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.

john March 13, 2013 at 02:43 AM
remember, old is not the same as historic. what history happened here? what history was at the valley street house? nothing. they're just two old buildings where nothing important happened.
Home Owner March 13, 2013 at 07:53 AM
This designation would vindicate the neighbors' strategy of suing the town despite having bought homes adjacent to a social club and adjacent to downtown. All neighborhoods should now sue the town for retroactive changes to the neighborhoods' benefits using massive amounts of tax dollars. And since Patch is taking sides here, openly shilling for ther TC, we should hold Patch accountable to report on any hypocrisies, including any refusal by the town to do likewise for neighborhoods less affluent than Woodland Road. Kumbaya, right?
Rick March 13, 2013 at 12:41 PM
The Maplewood movie theater has a place in national theatrical history as being operated by legendary Broadway producer Cheryl Crawford in the early forties. This is where Crawford produced a one-week revival of Porgy and Bess, and it was such a success that it was held over a week and went to Broadway where it became established as one of the essential American works of art. (It was not a huge success at its original production in the 30s.) So...is the theatre landmarked? What kind of history happened at the club? Who were famous members? My experience with the club is that is a barn of an auditorium, and that it would be very difficult to find use the space in a useful way. I mean it isn't really a theater and it really isn't an auditorium, but it sure has great echoes. I know four families this month who have announced that they are leaving Maplewood because of increased taxes, but the city is overlook the tax money from a centrally located lot?
emy March 13, 2013 at 12:56 PM
LOCAL history happened at the Women's Club, as noted in the attachments to this article, and it is commendable and appropriate that our TC values that local heritage. Doing so is prescribed in the master plan for the town. Just because Women's Club local history and its membership's civic contributions to Maplewood don't make the evening news doesn't make it a place where nothing important happened. Local history is and should be relevant to local government (and hopefully local citizens), thus why a local HPC exists, and why the TC is weighing its options and giving due respect to the history of the club in its consideration of what to do next.
Lee Navlen March 13, 2013 at 01:26 PM
So we pay 1.1 mil for the property AND THEN we designate it an historic landmark, hamstringing potential options for the property down the road????
lolly evans March 13, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Wouldn't have been cheaper to just forget the whole $50k taxes a year because of a Weight Watchers meeting and let them stay? We'd save a whole lot of money.
lolly evans March 13, 2013 at 05:52 PM
The TC has wanted that property for some time now. Look, it's obvious that they had plans for it for a very long time, and went through all that trouble to play "gotcha" with the Women's Club so they could revoke their not for profit status. My guess is that they have been toying with building yet another condo/apartment site there for a while. The TC has been parceling off our town in favor of developers. It is a drain on our town. Enough.
lolly evans March 13, 2013 at 05:56 PM
I agree. I am for one not happy with the lights on Underhill Field. I am sure the homeowners near 7-11 are not happy. The people who live across the tracks from the new apartment building are not happy. This is affecting our town, the quality of our town, and how it is a detriment to the value of our homes
Daniel Wright March 13, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Lee, there are two types of designations discussed in the article: 1. Local designation--this does not put any restrictions on Municipally-owned buildings. Therefore the only potential option it would hamstring might be a resale. 2. National Register of Historic Places designation--there would be more strings with this, but it would also open the possibility for funding and grants to restore the building. There is also potential OPPORTUNITY in designation.
Lee Navlen March 13, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Thanks Daniel, While I understand your thinking, I do believe if you limit the ability to sell the building you're making a mistake. I'm guessing the rest of the TC won't back Mr. Ryan's desire (again) to see it designated with landmark status.
Citizen March 13, 2013 at 08:39 PM
I don't strongly agree or disagree with anything here. I am worried about the 'trend': the 7-11, the tall new apartment building, etc. But what I REALLY love is PATCH for giving people a place to weigh in- including our Mayor. And I love how much I learn about the town through it. Keep up the awesome conversations/debates!
Carolyn Maynard-Parisi (Editor) March 13, 2013 at 09:04 PM
One thing that I didn't have space to address in the article but was discussed at the TC meeting is that if the building is sold to a private developer, there are tax breaks involved if it is listed on the Nat'l Register of Historic Places.
Lee Navlen March 13, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Citizen saying something we all can agree on!
Lee Navlen March 13, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Carolyn, That building stands on prime real estate and no tax incentives are needed to entice a developer. The building should remain standing until someone comes along who wants to knock it down, renovate it or turn it into something that the town and the neighbors can agree on. (Unless of course the town knocks it down first)
emy March 14, 2013 at 02:25 AM
I believe the tax breaks in question for a national designation are federal tax breaks for commercial owners, not local property tax breaks. Needs clarification.
Carolyn Maynard-Parisi (Editor) March 14, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Clarification from Virginia Kurshan of MHPC: If a building is privately owned and is also income-producing (rather than used for the owner's residence), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the owner does renovations that comply with the Secretary of the Interior's standards, then there are federal tax credits that can apply.
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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