Like others in the community, the Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC) was saddened by the demolition of the Dare House on Valley Street. Although the house was not a designated Maplewood Historic Landmark, the Dare House was part of the historic fabric of the town, and its loss was jarring to us all. One of the reasons many of us moved to Maplewood was because of its distinct appearance as an intact railroad suburb, with many fine examples of 18th, 19th and early 20th century buildings.
Maplewood does have a Historic Preservation Ordinance and a Historic Preservation Commission. Currently, there are eleven individually designated landmarks in Maplewood that come under the authority of the historic preservation ordinance. Any major changes to the exterior of these landmarks (with the exception of ordinary maintenance and repair and paint colors) must be presented to the MHPC for review and approval. The Township Committee has the authority to designate landmarks upon recommendation by the MHPC. The MHPC is a regulatory body appointed by the Township Committee and is composed of volunteers from this community—many of whom are professionals in the fields of architecture, history and historic preservation.
The process of designating a historic landmark includes the creation of a designation report. These reports include a great deal of research about the history and significance of the historic resource and what aspects make it worthy of recognition as a landmark. When suggesting a property for designation as a local landmark, the MHPC is guided by specific criteria in the ordinance. Not every historic building is eligible for landmark status, however, every historic building is important as part of the fabric of the town.
For the past 11 years, the Historic Preservation Commission has written designation reports, held special presentations for local realtors, engaged with the community at Mayfest and at Green Day, and applied for and received grants from the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office to conduct architectural surveys of the town. These surveys will provide the basis for future designation of landmarks and potential historic districts and to help develop a history of the Township.
Many of you now have a heightened sense of the importance and vulnerability of our historic environment. Perhaps you would consider attending one of the MHPC’s monthly meetings (the third Wednesday of every month at the Municipal Building)—we’re always looking for volunteers and there are many ways you can contribute. Join the Durand-Hedden House and Garden Association—Maplewood’s historical society—and attend the monthly programs.
In the end, preserving our history is important for all of us, and preserving and maintaining our historic buildings, streets and neighborhoods is a shared responsibility.
Patty Chrisman, Vice-Chair, Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission
Virginia Kurshan, Chair, Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission