Township Mulls Historic Landmark Status for Woman's Club

Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission lays out options for Township Committee.

Members of the Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission (MHPC) detailed the advantages, disadvantages and ramifications of potentially designating the Maplewood Woman's Club as a historic landmark at last week's Township Committee meeting.

The club is "saturated with Maplewood history," said Township Historian Susan Newberry, noting that an exhibit about the Woman's Club last year at the Durand-Hedden House drew national attention. (Newberry's complete statement and a copy of the Durand-Hedden newsletter are attached to this article as PDFs).

MHPC chair Virgina Kurshan told the five committee members that the designation would be in line with the Township Master Plan's goal of preserving the town's historic spaces.

Kurshan and vice chair Patty Crisman explained that there are two options: the township could designate the Woman's Club as a local historic landmark, and/or the township could apply to have the property listed in the National Register of Historic Places, which is done through the state.

Kurshan said the building might meet three criteria for designating as a local landmark: it is historically significant, embodies a particular type of architecture and represents the work of an important architect. 

The MHPC can recommend to the Township Committee suitable candidates for designation but it is the committee itself that would have to vote to designate, Kurshan said. The process for local landmark designation is relatively quick, she said.

More information on the township's Historic Preservation Ordinance can be found on the township website. Designated landmarks in Maplewood currently include the Timothy Ball House, the Durand-Hedden House, Maplewood Memorial Park and the Municipal Building.

Listing in the National Register of Historic Places would bring the added bonus of making the property eligible for funding and grants. However, Kurshan said the process is lengthy, involves significant research and can cost between $5,000-15,000. 

The township committee members asked the women many questions about the process. Mayor Vic DeLuca asked how designation as a landmark -- both locally and at the state level -- would limit what the township could do to the Woman's Club, in terms of full or partial demolition and renovations to the interior.

The women said a listing on the National Register would place certain restrictions on demolition and renovations, depending on what are determined to be the building's defining characteristics.

As for local designation, "there really are no drawbacks," she said. Later, Kurshan clarified for Patch, "(The MHPC has) regulatory power over the exterior if it's a private owner, but if it's municipally owned, we can't tell them what to do...they can ask for our input but they can do what they want."

DeLuca asked if it was possible to designate only part of the building; the answer was no. Committee member Jerry Ryan asked if there could be different restrictions placed on the exterior versus the interior; the answer also was no.

Committee member Marlon K. Brownlee asked the women what the designation would mean for the township.

"Given what happened recently on Valley Street...it's a statement to the community that you value the history and heritage of this community," said Kurshan, referring to the recent demolition by a private owner of a historic home.

Listing on the National Register would begin by getting a Certification of Eligibility, which is a less involved, interim step and is not binding on local government, said Crisman.

"I was in favor of doing this the last time it came up," Ryan said, referring to discussions that had taken place in 2010 about historic designation. "I would like to move forward with this." 

The committee will discuss the Woman's Club further at its next meeting on March 19, and will cast a final vote on its purchase April 2.

Kurt H. Kiley March 16, 2013 at 01:30 PM
The township has been "mulling this over" since 2010 since they went gunning for the women's club for taxes. If the township valued the history of our town, and conservation, this would have been a done deal already. But they value something more, (a parking deck? Condos ?) so it does not happen. Mr. Ryan has been vocal that he supports Historic status for the women's club, but no-one takes action on it. The bigger question is, do we cherish the history and character of our town and protect it? Or do we stay silent and let the township sell off our assets to the lowest bidder for some unspoken plan that includes dollar stores, 7-11, and huge apartments buildings that mar our landscape. Maplewood Deserves Better
Daniel Wright March 16, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Rick, Why don't you come to the Speakeasy tonight at the Women's Club? I think you'll find the space used "in a useful way". Unless, of course, you have no use for fun.
Lee Navlen March 16, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Kurt, From your lips to god's ears. We need smart leadership that's willing to listen. Instead, I fear we're dealing with egomaniacs.
Kurt H. Kiley March 16, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Daniel, We waited to the last minute and it was sold out! Anyone have a pair of tickets they won't be needing ? Kurt
Elisabeth Anderson May 26, 2013 at 11:37 AM
The Woman's Club building is lovely. One look at it's exterior and you know it is a historic building. Property that large would, obviously, need maintenance. As a not-for-profit organization how exactly would they have had the money for proper maintenance? So, the town "stole" it from them, on a pretense of owing taxes. I'm so ashamed of the Maplewood leadership's cowardly decisions that I no longer admit to living in Maplewood.


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