SOMERVILLE, NJ – Longtime residents, local historians and others concerned with the future path of the borough’s redevelopment will take a stroll along Main Street Sunday afternoon, Feb. 25 to look skyward and gaze at what’s above their heads.
“Second Story Somerville” a guided tour led by historian Bill Lawton, will look above the ground floor storefronts and focus on the architectural features of the upper floors that retain the charm and history of the borough’s Main Street buildings, some of which are over 100 years old.
“We formed the Somerville Historic Roundtable to educate ourselves and neighbors about the historic value of buildings and structures in Somerville,” explained Bob Barth. He and his wife, Linda, a local history book author are two of the tour organizers.
“We’re starting off with this tour of downtown Somerville to look at architecture that goes back over 100 years in some cases and at what’s changed over the past 20 years,” he added.
The free tour begins at 2 p.m. where the Division Street pedestrian mall meets West Main Street. People may come and go as they choose; the Barths say the tour should last at least two hours.
‘Ville TV will be running videos Sundays at 7 p.m. filmed during the borough’s 2009 centennial celebration to see how much of the downtown profile has changed over the past 10 years, according to the Barths.
“We’re a little afraid we’re going to lose some of our history because of rapid development,” Linda Barth said. “We don’t want to erase our history.”
Some building owners are sensitive to preserving the past when it comes to renovations, according to Linda Barth.
One of the buildings that will highlight the walking tour is at 15 W. Main St. Building owner Greg Storm has gutted the interior, but he has maintained the integrity of the brick building’s exterior.
His is an example of how all renovations along Main Street should proceed, according to the Barths.
“We should conserve what we have,” Linda Barth said.
The Barths are also concerned with a proposal for a 5-story apartment building proposed for a site next to Mannion’s Pub & Restaurant at 150 W. Main St.
The borough’s Planning Board is expected to discuss the application filed by Edgemere Properties at its meeting Wednesday night Feb. 28.
Developer Jack Morris, who is the builder of the five-story Edge at Main luxury apartments across the street from the proposed building has proposed demolishing two buildings adjacent to Mannion’s to construct the new apartment building.
“You look at the street scape with Mannion’s three-story building; now there is the possibility of a five-story building, that will overwhelm the rest of the street,” Linda Barth said.
“We don’t do enough to preserve the look of Somerville,” her husband said.
“Our main concern is to educate the public as to what we have, what we have left and how we can make sure it stays here; there’s no reason why you can’t save the facade of a historic building,” Linda Barth said.
The tour will pause at several buildings on East and West Main Street for discussion, from the historic Somerset County Courthouse at the eastern side of the borough to the Warehouse Apartments on the western end. The renovated building was formerly a woolen mill.
For additional information email Barthlinda123@aol.com or call 908-240-0488
The tour is co-sponsored by the Somerville History Roundtable and the Heritage Trail Association.