ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

List of Endangered Historic Sites Include Hidden Gems

New Jersey is filled with historical sites but some are in serious trouble. NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider spoke Stephanie Cherry-Farmer, Programs Director of Preservation New Jersey, to discuss the organization’s list of the ten most endangered places.

The list isn’t limited to monuments and architectural sites, says Cherry-Farmer.

“There’s lots of vernacular sites, as we call them … that still have a lot of significance,” she said.

One subject, in particular, that may go unnoticed by the public are the remnants of the Morris Canal Aqueduct in Denville.

The Morris Canal, all of us know, or many of us know, was a very significant engineering feat in the 19th century in New Jersey,” she explained. “In Denville, there remains the remnants of only one aqueduct [which] was a structure that carried the canal across the Rockaway River. In this case, the remnants are two piers. They’re stone piers and abutments on the side of the river that are covered in concrete. So they look pretty plain and not many people would say, ‘Oh, that’s a remarkable historical place?’ … They’re really the only thing left to tell the story about how the Morris Canal was carried over rivers.”

Hurricane Sandy impacted many of the historic sites, directly and indirectly, according to Cherry-Farmer.

“FEMA and the national flood insurance program are republishing the flood maps. So many of us understand that that’s going to require or encourage elevation of structures in many communities that weren’t even impacted by Sandy,” Cherry-Farmer explained. “So the idea of how that happens in historic communities in a way that maintains integrity and allows for resources to be updated in a way that makes them safe, but also allows them the sense of place that makes these communities so special is one that we’re very concerned about.”

The notoriety that comes with being included on the list may be end up to be a blessing in disguise when it results in proactive measures for the sake of preservation.

She cited as a success story, “the Petty’s Run archeological site which is right adjacent to the State House was on our list in 2011.”

After it was listed, Mercer County and the state DEP, she said, worked together to facilitate a plan that would stabilize that site.

“[It] opened as a heritage tourism destination instead of filling it in as was the original plan,” she said. “So we hope our list was part of the encouragement that encouraged them to look toward a more creative plan and result in a great site for the people of New Jersey.”