In September, I wrote about the Ewing Township Historic Preservation Society, and its role as keeper, preserver and exhibitor of documents and artifacts telling the stories of the people, places and items significant to Ewing’s past.
The Society is currently in the process of revitalizing its exhibits at its home in the Benjamin Temple House on Federal City Road, and is also seeking donations or loans of papers, diaries, journals, family Bibles or other documentation of early Ewing families or events.
Last month, I indirectly wrote of the Ewing Township Historic Preservation Commission, a municipal entity tasked with identifying, designating and regulating preservation of historic resources in Ewing.
But the resources the Commission works with are homes, neighborhoods, and specific sites which have historic significance.
The Commission helps to interpret portions the state’s Municipal Land Use Law, along with the Ewing Planning Board. The Commission also oversees the listing of buildings of historic significance onto the township’s Historic Registry.
Understandably, people often confuse the two “historic preservation” entities —the Society and the Commission—but their roles are somewhat different.
Now, to further confuse the issue, I’m going to mention a third group: Preservation New Jersey.
As I “retire” at the end of this year after nine years as a Board member of this organization, it seems appropriate to mention this important organization as well.
PNJ is not an organization that solely serves Ewing, like the Society and our Commission do. Instead, Preservation New Jersey (established in 1978) is a state-wide non-profit organization that seeks to help promote the vitality, sustainability and heritage of N.J.’s communities by advocating for the preservation of the state’s historic places.
However, PNJ does have a definite presence in Ewing. No longer calling a former office in Trenton home, the organization has successfully adapted to a state-wide virtual office, but maintains a P.O. Box in West Trenton.
What does PNJ do? PNJ’s work is summarized quite well in a list on the organization’s website, preservationnj.org, which I share here. Below are some of what the organization does.
1. Publishes the annual “10 Most Endangered Historic Places in N.J.” list, which draws attention to remarkable sites and to their many challenges.
PNJ believes that listing them will be a catalyst for change and that positive solutions can be found for their preservation.
2. Publishes instructional and informative toolkits and other educational materials and publications.
3. Maintains an informative newsletter, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds;
4. Advocates for sound public policy at the local, state and federal levels on behalf of the historic preservation community in New Jersey.
5. Conducts tours, workshops, lectures and conferences to educate the public about historic sites and preservation and sustainability issues.
6. Provides a network of and informative training opportunities for professionals through the Building Industry Network.
7. Serves as a clearinghouse for technical assistance and information to homeowners, municipalities, historic preservation commissions, nonprofit agencies and other individuals and groups.
8. Has leased the 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, and is managing the rehabilitation of this landmark, with the goal of eventually duplicating this process with additional historic resources statewide.
So, yes, in addition to the other services PNJ provides statewide, PNJ is also the non-profit historic preservation advocacy organization that has assumed full responsibility for the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing.
The building is in fact the only physical, brick-and-mortar building for which PNJ has ever taken complete responsibility, and Ewing’s iconic landmark at the bend on Scotch Road is very lucky to have PNJ’s advocacy and support.
PNJ brings together a network of professionals in the preservation arena: architects, craftspeople, artisans, preservationists, historians, planners and the like who know the New Jersey preservation landscape, and can assist homeowners and others who are concerned about the future of a historic building, or are unsure how to repair a problem.
Their “10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in N.J.” list celebrates 25 years in 2020, and annually reminds us of the fragility of, and possibilities for, historic resources.
Although these organizations may cause confusion, they individually and collectively serve important history preservation purposes, so that our now can be informed by our then.