MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – The Morris County Board of County Commissioners was asked tonight to approve $2.65 million in grants from the county’s Preservation Trust Fund to help restore, preserve and further protect 27 historic sites in 17 towns across Morris County.
Most of the funding recommended by the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund Review Board, about 76 percent, is directed toward construction grants for 13 of the projects. The rest aims to assist four historic sites with preservation planning, nine sites with design and spec work for future construction, and one recommended grant would help to acquire a historic property.
“We’ll be taking action on these recommendations at our July 14 meeting,” said Commissioner Director Stephen H. Shaw, thanking the Review Board for their work on assessing the historic sites for grant recommendations over the past year.
“And I always like to remind everybody that, while the Commissioners get the credit, ultimately it’s the taxpayers who support these initiatives through our open space tax and they have overwhelming supported that over the years,” Shaw added. “And that’s part of what makes Morris County so special.
The grant recommendations range as low as $8,900 sought by the Chester Historical Society Project to complete construction documents needed for restoring Chester’s 1868 Rockefeller Center, and as high as $279,410 sought by Mendham Borough for restoration, stabilization and structural reports to the Phoenix House, a Federal style building built circa 1820.
Morris County has approved 454 grants of more than $40.6 million to assist in the preservation, protection and restoration of 113 historical properties since 2003, when grants were first issued for protecting historic sites through Morris County’s Preservation Trust Fund. The sites are located in 34 towns around Morris County.
“Eighteen of the 27 projects received full funding requested for the projects,” said Larry Fast, Chair of the Review Board, adding that sponsors of different historic sites often file for new grants year after year to cover costs incurred for different phases of a preservation effort, from planning a restoration to actually completing the work.
Since June 2020, work involving 21 grants was completed, said Fast, including an exterior rehabilitation project at the Smith-Baldwin House in Parsippany-Troy Hills and the first phase of an exterior restoration project at the Seward House in Mt. Olive. (photo left)
“I’d like to thank the board for a lot of hard work. We had 27 projects that had to be reviewed this year for $2.6 million in funding that was available. We have a tremendous board,” said Joseph Barilla, Morris County Director of Planning and Preservation, noting the board continued to work through the pandemic.
The Review Board initially received 29 applications amounting to $3.8 million in grant requests that were initially reviewed for their conformance to the U.S. Secretary of Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties,” which promote historic preservation best practices. Remote site visits were conducted by the board via Webex conferencing and reviewing videos of each site.
After a final presentation was made by the grant applicants, the Review Board deliberated on the funding recommendations.
Among the projects recommended for approval by the Commissioners are:
Chester’s Rockefeller Center, Chester Borough: The 1868 building represents Chester’s socio-economic history, having had various early uses as a barbershop, gravestones shop, post office, cattle and horse office, gift and antiques store and bicycle shop. It has since served as an information center.
The building received a New Jersey Certificate of Eligibility this year, which is issued by the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Officer to allow sponsors of a site targeted for preservation to apply for funds from the New Jersey Historic Trust, as well as county preservation funding programs. The grant sought from Morris County will assist with completion of Construction Documents related to exterior and interior restoration.
Hopatcong State Park Fountain, Roxbury Township: The Hopatcong State Park Fountain was built in 1925 as part of the abandonment of the Morris Canal. Designed by Cornelius C. Vermeule, Jr., the fountain was used to settle thorny legal issues concerning the flow rate of water from Lake Hopatcong to the Musconetcong River.
The recommended grant will provide funds for completion of construction documents related to exterior restoration, repair of plumbing system, and addressing the hydrology and filtration of water from Lake Hopatcong to the fountain.