Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Time Running Out for Dolbeer-Ware House

Options for saving the historic Dolbeer-Ware house on Terrill Road have dwindled to the point where demolition is likely.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission, preservationist Barton Ross and Scott Bauman of the Planning Division discussed the structure Tuesday and came to the conclusion that it may have passed the point of restoration. Ross said the house is falling down and the city is close to foreclosing on it. The commission is ready to drop the goal of getting it on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preservation New Jersey
The house was on Preservation New Jersey's 2009 "10 Most Endangered Historic Sites" and in 2011 was part of a proposal to create a historic museum/nature center at a projected cost of about $1 million. 

Attempts to find a non-profit group to take on the building's restoration have failed. On Tuesday, commission members discussed trying to interest an architectural school in saving the core of the structure, if only to dismantle it for forensic purposes. HPC member John Favazzo recalled such a case and said it would be "horrendous" to see the building bulldozed without at least yielding its architectural secrets. He called the prior forensic study "an autopsy."

About a year ago, preservation consultant Dennis Bertland said the house could  provide insight into early architectural styles and construction methods. He said the structure reflected Dutch and English building traditions and might be an example of an historic "East Jersey Cottage."

Ross said a porch and two wings were added to a core building that is the only part still intact. In response to a suggestion that the original structure could be moved for study, Bauman said to do so would mean never getting grant money. HPC member Gary Schneider suggested getting an investor to fund a forensic study and then being allowed to build a one-family home on the site.

Meanwhile, many just consider the building an eyesore and a hazardous attraction to trespassers.

The commission members also discussed the status of another historic structure, the pre-Civil War Titsworth-Sutphen house on West Second Street. It is supposed to be relocated when developer Frank Cretella builds 148 apartments on the site. Cretella won approvals in 2010 for the project, but has not yet begun work on it.

Due to the city's railroad bridges, the building cannot be moved south. HPC Chairman Bill Michelson said he favors a nearby vacant lot at Madison Avenue and West Second Street (lower right on block 247 in image) as the site for relocation. However, in January the entire block bounded by Madison, West Second, West Front Street and Central Avenue was recommended for an "in need of redevelopment" study. It remains to be seen whether the historic house can still be moved to the corner lot.



  1. The absurdity of putting $ into that building while the Drake House needs attention mirrors the Federal Government handling of Katrina rehabs in New Orleans. Plus the photo you have posted shows the structure from several years ago and does not reflect the rapid crumbling since then. BUT .... the City has always been driven to spend good money after bad ideas. {think Teppers}

  2. In this era of development I would think that if the planning board recommended a "in need of redevelopment" study, some developer has their eyes on that block.