Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Endangered New Jersey History

Yes, historic places are often on their own endangered lists around the world and New Jersey is no exception.

One list is at the website (They are also on Twitter) and on Preservation New Jersey's site you'll find their annual list of the state's 10 most endangered historic places.

The places vary in age and usage. For example, there is the Colemantown Meeting House and Jacob's Chapel, in Mount Laurel (Burlington County). This circa-1865 chapel and meeting house along with an even older cemetery are all that remain of the 19th-century African-American community of Colemantown.

The meeting house was made even more endangered than it had been after Superstorm Sandy flooded it and made the building unusable. With an estimated $1.3 million needed for repair, restoration and site improvements, the price tag is well beyond the means of the congregation.

Jacob's Chapel  (NPS)
The Jacob's Chapel A.M.E Church property, which includes the Colemantown Meeting House, the Chapel and cemetery mark the emergence, growth, and decline of Colemantown. This antebellum African American settlement established in 1828 flourished into the 20th century and was an important event within Burlington County history.

The Colemantown Meeting House (moved to its current location in 1965) served as both the first worship sanctuary in Colemantown and as a schoolhouse for the hamlet's children and is one of the oldest all-black schoolhouses still extant in New Jersey.

The cemetery was inaugurated about 1849. In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, the growing congregation, then led by Jacob Mitchell, an A.M.E minister known for his success in helping other black churches build their own sanctuaries, led the effort to build the present Jacob's Chapel in 1866-67.

Founder's Fountain in better days - Photo CC 2.5 
Not all endangered NJ history is a building or place. An example is Founders Fountain in Monmouth County's Founder's Park. The park was established on the site of the first Camp Meeting in Ocean Grove, off Pilgrim's Pathway.

This elaborate cast iron fountain was the centerpiece of the park when it was placed there in 1907 as a memorial. Vandals clogged it in 1977, but it remains partially intact, but in severe disrepair. Many of the original molds are available for the fountain’s restoration, but the expensive cost is beyond the means of the historical society that owns it.

You might not think of most school buildings as being historic, but Camden High School is a century-old Collegiate Gothic-style building that is also known as the "Castle on the Hill."

Camden High School's Class of 2017 is the last graduating class of "The Castle on the Hill" as the school is slated to be demolished this year to make room for a new $133 million state-of-the-art high school.

The chances are very slim that the building will be saved.

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