Salem City holds the utmost historical significance to the beginning of our country. It is important to save this piece of history and preserve it for future generations and educate people of the significance of this historic town and its culture. It is the Society’s goal to save the history of this town to educate, appreciate and assist in a revitalization of Salem City.
Our group consists of Salem City Mayor Charles Washington, Kathleen Mills of the Salem County Cultural and Heritage Commission, Salem Community College (SCC) President Dr. Michael Gorman, SCC Director Center for Business & Industry Ron Burkhardt, Salem County Vocational and Technical School (SCVTS) Superintendent John Swain, Architectural Preservationist Gregg Perry, Stand Up for Salem (SUFS) Executive Director Chris Davenport and other concerned citizens who are well-versed in the complex problem of rebuilding our community. There have been many attempts at revitalization over the last century which, unfortunately, fell far short of the mark. This time will be different, as our assemblage of individuals fills all the key components required.
Our project is commencing with the property located at 67 West Broadway. This dwelling will be used as an example of the high degree of sympathetic restoration that our group can perform. The house is a fine example of late 18th century high-style Georgian architecture which continued on to the early 19th century. The well-proportioned window placement and lighted fan over the doorway highlight its brick facade exterior.
Unfortunately, the ravages of time, decay and abuse have forced this dwelling into an urgent need of intervention.
The interior of the house, unfortunately, has been raped by local vandals and includes: radiators, several fireplace surrounds, moldings, doors, shutters and balustrades. These objects, once stolen from properties like this one, typically find their way to local antique shops and salvage centers. With the theft of these objects, the thieves were not sympathetic and they destroyed much of the stairways, plaster walls and various sections of flooring.
Our flagship project will begin by clearing the property’s overgrown vegetation, debris and a two-story burned out dwelling at the far rear of the property. The labor will be supplied by local volunteers from various groups. Next, we will be removing the crumbling non-original additions to the house, including the front roof dormer.
At this point, our concentration will move to the dwellings interior; cleaning out the interior, planning for the mechanicals, electric and fabrication of all the missing millwork.
Our effort will be spearheaded by volunteers on the ground and preservation-minded citizens donating machinery and tools to get the project moving forward. Our longer term goals are to create a community center that would provide millwork and expertise for any community homeowners who would wish to work on their own dwellings. Included with this would be the training of young people who desire a potential career in preservation and as a way to instill pride in themselves and their community.
Salem City is one of the most important early towns of our country and this can be best exemplified by John D. Rockefeller Jr’s 1920s study of the purchase of the entire city of Salem to be converted into a living Colonial museum. An expert in the field, he felt Salem comprised sufficient fabric but the plans were later thwarted by the state of NJ citing that there may be potential fatalities on Rt 49 and Rt 45 with a walking museum. So Rockefeller proceeded to Williamsburg, VA and created a Disney-like Colonial reproduction town with virtually no original fabric.
In the early 70’s, several homes on Market Street just days from the bulldozer were saved by a philanthropist passing through town. He assembled the powers that be and donated a large sum of money to save these houses. These restored Colonials were sold to homeowners for little money but, unfortunately, they did not carry on the spirit of Market Street preservation.