception

October 3, 2021
By Rikki Massand
Carrie Fellows, Mark Texel, and Emily Manz

Preservation New Jersey’s Executive Director Emily Manz led her first in-person PNJ event since beginning in the role at the time of the pandemic’s onset in spring 2020. Our sold-out downtown Frenchtown Walking Tour served up camaraderie and cheer before and after sundown on Saturday, September 25, 2021. The group of 16 tour participants was led by Frenchtown Borough’s official Historian Rick Epstein and the owner of Frenchtown Walking Tours, as PNJ is eager to support local tour guides and companies as future tours are developed.

PNJ Board member and Marketing/Public Relations Committee Chair William Neumann brought his camera along for the ride down from Bergen County. He greeted those gathered with information about membership, events, and the upcoming New Jersey Historic Preservation Awards (October 13) to be held at the 1867 Sanctuary on Scotch Road in Ewing.

Enjoying Rick Epstein’s Frenchtown Walking Tour

Three-and-a-half years after hosting the 2018 annual meeting in Flemington at the Historic Hunterdon County Courthouse, the County was once again an enthusiastic host to Preservation New Jersey, its members and guests. During the post-tour reception — held outdoors on the back patio of the historic National Hotel and its Rathskeller Tavern — Frenchtown’s Mayor and Hunterdon County’s Chief of Staff/Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners Brad Myhre, and Carrie Fellows, executive director of the Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission and director in the County’s Department of Planning & Land Use, joined us for some light fare, announcements and networking. At the National, Fellows was joined by her husband Mark Texel, director in the New Jersey State Park Service’s Division of Parks and Forestry, and a member of the State Historic Sites Council under NJDEP/SHPO. Mayor Myhre welcomed everyone to experience Frenchtown as one of the premier examples of vibrant, historic downtowns you can plan a weekend trip to, along with several others in Hunterdon County as presented on He spoke about annual events in Frenchtown such as Bastille Day in July, the new cultural center ArtYard, and plans for the holiday season in the downtown.

Networking at The National Inn

Richard Giffen, vice chair of the Flemington Borough Historic Preservation Commission, along with his wife Karen Giffen, a member of Flemington’s Planning Board, attended the Tour. Another duo participating “On Tour with PNJ” was Linda and Bob Barth of Somerville, co-founders of the D & R Canal Watch nonprofit and co-authors of “Somerville Through Time.” Linda J. Barth is also the president of the League of Historical Societies of New Jersey, and an acclaimed author of books on the Delaware & Raritan Canal from Arcadia Publishing, as well as such titles including “The Millstone Valley Through Time” and “Bridgetender’s Boy.” Samuel Stephens, Treasurer of the Trent House Association and Bernard McMullan from Mercer Cemetery in Trenton joined us from the state’s capitol. 

Hunterdon County resident Jackie Lubinski, the corresponding secretary, newsletter editor and trustee of the Somerset County Historical Society, also attended the tour and reception, as did preservation activist and Phillipsburg UEZ Board Member Gayle Rogers from neighboring Warren County and Susan Ryan, a member of Cranbury’s Historic Preservation Commission. And Pennington Borough Historic Preservation Commission member — Katrina Homel, also a new member of the Hopewell Valley Historical Society, attended her first Preservation New Jersey event with the Frenchtown walking tour and reception. 

Board Member Billy Neumann & Marketing Cmte Member Rikki Massand Welcome Attendees

Raffle prizes drawn September 25 included two (2) certificates for future dates of Rick Epstein’s other Frenchtown Tours, with a choice offered — his Bad Luck & Poor Choices Tour, the Uptown Frenchtown tour, and two historic cemeteries’ tours. Also raffled off were gift cards for special food & drink venues in historic West Jersey towns — in Hopewell Borough, Ottoburger restaurant and Brick Farm Market as well as two Stangl Road, Flemington hotspots of Factory Fuel Co. coffee lounge, located inside the Stangl clay/pottery kilns, and the new Humdoo Ice Cream parlor a few doors down the street.

Author, content strategist and historic preservation activist Rikki N. Massand serves as Associate Editor of his hometown Montgomery News in Somerset County. He also covers Hunterdon County government, planning and economic development for Flemington’s TAPInto online news and freelances for multiple tristate area ‘newszines.’

Rikki is a regional historian and local advocate in his present municipal government-appointed roles on the Montgomery Township Landmarks Preservation Commission and as township liaison to the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission. He is also experienced in not-for-profit administration and advocacy as office administrator, records manager and bookkeeper for a local United Church of Christ.

Rikki holds master’s degrees from Columbia University and Quinnipiac University. His work has appeared in print titles including China Daily, amNew York, Syosset Advance, AsianWeek and more.