Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Hanrahan

Billy Neumann, Director, PNJ Board 
July 13, 2020

Architect Michael Hanrahan is unabashedly a Jersey Guy.   

Growing up in Hanover Township, Cedar Knolls and Whippany (Morris Cty,) Michael Hanrahan always found time to express his artistic talents by drawing buildings. His parents, as well as his high school art and architecture teachers encouraged his exploration of science and math along with art. Michael realized early in life that he was not destined to be the NY Yankees’ third baseman. So Michael decided to pursue architecture and to attend the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark (NJIT.) With the assistance of Professors Sandy Moore and Mark Hewitt’s critiques, Michael doubled tracked a Bachelor degree in Architecture along with a Master of Science at the same time.  

Before the internet, the NJIT architecture library was an intense haunt for Michael. He would camp out and research projects he admired. He carefully curated copies of the projects by the architectural firms whose work he respected. When he graduated he found that four of his favorites were hiring. After applying to all four firms, he was asked to join Clarke Caton Hintz (CCH.) After a brief internship, 24 years of an outstanding career in architecture and historic preservation stretched out from within the same firm. He is now a partner at CCH. 

Like so many Jersey Guys, Michael has no problem getting involved. In 1999, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture (AIANJ) approached Clarke Caton Hintz to become more involved. Michael took up the charge by first working at the Section level to increase AIA membership and he enjoyed the organization’s well regarded camaraderie. In 2011, he was elected as AIA New Jersey President just as the nation was shaking off the Great Recession. But Michael just recognized it as “a challenging time” for everyone. After his Presidency and terming off the Executive Committee, Michael was eventually elected to serve on the AIA National Strategic Council, a “think tank” advising on emerging architectural issues to the National Board of Directors. 

Fortunately for the preservation community, Michael still wanted to increase his involvement in New Jersey and was “looking for more to do.”  Because of the diverse portfolio of Clarke Caton Hintz’s work throughout NJ and the region, Michael believes he “wound up getting involved in things I never imagined I would have!” He was creating an architecture career that served wide ranging projects in preservation and adaptive reuse. Membership in Preservation New Jersey seemed like a perfect fit.

Hinchliffe Stadium rededication August 29th, 2017 Paterson, NJ

As a longstanding member of Preservation New Jersey, Michael realized that “there weren’t a lot of differences between AIA and PNJ.” Many of the same issues he tackled everyday in the reuse and preservation of historic properties, and that he had advocated for in AIA NJ, were being expressed through Preservation New Jersey. Shortly after his business partner John Hatch was concluding his term as PNJ President, Michael expressed his confidence in the organization and committed to become a Board member, ultimately serving as the organization’s President. 

Through his work, Michael became “particularly passionate with New Jersey’s Historic Property Reinvestment Tax Credit.” and believed that this long sought after tool would be the perfect complement to the federal program.  Michael has been lobbying for the State tax credit for over a decade, with the current draft of the state legislation, with the Governor’s stated New Jersey priorities, currently being discussed.  Michael believes that NJ Governor Murphy supports its passage but the legislation “is a little bit on the back burner because of the Covid-19 crisis.” It has “had a lot of traction but it is packaged with four other bills. It is the least controversial” among the others and he expects that once the New Jersey Legislators can get past the health crisis and sort out the peculiarities of the other four bills it hopefully, will finally pass. 

Lambert Castle

Resulting from Michael’s closeness to the legislation and involvement with AIANJ, he was appointed to the Governor’s Committee for Restart and Recovery and advocates for the tax credit program as a means to enhance the state’s recovery.  Recent development trends such as reuse of older building stock, working from home and employing smaller office space exposed with the start of the current health crisis, now have seemed to accelerate the need to reexamine the need to adapt the use of historic properties. Michael points out that “every community has a building or two that this program can become a strong tool to help promote the revitalization of.” The program would also be a smart incentive to help re-adapt historic properties for use as multi-family and affordable housing. 

Two of the current projects Michael is involved with are situated in Passaic County. They include the 21 month, multi-phase restoration of the iconic Lambert Castle and just a few miles away, is the rehabilitation and expansion of 1932 Hinchliffe Stadium in the City of Paterson. This sacred sports structure housed the Negro League’s NY Black Yankees is listed on the National and NJ State Registers of Historic Places, is a National Historic Landmark, and also part of the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park and commands world-wide attention. For Michael, it also somewhat satisfies a bit of his enthusiasm for sports, being a lifelong New York Yankees and New York Jets fan. 

Thinking about relating his career experience to someone interested in the architecture and historic preservation, Michael Hanrahan personally reflects on how he always gravitated to providing solutions for existing structures. He likens the intimidation he sometimes encountered when he first viewed an unimproved property waiting for a new building to be built on it. He believes it is the same feeling an author must face starting a novel with a blank piece of paper. In Historic Preservation, the design challenges always involve a bit more of a problem solving aspect. Bringing a historic asset up to code and installing (hiding!) all the modern systems while respecting its cultural and architectural significance has always been a more satisfying reward for him. He believes one of the greatest compliments he could receive is being asked “so what did you do here?” 

William “Billy” Neumann is a Preservation New Jersey Board of Director and chairs the Marketing Committee. He is the current Chairperson of Bergen County’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board and led Rutherford’s HPC for five years. He has authored two local history books, several National Register nominations and presents talks, walks and demonstrations on history, historic preservation, commercial photography and beekeeping.