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A Perspective on Historic Preservation

A perspective on historic preservation from the chairman of the Rumson Historic Commission

The issue of historic preservation is one that elicits a great deal of emotion.

However, the Historic Preservation Commission of Rumson is not free to act on emotion.  We are chartered with specific guidelines and serve at the pleasure of the mayor and council.

Ask any resident if they would like to preserve the historic homes in their town, the charming character of their neighborhood and the warm feeling of nostalgia that connects them to their roots, and also to be spared the sense of loss, or for some, betrayal at seeing yet another “historic” home razed; and the answer will be an emphatic yes.

Think of the question is posed in a different light, such as "Would you like to see an unelected board of fellow citizens forcing you, the property owner, to preserve at your expense and according to the dictates of said board, the property that you paid for with your hard earned money?" The answer will, not surprisingly, be different.

The Historic Preservation Commission walks a fine line in balancing the rights of the property owner with the very real and important desires to maintain the character and charm of our beautiful town. In the case of the Anderson home; it could not qualify for protection for several reasons.

The case of the Auldwood Carriage house is a much more interesting one as it was once part of a larger estate and the home exhibited many of the charms of a historic home.

The new owners had intended to save and renovate the existing structure, but after the inspections and factoring in engineer’s reports and the subsequent remediation costs, the economic reality of trying to save a structurally compromised relic of bygone times was a no brainer.

Moreover, an attempt (by an anonymous outsider going by the nom de plume of “Jack Daniels”) to prevent the owners from tearing down their house was filed with the historic preservation branch of New Jersey, asking for preservation status, was turned down by the state because the property had been substantially compromised by alterations and subdivisions.

The mission of the Historic Preservation Commission is (I am paraphrasing here; we have an official mission statement) to catalog the homes that do qualify as important or significant properties and to identify these properties so that when an application comes before the Rumson Zoning Board of Adjustment or the Planning Board, the zoning officer will notify us and the appropriate board members so the property receives the special consideration it deserves.

The Historic Commission will act as a resource for the planning and zoning boards and will further educate the public about the benefits of preservation. The commission will also make recommendations to the council regarding zoning changes that could help to preserve these special homes. In addition, the commission will testify before the zoning board to help an owner of a “historic” home to obtain a variance if the denial of the same would affect the decision to preserve the home.

On a personal note, the term Mc Mansion is often used as a term of derision to describe new large homes. I believe the term is inappropriately applied to most of the new construction in Rumson. The term should be reserved for cheesy false front monstrosities, clad in vinyl siding on the sides and back. The homes being built by most of the high class builders in our area are nothing of the sort and will someday be the focus of another Historic Commission in the future.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John Hendrick July 30, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Patch readers - You can always count on Jim Fitzmaurice to speak the truth on all matters. I have known him for 20 years and he has always been a man of character and truth. It is refreshing to be able to read and listen to "local voices of reason" in community matters as so much of what appears in daily newspapers lacks content, context and, in many cases, is misleading. Love the PATCH!

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