WESTFIELD, NJ — A two-and-a-half story Queen Anne style home built in the 1890s has been restored to its original design, and with a recent local historic designation is anticipated to stay that way.

Robert Newell and his wife, Pamela, purchased the house on Clark Street in 1991 and have since restored it to nearly the same condition it was during its youth, Newell said during a recent interview at the home.

“We felt it is important to restore it because this property has been here since 1859 at one point included 25 acres and had an apple orchard,” Newell, who is the Planning Board chairman, told TAPinto Westfield. “It was the second house to be built in the neighborhood.”

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The restoration and subsequent historic designation were no small feats.

Newell said he commissioned a colorist to study scrapings from the home’s exterior to find the original colors of home and matched the color scheme for the residence’s exterior with those original hues.

He found historic photos of the property’s exterior and replicated the architecture.

The local historic designation report states that the property has horizontal wood siding, a roof clad with asphalt shingles, wooden steps with square-paneled newel posts and flat wood balusters.

National and state historic designations alone, Newell explained, would not have protected the residence from being torn down and built in a style that is now allowed in the neighborhood.

The historic designation, according to the local Historic Preservation Commission, is the first it has bestowed to a local home in nearly 21 years. With the designation comes a promise that the exterior of the residence will remain virtually unchanged.

“I can’t imagine having someone buy this house in the future, tear it down and build a house that is conforming to the zone,” said Newell.

Story continues below photos.

(Images of the Newell home on Clark Street seen in the present day, left, and circa 1900, courtesy of Westfield Historic Preservation Commission)

Without a historic designation, however, the local laws could allow for such a teardown.

“It is really the only way to preserve the architecture and history of our town,” Newell said. “Private property owners have the right to tear down their houses and build new ones and, unfortunately, we’ve seen a plethora of that.”

Maria Boyes, who chairs the Westfield Historic Preservation Commission, said she hopes the local historic designation, which is the first one in Westfield since 1998, will become an example for the owners of other properties with historic potential.

“It really speaks to the direction that we hope the town will continue to go in because, unequivocally, in the short time that I’ve been on the HPC, all I have heard is that people are tired of the teardowns and how they have changed the character of this town,” Boyes said.

That sentiment was reflected during a recent workshop, which the municipality held to receive public input on the formulation of an update to its master plan, a guide for development in the municipality. The residents complained that new homes built in a “cookie-cutter” style are often replacing colonial and Tudor style residences.

And people are doing more than just complaining. Within the past two months, Boyes said, two additional property owners have sought to have their homes historically designated. “The Newells set a really wonderful example for Westfield,” she said. 

As a grandfather clock ticked away during the interview at his home, Newell described a historical value to Westfield that is not confined to Clark Street.

“The architectural character of Westfield has historically been well known as colonial, but it is more of the Victorian era, age-wise,” he said. “There is a great housing style to this community. You can just walk the streets and see it. It is essential that that character be preserved.”

What's Next?

The Westfield Historic Preservation Commission’s Harry Devlin Commendation awards program honors outstanding efforts in the restoration, expansion, alteration and maintenance of older properties. The award winners, which have yet to be announced, will be honored Thursday, June 6, at the community room at Town Hall, 425 East Broad St. in Westfield.

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh

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