SOMERVILLE NJ – The Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission is in the second phase of a restoration project to clean and repair the original stained-glass and lead-glass windows in the former First Dutch Reformed Church, located at 20 North Bridge St.
The church, which was built in 1897 in the English gothic style, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of Historic Places as part of the Somerset County Court House Green.
The building has served as the Somerset County Courthouse jury assembly room since 1985.
“Many of the beautiful windows in this church were designed by gifted artisans more than 120 years ago. One of the windows was donated by the architect and two of the stained-glass windows were created by internationally renowned Louis C. Tiffany,” said Freeholder Brian G. Gallagher, Cultural & Heritage Commission liaison. “As far as we can tell, it’s been at least 60 years since these windows were cleaned and many of them are in dire need of repair. We knew that we had to address the situation, or we could have lost these pieces of art altogether.”
The restoration project is being completed in stages. During the first phase, which was completed in 2016, ten pairs of stained-glass windows on the first level were refurbished. The cost was $146,015. Funding for the project comes from the Somerset County Historic Preservation Grant Program, part of the Somerset County Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
In phase two, the leaded (clear) glass windows in five of the church doors were cleaned and restored, a total of thirty windows in all. More recently, a second-story stained-glass window located on the west side of the church was taken down by the general contractor, HAHR Construction, and sent off to be restored by Leo Milkhiker of Leo Art Studios in Clark, NJ. It is estimated to cost $79,000 and will be completed in the fall. Phase three of the initiative will be determined in the future, based on the availability of funding.
The First Reformed Dutch Church was designed by William Appleton Potter, renowned for his architecture on the campus of Princeton University. An excellent example of adaptive reuse, the church was sold to Somerset County c. 1985. If you’ve ever been called for jury duty and sat in the jury assembly room at the Somerset County Courthouse, you’ve had an opportunity to view the original stained-glass artwork up close.
The multiphase restoration project was first reviewed and approved by the State Historic Preservation Office for consistency with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic properties.
The initiative is being coordinated by the Somerset County Engineering Division in cooperation with the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission and the Somerset County Courthouse.
For more information, contact Supervising Planner Thomas D’Amico, Somerset County Planning Board, at 908-231-7106.