No churches this time; but Morristown Woman’s Club, Acorn Hall pitched for Morris preservation funding

The Woman's Club of Morristown. Photo courtesy of Morris County Freeholders.
The Woman's Club of Morristown. Photo courtesy of Morris County Freeholders.

Editor’s note:

Morris County’s 2018 list of proposed historic preservation projects is more remarkable for what’s missing than for what’s slated to share $2.2 million in grants.

No churches this time. 

In the spring, the state Supreme Court sided unanimously with the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Madison resident David Steketee, who sued the churches and Morris County officials contending historic preservation grants to religious institutions violate the state constitution.

The Acorn Hall Carriage House in Morristown. Photo courtesy of Morris County Freeholders
The Acorn Hall Carriage House in Morristown. Photo courtesy of Morris County Freeholders

A dozen churches–including four in Morristown–received $4.6 million from the county freeholders in recent years to repair roofs, bell towers, ventilation systems and so forth. 

County officials are preparing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, two Morristown venues, the Woman’s Club and Acorn Hall, are among 16 projects pitched for historic preservation grants in this cycle. 

The Woman’s Club on South Street is in line to receive almost $58,000 to partially replace the roof on its 1797 headquarters. And Acorn Hall’s 1853 carriage house may get $10,320 for construction documents for a roof restoration and stabilization of the building structure.

Here’s more, from the Morris County Freeholders:


The Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund Review Board on Thursday recommended $2.2 million in county grants from the county’s 2018 Preservation Trust Fund to help preserve, restore, or protect 20 historic sites in 16 towns across Morris County.

The recommendations, made to the Morris County Board of Freeholders in Morristown, included grants ranging from $5,994 for construction documents for the Union School House in Washington Township to $89,920 for a stone wall extension at the King Homestead Museum in Roxbury, and $281,728 for the Martin Berry House rehabilitation in Pequannock.

The freeholders were briefed on the projects by Review Board Chairperson Randy Tortorello. They will make a final decision on the grant recommendations at their July 11 public meeting.

The grant money comes from the voter-approved Morris County Open Space, Farmland, Floodplain Protection and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. All 21 applications received this year received grants.

View the entire list here.

Of the 21 recommended grants, 12 are construction grants while the other nine are for non-construction purposes, such as planning or construction documents.

Awards were recommended for projects in Boonton, Denville, Florham Park, Hanover, Kinnelon, Mine Hill, Madison, Morristown, Mount Olive, Parsippany, Pequannock, Randolph, Rockaway Borough, Roxbury, Washington Township, and Wharton.

“This historic preservation grant program, which was overwhelmingly approved by county voters, helps to finance the protection our county’s heritage, and helps to ensure that we maintain important links to our past,’’ said Freeholder Director Doug Cabana.

“The restoration, rehabilitation, and preservation work that is aided by these county grants helps to allows future generations to enjoy these historic sites, allows us to better understand our county’s history and our historic roots, and enhances the quality of life for all residents of Morris County, ’’ added Freeholder Christine Myers.

“The dedicated people working to preserve our links to the past, provide lessons for the present and ensure an inheritance for the future deserve our sincere thanks,’’ said Ray Chang, historic preservation program coordinator for Morris County.

“Their efforts, supported by these grants, ensure that our county’s heritage and architectural legend are sustained.”

Awards are recommended for projects that best meet the program’s evaluation criteria in categories of construction, preservation planning, and creation of construction documents.

These criteria include the historic significance of the resource, relationship of the project to community revitalization, preservation of the built or natural environment, and heritage education and tourism.

Other factors include the degree to which projects promote preservation activity, represent innovative design, reach new audiences, offer significant contributions to the advancement of historic preservation; and restoration, rehabilitation, and adaptive use plans of historic buildings and cultural landscapes.

Tortorello explained there were detailed reviews of all projects, including site visits, and that decisions were made on funding after lengthy debate and discussion by the entire board. The chairperson highlighted two projects recommended for funding this year:

Mead Hall, Borough of Madison

The 1833 administration building on the campus of Drew University was originally built as a residence for William Gibbons and his family. Considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the building was restored in the 1990s after a fire. Some $26,268 in funding is recommended to Drew University for the completion of a Preservation Plan for Mead Hall.

Martin Berry House, Township of Pequannock

The c. 1740 Dutch Colonial house includes a gambrel roof, shallow fireplaces, interior chimneys, thick stone walls and massive roof framing. The house was documented through the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1939, and individually listed on the Historic Registers. A total of $281,728 in funding is recommended to the Township of Pequannock to provide for exterior and interior rehabilitation including site work, barrier-free ramp, structural repairs, electrical upgrades, windows/doors restoration and replacement.

Other projects recommended for grants include, Boonton, Holmes Public Library and the Stone Arched Bridge; Denville, Ayres Farm Tenant House; Florham Park, Hancock Cemetery; Hanover Township, Whippany Burying Yard; Kinnelon: L’Ecole Kinnelon Museum; Madison, Mead Hall; Mine Hill, Bridget Smith House; Morristown, Acorn Hall Carriage House and the Woman’s Club of Morristown; and Mount Olive, Seward House.

Also recommended for grants are Parsippany, Craftsmans Farms Administration Building and Smith-Baldwin House; Pequannock, Martin Berry House; Randolph, Friends Meting House; Rockaway Borough, Fox’s Brook Culvert; Roxbury, King Homestead Museum and Lake Hopatcong Train Station; Washington Township, Union School House; and Wharton: Morris Canal Lock 2 East.

A summary of all recommended projects is here.

County voters in 2002 approved an amendment to the county’s Preservation Trust Fund to include the acquisition and preservation of historic sites and facilities.

Since 2003, when the first grants were awarded, 98 sites or resources in 32 municipalities in 32 Morris County municipalities have received funding assistance.

For more information on Morris County’s historic preservation program, please visit:

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