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New Jersey's 10 Most Endangered Historic Places

The 10 Most Endangered Historic Places program spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost. The act of listing these resources acknowledges their importance to the heritage of New Jersey and draws attention to the predicaments that endanger their survival and the survival of historic resources statewide. The list, generated from nominations by the public, aims to attract new perspectives and ideas to sites in desperate need of creative solutions.

Selections to the 10 Most Endangered list are based on three criteria: 

  • historic significance and architectural integrity,  
  • the critical nature of the threat identified, and  
  • the likelihood that inclusion on the list will have a positive impact on efforts to protect the resource.  

Several challenges face properties on this year’s endangered sites list, including neglect and deferred maintenance, threats incurred by redevelopment and new construction, difficulties raising adequate historic preservation funding, and the need for creative adaptive reuse proposals.

The 2024 Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in NJ are: 

St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, Sussex County

St. Paul's Abbey is a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery in Newton, New Jersey that was founded in 1924 by Father Michael Heinlein. The abbey was originally established as a mission following World War I. German monks sought refuge from postwar persecution and invested in agricultural pursuits such as beekeeping, cow-raising and fruit growing on the roughly 20 acres immediately surrounding the monastery. The property has been vacant since 2002. In 2008 plans and a partnership to revitalize the abbey into affordable housing units was made between St. Paul’s and the Township of Newton. The building was cleared out and prepared for renovation. However, budget cuts and other factors halted plans to move the property forward. The Abbey has been vacant and open to vandalism and affected by a lack of maintenance and weatherization. Preservation New Jersey supports and advocates for the adaptive reuse of the Abbey that will allow for the site’s continued preservation.

Palace Amusements Artifacts in Asbury Park, Monmouth County

Palace Amusements opened as a carousel house in 1888 and was one of only 400 amusement parks in the U.S. to survive the Great Depression. By 1955, Palace owners undertook a major expansion, adding the Fun House and Bumper Car buildings. The expanded Palace was decorated with original artwork painted on the Lake Avenue, Cookman Avenue, and Kingsley Street walls by designer Worth Thomas. The scenes included people riding bumper cars, the names of the attractions in offbeat scripts, and the neon-lit “Tillie” image. Amusements manager George Cornelius Tilyou, founder of Steeplechase Park at Coney Island, New York, introduced the first fun face logo in 1897, and so successfully integrated the “Steeplechase Face” throughout his park that most other amusement entrepreneurs followed with designs of their own. The Palace face, nicknamed “Tillie” in honor of Tilyou, bears a striking cartoon-like resemblance to the Coney Island promoter. Through the years, Tillie confused on-lookers with a look that was simultaneously amusing and haunting, and which intrigued the knowing and unwary who would explore the area for years to come. Neon also illuminated large wall paintings of the bumper car scenes facing Lake Avenue, as well as metal channel letters installed along the roofline on the Kingsley Street side of the arcade and attached to the walls of the Cookman and Lake Avenue sides. In 2000, Palace Amusements was listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. The Palace ultimately became a target of local property marketing and management firms which claimed that failure to demolish the arcade would undermine the redevelopment of Asbury Park’s waterfront. In a bid to appease city and state officials and preservation activists, the developers, Asbury Partners, agreed to mitigate the demolition of Palace Amusements by removing, storing, and eventually reusing the artifacts in a new building. On April 28, 2004, the City of Asbury Park, along with a representative of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, met to compile a list of historic artifacts designated for preservation. On the list were 26 metal channel letters, two signs, two decorative wooden cutouts, and three large wall murals. Collectively, the list represented some of Asbury Park’s most identifiable and beloved icons. Now, nearly 20 years later, artifacts from the Palace Amusements arcade have not been seen, reused, or returned to public view.  Preservation New Jersey supports Save Tillie Inc. in their efforts to call upon the municipality and current owner to think creatively and be proactive in returning these New Jersey icons to the public.

Anderson Farm & House in Bayville, Ocean County

The Anderson Farm, once a part of a 600-acre tract, has connections to the American Revolution and slavery. Its occupants included many family names such as Chamberlain, Anderson, Lawrence, Veeder and Nobles, all of which are well-known and proved to be prominent in both Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Since 2004, the site has been vacant with roughly 10 acres of forested land surrounding it. The primary threat to the site is the lack of plans to preserve and adaptively reuse it for the benefit of the public. Nearby, redevelopment for housing pose risks for the unused Farmstead. Preservation New Jersey supports those advocating for the restoration of the structure and its adaptive reuse. In addition, with the onset of America’s 250th celebrations, Preservation New Jersey supports and strongly encourages new partnerships to save the site and to have further research compiled to explore the role the Anderson Farm and House played in New Jersey and America’s history.

Garden State Gate House in Cherry Hill, Camden County

The Garden State Park was constructed throughout 1941 and opened on July 18, 1942. Construction was stalled after delays caused by raw material rationing at the United States' entry into World War II. To make quick progress and due to the seizure of 30,000 tons of structural steel by war authorities, developer Eugene Mori mostly constructed Garden State Park's ornate Georgian-style grandstand of wood. Garden State Park was designed to hold more than 30,000 people as well as host stables, eateries, and other public amenities. With the popularity and success of the racetrack, Mori would later build hotels surrounding Garden State Park making it an attractive arena for both sport and entertainment. The Park would host some of the best athletes and horses and by 1946 would serve an average daily attendance of 17,000 people. A devastating fire in 1977 destroyed the Garden State Park. Under new ownership and with a grand vision, the Park was rebuilt and reopened in 1985. As time went on the racetrack suffered. In 2001, after almost 60 years the track had its final race. In 2003 the property was sold and demolished to create a town center. The only structure to remain, that both outlasted the devastating fire of 1977 and rebuild is the Gatehouse. The Gatehouse is now under threat as the property is for sale with plans for further commercial development. Without immediate intervention, Cherry Hill risks losing the only structure left of Garden State Park. Preservation New Jersey supports the residents of Cherry Hill and calls upon the municipality and new developers to think creatively and proactively seek out adaptive reuses, rather than abandon or demolish the Gatehouse. It is critical that all stakeholders work together to make this unique local historic landmark a priority in its plans for the future.

Orange Memorial Hospital in Orange, Essex County  

The Orange Memorial Hospital Historic District, listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places in 2015, includes nine buildings. The oldest and main structure of the site was built in 1906. The hospital closed in 2005 and has been vacant since. This hospital was founded by the leading Victorian-era families of Orange and became the site of the nation’s first four-year nursing school. The Orange Memorial Hospital retains its integrity as the buildings in the district stand in their original locations with only minor demolition occurring on the site since the time of the primary building campaigns in the late 1910s and 1920s. The Orange Memorial Hospital Historic District is significant as a prominent, community-based provider of healthcare and the primary hospital for Orange, New Jersey, and the surrounding communities for much of the 20th century. It also reflects institutional architecture in the Colonial Revival style designed by the notable New York architects Crow, Lewis & Wick. There are currently two ongoing threats – demolition and vandalism. The City announced earlier this year that the site could be demolished with no input from the community on possible reuses and future of the site. Further the site is a frequent victim to vagrancy and crime. Preservation New Jersey supports those advocating for the restoration of the site and adaptively reuse, or as needed, sensitive redevelopment of the district that would allow its continued preservation.

Homestead Plantation Enslaved Quarters in Clark, Union County

The area known historically as Ash Swamp, consisting today of Oak Ridge Park, Ash Brook Reservation, Ash Brook Golf Course, and the surrounding neighborhoods in Clark, Scotch Plains, and Edison, NJ, is dense with important historic sites, relevant to Black, Indigenous, and general American history, especially with regards to the Revolution. Of importance is the ruins of the Homestead Plantation’s enslaved quarters, as it is just one of a handful of free-standing enslaved dwellings in the state, and there are concerns for future development of the park that would impact the site. The Homestead Plantation has been the focal point of human activity in the Ash Swamp for the last three centuries. Around 1720-1740, the first section of the Homestead Plantation House was built - paid in part, by the sale of an enslaved woman named Phebe in 1717. The history of the site has been documented and researched extensively by local historians of the Clark Historic Society since 1995, with stories that include connections with the Underground Railroad. Efforts to research, conduct archaeological investigations, and preservation by the Historic Society have halted over the years. The site is owned and managed by Union County, who is said to have plans to add new park amenities. Preservation New Jersey supports the mission and goal of the Friends of the Oak Ridge/Ash Brook Historic Sites in encouraging Union County to consider impacts to the Homestead Plantation and its archaeologically sensitive areas within the park in relation to Black and Indigenous histories.

MLK House in Camden, Camden County

The MLK House Camden, located at 753 Walnut Street was built circa 1900. The site has juggled with issues such as neglect, flooding, vandalism, and fire. Dr. Martin Luther King resided at 753 Walnut Street on weekends and during the summers while he was attending Crozer Theological Seminary from 1948 - 1951. During Dr. King's time in Camden, he and his friends were refused service in a local bar, Mary’s Café, and physically threatened by the bartender. This event took place on June 11, 1950. Dr. King would later cite this event as setting him down the path of civil rights activism through passive resistance. Further research is being conducted to understand how Dr. King used the newly enacted New Jersey state anti-discrimination law which led to the arrest of the café owner, and about his life and community role in Camden. This site and Camden, NJ is considered the first combination of legal action and nonviolent civil disobedience that Dr. King would make that would later define his civil rights campaign. New Beginnings Behavioral Health, a not-for-profit organization, purchased the property two (2) years ago with the intent to convert the property into a museum and cultural hub for the Camden community. Since the purchase, the organization has worked tirelessly to secure funding to restore the site and conduct programs regarding Dr. King’s legacy in Camden. Lack of funding for the site is one of its many challenges. In facing several preservation issues, the organization remains optimistic and continues to make strides in advocating and fundraising for the site's needs. In PNJ’s review of the nomination, New Beginnings has marked a 'tremendous and a real community effort' that should also be recognized.  Preservation New Jersey supports this nomination and those advocating for the restoration of the site and its adaptive reuse into a cultural center for the Camden community. PNJ also recognizes the significance of this site, not only to African American history, but to telling an important chapter of New Jersey’s story and remembering the legacy of MLK and all those who influenced the Civil Rights Movement.  

Joseph Hornor House in Princeton, Mercer County

The Joseph Hornor House located at 344 Nassau St. was built in the 1760s by the grandson of one of Princeton's Quaker founders. The two-story, brick, side-hall house originally had a one-story kitchen wing. In the early 20th century, a second story was sensitively added on top of the wing. The house is an anchor to the Local, State, and National Register Jugtown Historic District, and occupies the northeast corner of the historic crossroads of Nassau and Harrison Streets in the Jugtown section of Princeton. Nassau Street is also part of the Lincoln Highway National Register District. The corners of this historic crossroads retain two other Pre-Revolutionary buildings and an early-19th Century building. The proposed threats facing the Joseph Hornor House is its incentive design for redevelopment for the purpose of affordable housing units. The current project will include adding a four-story structure to the rear that would amass and surround the historic structure. Redevelopments in historic districts are on the rise with new Affordable Housing and tax credit initiatives. While revitalization of neighborhoods contributes to reactivating historic places, there is a growing trend in demolition and insensitive changes to integral features of structures and streetscapes. More care and sensitivity to the impacts of historic districts are necessary through compliance with existing preservation standards and guidelines both at a local, state and federal level. Preservation New Jersey supports and encourages the development to comply with preservation standards and guidelines as it will set the precedent for other new development in the Jugtown Historic District and in other historic Princeton neighborhoods.

This year Preservation New Jersey is highlighting two thematic listings of historic resources.

Urban Historic Districts - Statewide 

Placement of this theme - all historic districts within urban cities within the State of New Jersey, such as Trenton, Plainfield, Jersey City, Hoboken, Newark, Paterson, and Camden; acknowledges the importance and calls to action to preserve our rich and diverse history within urban communities. Historic districts are often victim to redevelopment and out-of-context development, lack of preservation guidelines and ordinances to prevent integrity loss and demolitions, and lack of support for preservation-friendly outcomes from municipal leaders and Planning/Zoning Board officials.

It is well documented that residents of historic districts and local historic preservation commissions continue to struggle with lack of support and changing attitudes towards preservation. By engaging in this program, we hope to achieve the following: 1) addressing up-to-date inventories of historic structures and resources within urban historic districts; 2) educate and offer preservation workshops to local Planning and Zoning officials to ensure positive outcomes; and 3) encourage local leaders to support programs and opportunities for maintaining historic and cultural resources within their communities. This would include thinking more deeply on ways in which new projects can respect the history and value of a place while responding to the high demands for housing and amenities. Both redevelopment and historic preservation can work in conjunction when they are corresponding and respecting scale and stylistic guidelines of Historic Districts. The key goal is to prevent further loss of a community’s architectural fabric. 

State Owned and Managed Historic Properties - Statewide

Placement of this theme - listing of all historic sites on owned and managed lands by the State of New Jersey; acknowledges the importance to preserve our rich and diverse history and provides call to action by the State to make strides in preserving our past for future generations. As we prepare for America’s 250th celebrations, we are reminded that our investment in historic sites needs continued support, encouragement, and should be made a priority. State-owned historic sites are often victim to budget deficits, neglect, and staffing shortages.

By engaging in this program, we hope to achieve some of the following: 1) Addressing the much-needed inventory of historic structures and resources across statewide departments, including properties where resources have not been evaluated for historic significance or State and National register listing; 2) Discussion and appropriation of needed funding for both capital and operating expenditures for historic structures within the State budget; 3) A reevaluation of the funding percentages allocated to preservation activities by funding programs and incentives such as the CBT fund, which is currently scheduled to sunset at the end of FY24 leaving a $400 million shortfall dedicated to green initiatives, open spaces, and historic preservation activities; and 4) Encouragement of New Jersey State leaders to reauthorize and allocate additional funding to the Historic Preservation Fund (H.R. 3350) that has expired which will impact current outside funding mechanisms to support programs and capital project opportunities at State historic sites and agencies.

I’ve had my dream job of waking up with all the great listeners and members of Brookdale Public Radio since January 3, 2005. Prior to this job, I began my career in radio at NJ 101.5 FM as a producer. From there, I took time off from radio to do other things. (including becoming a mom!)