Hunterdon County’s CHPP Grant Recipients Help Build Community Spirit and a Sense of Place
By Rikki Massand, MS/CHP
On their meeting on Tuesday February 7, 2023, the Hunterdon County Board of County Commissioners received enthusiastic updates about projects local nonprofits and historic sites have going on.
The board heard from its County History Partnership Program (CHPP) re-grantees including the 1759 Vought House represented by Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission (HCC&HC) member Don Sherblom; the historic Prallsville Mills complex on the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park side of the Delaware River, the Musconetcong Watershed Association, Readington Museums’ Bouman-Stickney Farmstead, the Lambertville Historical Society and the Hunterdon County Historical Society.
Natalie Zaman, executive director of the HCC&HC, explained that every three years, Cultural & Heritage staff applies to the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC), a division of the NJ Department of State, for this competitive regrant funding opportunity.
The County History Partnership Program was created by the NJHC in 2015 to support sustaining and emerging local history organizations, other eligible nonprofits and municipalities “providing history projects, programs and services to benefit diverse public audiences.” The County Cultural & Heritage Commission is the officially designated agency in Hunterdon to apply for and receive CHPP grant funding.
Hunterdon County Commissioner Board Deputy Director Jeff Kuhl, the former mayor of Raritan Township and an 8th generation County resident, explained, “These important grant funds are essential to our local nonprofits and municipalities in their ongoing efforts aimed at historical preservation and educational outreach.” Deputy Director Kuhl serves as the County Board liaison to the Department of Planning and Land Use. He added, “As a lifelong Hunterdon County resident, I want to ensure that we preserve our historic sites and keep them vibrant for future generations of County residents and visitors.”
The Cultural & Heritage Commission received $45,000 in CHPP funding from the NJHC, $5,000 of which covers the cost of administering the grant. The six nonprofit organizations will share the remaining $40,000. CHPP grant funds are awarded to eligible organizations based in the county, for programs and services offered in the county, through a formal and competitive grant application and independent review panel process.
“We are proud to support these organizations and really grateful for the opportunity to recognize them and the work they do,” Zaman explained.
From the Delaware River Mill Society, the nonprofit that preserves and operates the 10 acres and 10-building Prallsville Mill complex in the historic Borough of Stockton, Executive Director Beth Japchen commented that CHPP grant support will help preserve, maintain and keep the Prallsville Mills historic buildings “open for the public and for community use.”
Dave Harding, administrator of the Hunterdon County Historical Society, thanked Hunterdon County’s governing body and Cultural & Heritage Commission for the support received through 2023 CHPP regrant funding. The Society operates the Hiram Deats Memorial Library and its headquarters, the Doric House, on Flemington’s historic Main Street as well as its archive building on nearby River Road (Raritan Township). HCHS has three part-time staff members with many volunteers managing a tremendous collection of documents, books, objects, and old photographs.
CHPP regrant funding allows the Society to continue its mission “to protect the collections we have, for many generations ahead,” Harding said.
“Two things we are really excited about having come into our possession – one is the Asher Stryker photo collection of over 1,200 glass plate negatives, taken by store owner Stryker in Flemington, taken between approximately 1906 to 1918. We are processing that collection, and will digitize everything to put out,” Harding advised.
Second, in January, the Society received a painting by William Bonnell. Harding noted, “The person who donated this to us reached out to the National Gallery of Art. They did not have room to display it so they actually recommended Hunterdon County Historical Society as a home for the painting.”
On Sunday March 19, 2023, the Society will hold its Spring Meeting at the Flemington Presbyterian Church at 2:00 pm. Former architectural historian Robert W. Craig who retired from the State of New Jersey Historic Preservation Office a few years ago will share a presentation about the origins of Hunterdon County’s built environment, titled “They Will Build It If You Come.”
Bob Craig will draw on more than two decades of extensive research and his experience with NJ HPO. In 2018 Craig completed a multi-year study of New Jersey’s patterned brickwork buildings for which he received the Paul E. Buchanan Award from the Vernacular Architecture Forum.
The March 19th Hunterdon County Historical Society Spring Meeting is free and open to the public.
Presenting on his nonprofit group’s Asbury Mill Restoration project, Thomas G. Dallessio, executive director of the Musconetcong Watershed Association, told the Hunterdon County Commissioners CHPP regrant funds will allow the organization to complete its oral history project titled, “River Voices.”
“It will span interviews and memories of diverse individuals with historic and cultural connections to the Musconetcong National Wild and Scenic River and the Highlands region,” he noted.
This living history project will showcase changes in human uses of the Musconetcong River over time, presenting Asbury, NJ at the Hunterdon/Warren border as a symbol of change from Native Americans’ usage, to industry, agriculture and recreation.
“Visitors will be able to access the history of this area through a QR code on an interpretive sign, and oral histories will be available on the MWA website and incorporated into the Asbury Mill Interpretative Center – the National Register-listed Grist Mill being a historic structure within the historic district – and we have artifacts from 13,000 years ago. We plan on putting together a video production of short clips, encouraging people to come into Bethlehem Township and Franklin Township to see our Mill and new park and witness history in the making” Dallessio said.
Regina Hoag, grants coordinator for the Lambertville Historical Society, noted their Vision Statement adopted in 2022: “Enriching the Present by Engaging Our Past”. LHS will utilize CHPP funds to offset costs of its 2023 goals, with one major initiative being the development of Spanish language brochures which can aid in the tourism and visitor-readiness of the city formerly known as Coryell’s Ferry.
“Since 1996 our Society has presented the Alice Narducci Award for Excellence in Architectural Preservation or Restoration to 52 owners of buildings in the city’s historic district, and we have issued over 190 historical markers for residences, commercial and municipal buildings in Lambertville. In 2021 LHS encouraged the City of Lambertville to purchase the 1756 residence, A.H. Holcombe House, which served as General Washington’s headquarters twice during the Revolutionary War (the Holcombe House is an HMR Architects’ project),” Hoag explained.
She also commented on the James Wilson Marshall House museum, LHS’ headquarters on Bridge Street in Hunterdon’s only designated city. For Sunday walking tours of Lambertville, LHS has attendees gather at the Marshall House.
LHS is developing interpretive materials at the Marshall House – both print materials and audio guides. The accessibility to the house museum on Bridge Street will be improved with large print materials, as well as audio guides for period rooms and special exhibits.
“The house was built in 1816 by Marshall’s father and since 1968 it has been owned by the State of NJ, who leases the house to the Society. We host exhibits, guided walks, and lectures at the Marshall House. For 2023 we plan to increase its house museum hours,” Hoag said.
The President of the 1759 Vought House, Don Sherblom, delivered brochures at the County Commissioners’ meeting. He explained how 2023 CHPP regrant funds will be used to restore the historic structure to look as it did during the Revolutionary War period. The Vought House nonprofit took possession of the house in 2012 from the Clinton Township School District, saving significant taxpayer dollars for its upkeep.
Hunterdon County is gearing up for the U.S. Semiquincentennial (250th) in 2026, and among the region’s historians the 1759 Vought House has been mentioned as a high-potential tourist destination.
“It is Hunterdon County’s most significant Revolutionary-era site because it matches all four criteria that are needed to be Registered as such in the State of New Jersey – though it’s a Loyalist House!” Sherblom said with a smile.
The Vought House is situated at the entrance to Clinton Township Middle School in the northern Hunterdon County municipality, Clinton Township (exit 17 off I-78 westbound). It is a stone house built and owned by a Loyalist family – Christopher and his son, John Vought – who both fought in uniform alongside the British in the Revolutionary War. Since the Voughts rode off and joined the British in 1776, in 1778-79 their house was confiscated by the local patriot forces and the family wound up in upstate New York.
“After the War the Voughts were relocated by the British to Nova Scotia. They came back to the U.S. to upstate New York. An 8th generation descendant of Christopher Vought has attended and participated in our projects,” Don said.
The house was constructed on 285 acres of farmland near the Union Iron Works, which once encompassed over 10,000 acres in the New Jersey hills. In 1770, Christopher Vought purchased an additional 203 acres of farmland to expand the property.
Director Margaret Smith, who was joined by Readington Museums Vice Chair Sheila Paciullo and Readington Township Committee member Vincent Panico, discussed the hands-on experiences, arts performances and demonstrations that take place at the Museums’ four historic sites: the Bouman-Stickney Farmstead, a 1741 Dutch Bank House, the Eversole-Hall House (circa 1753), Cold Brook School (built in 1828) and Taylor’s Mill, a stone gristmill, circa 1760.
On the afternoon of Saturday, April 15, 2023, Readington Museums will host an ensemble of Music through History with Ed Jankiewicz and the Holland Brook Hillbillies inside the Bouman-Stickney Farmstead’s Wade-Wyckoff Barn.
Jankiewicz’s sounds will present a chronological musical journey through the development of the Popular Song from Early America through today beginning with sheet music to radio and recording studios to the New Media of the Internet Age.
The Holland Brook Hillbillies, composed of brothers Dan and Mike Allen will follow with old-time guitar and banjo, playing a rollicking mix of folk, blues, and bluegrass tunes throughout the past century. Dan and Mike are brothers from Readington Township. Dan is a local organic farmer (@mistyacresfarm) and high school teacher, while Mike is a farmer and bird enthusiast who works for Rutgers University as an ornithologist/ecologist.
The April 15th program is free, but donations are appreciated. The GPS location is 114 Dreahook Road, Lebanon NJ. Reservations are *HIGHLY RECOMMENDED* to secure a seat in the barn. Please register online using the event link at www.readingtonmuseums.org. Guests can also contact the museum by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 908-236-2327.
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 The Hunterdon Review newspaper and freelances for multiple tristate area ‘newszines.’
Massand 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. We are proud to announce he was recently appointed as an Advisory member of the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission.
Massand 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.