SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerset County has invested $717,000 for restoration projects at six historic sites including a vaudeville theater, working blacksmith shop and African-American museum.
County Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh and Freeholder Patrick Scaglione, cultural and heritage liaison, presented ceremonial checks to the recipients of the county’s 2016 Historic Preservation Grants at a recent freeholder meeting. They were joined by county Historic Sites Coordinator Thomas D’Amico.
Grants were presented to:
Pluckemin School House - This two-story, brick school house in Bedminster was constructed in 1912. It was used as a school until 1958. It is noted as a pivotal building in the Pluckemin Historic District National Register Nomination Form. The structure is owned by Bedminster Township. It currently houses the Center for Contemporary Art which conducts art classes, workshops, art exhibitions and art outreach programs for children with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs, as well as workshops for adults affected with cancer.
The $18,850 grant will be used to install new copper gutters and leaders to control water runoff and replace broken roof slate with new.
Kennedy-Martin-Stelle Farmstead – The main block of this Dutch framed house in Bernards Township was constructed prior to the American Revolution. The farmstead also includes a late 18th-century English barn, Dutch framed wagon house, cow shed and ice house. The Rev. Samuel Kennedy was a renowned local minister and educator; Col. Ephraim Martin was a Revolutionary War soldier and New Jersey legislator who was instrumental in securing passage of the Bill of Rights by the legislature; and Oliver Stelle was a successful local farmer.
The Friends of the Kennedy-Martin-Stelle-Farmstead will use the $188,433 grant to restore and stabilize the platform over the dropped stalls in the English barn and restore the cow shed.
Brook Theater - Constructed in 1927 by local developer Alexander Morecraft, the Brook Theater in Bound Brook was designed by noted architect William E. Lehman. Originally the theater seated 1,300 people and was “the hub of a splendid theater district.” It is the last remaining vaudeville theater in Somerset County. The building has been listed on the National and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places.
The Somerset County Cultural Arts Center Inc. received $267,000 for restoration of interior finishes including the ceiling and dome, pilasters and capitals, wall freeze, proscenium, two front grand entranceways and ramp and lobby cornice repairs.
Old Millstone Forge - The Old Millstone Forge in Millstone Borough was constructed circa 1830s. It continues to be used for its original purpose as a blacksmith shop and much of the historic fabric remains intact, including a large collection of valuable blacksmithing artifacts. It has been open to the public since the 1960s.
The Old Millstone Forge Association Inc. will use its $125,000 grant for replacement of the existing cedar shake roof with a new cedar shake roof. This includes replacement of all rafters, purlin and timber top plate.
Stoutsburg-Sourland Mountain African-American Museum - The original Mount Zion AME Church in Montgomery Township was constructed circa 1865 and moved to its current location in 1899. It is a small, one-story wood frame structure. The Sourland Conservancy recently leased the property from the New Jersey Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In cooperation with the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, the structure will be used for an African-American Museum that will interpret African-American history in the region. The property has received a certificate of eligibility from the State Historic Preservation Office.
The Sourland Conservancy will use its $67,688 grant to complete a National Register nomination form as well as a preservation plan and vision plan. Trees and brush will be removed from around the church structure; the small fellowship building is to be removed.
Rocky Hill Borough Hall - The former Rocky Hill School is a brick, two-story, four-classroom, Colonial Revival school house built in 1908 and now used as the Borough Hall. It is considered a pivotal structure in the Rocky Hill Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The borough will use its $50,179 grant to repair and repaint wainscot in the hall and stair to appropriate colors, restore the tin ceiling, restore original wood flooring and remove vinyl flooring from stair treads and restore the steps. Doors will be restored to historically appropriate finish. Newer doors, electrical lighting and HVAC radiators units will be replaced with appropriate materials. The deteriorating vinyl flooring will be removed; the wood floring will also be restored.