PARAMUS, NJ — An architect retained by the manager of a historic borough home – one of Paramus’ last ties to black history – told the Planning Board Thursday evening that the dilapidated Jersey Dutch house, which dates back to the mid-19th Century, could not be “easily restored to its true glory.”
For the past month, the planning board has been hearing a request by applicant, 113-117 West Midland Avenue LLC, for a demolition permit concerning the site of the 170-year-old Van Dien-Ruffgarten House, located at 117 West Midland Avenue which sits in a Historic Preservation Zone in the borough.
On Thursday, the board heard testimony from Charles Baldanza, an architect with Baldanza Build + Design and a Paramus resident of more than two decades, on his two-hour stay at the home, providing a thorough investigation of its status. Baldanza was retained by Bill Twomey, the applicant’s manager, to investigate.
“I strongly disagree with the conclusion that this house is intact and can be easily restored to its true glory,” said Baldanza to the board.
Looking at the western end of the home at the oldest portion of the building at a structure entitled the “mud house,” Baldanza said the wall, which is 11 feet from Midland Avenue, is in “imminent danger of collapse.” He said the stone rubble is covered with a strapping that was put in place by a contractor that Twomey hired in response to a complaint he received from the borough’s quality of life officer.
“When this house was built back in the 1840s, Midland Avenue, if it existed at all, was a little country lane or a carriage way,” said Baldanza to the board. “Now, unfortunately, Midland Avenue has become a major thoroughfare to county roads and I feel that the vibration from the traffic is the major cause that has led to the deterioration of this wall. The wall is bulging significantly outward. It is structurally unsound. Pedestrians pass by every day down the sidewalk and I think it’s a safety concern.”
Baldanza explained that attempting to repair and restore such Jersey Dutch houses would be difficult considering that the home was made with low-grade materials and that bolstering the repair with steel would “bastardize the historical integrity” and yield more of replica of the original home than a restoration to its former state.
“If you’re looking at a structure and you’re saying ‘is it worth preserving or does it have historical value, you have to look at how much is still left,” Baldanza said, pointing to stucco that was added in the early 20th Century and the asphalt shingle roof.
“This house is in very rough shape. There’s the beaverboard, the plaster, everything is just cracking and falling down,” he said. “It would take a lot to restore it to any kind of usable condition.”
A historian will appear at the planning board’s March 5 meeting to provide rebuttal testimony on the home’s historic credentials, Planning Board Chairman Peter Caminiti Sr., said.