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Preserved: The War Memorial

There will be plenty to see and do during "Capital

Sunday 2," Preservation New Jersey’s second annual tour of the

State House Historic District, on Sunday, October 4, highlighted by

previews of the War Memorial, just emerging from its

four-and-a-half-year

restoration. But it could well be what is not to be seen that provides

the strongest lesson of this preservation afternoon.

Among the highlights of the tour are the grand and architecturally

diverse row houses that line the northern side of West State Street.

These include the Contemporary Club at number 176, and a group of

six houses known as the "Pride of Lions," built by Ferdinand

Roebling, and embellished with terra cotta lions. In 1997 Hunter

Research

moved its corporate headquarters to 120 and 122 West State Street,

a pair of 1914 Art and Crafts style buildings that it has renovated

and restored. The former physicians’ offices and residences are now

home to 40 full-time employees. All these and more are included on the

Capital Sunday tour.

"The killer is knowing that the north side is the lesser side

of the street," says Sally Lane, director of the Trenton

Convention & Visitors Bureau, and a 30-year Trenton resident. "On

the southern side of the street, you had the homes of the well-to-do.

For many years, the people who lived nearest to the capitol were

people like the chief justice and state commissioners. Even the

governor would rent a house in the State House block.

"Now the southern side is gone. Some of the biggest mansions in

Trenton, such as Washington Roebling’s home, were demolished,

beginning

in 1948, to make room for additional state buildings."

Lane does not hesitate in dating the birth of the preservation

movement

in Trenton to 1974, the year the legislature passed a bill that would

have put a visitor’s center where the Kelsey Building of Edison State

College, the only pre-1900 structure on the south side of West State

Street, still stands today. Build in 1911 for the School of Industrial

Arts, the Kelsey Building was modeled on the Palazzo Strozzi in

Florence

and build by Cass Gilbert. Only after its demolition was scheduled

did the legislators learn of its value, historically and culturally,

and reverse their decision.

"It was saved because it was recognized that it had real

architectural

merit," recalls Lane. "That was the first time in this town

that a building was saved." A few years earlier, in 1968, Trenton

lost its historic train station. "It was a lovely building, and

people knew it was going to be torn down, but the horror did not

really

have an impact until after it was gone," she says. The new public

awareness led to the creation of the State House Historic District,

now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Preservation New Jersey was founded in 1978 by Princeton architectural

historian Constance Greiff and is headquartered in Perth Amboy. Among

its statewide missions is to inform and train of historical commission

board members, advise them in controversies, and bring them the

current

thinking on preservation issues. High points of Capital Sunday include

tours of the 1898 State Capitol dome, currently undergoing restoration

and regilding, the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce at 216 West

State Street, and the upper lodge rooms of the 1926 Trenton Masonic

Temple.

The afternoon begins in the State Museum Auditorium with a talk on

the state’s public art programs by Tom Moran of the State Council

on the Arts. "What’s Up Underground?" a talk on archaeology

in the State House District, is offered at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. And

50-minute walking tours of the State House District are offered at

1:30 and 3:30 p.m. The 5 p.m. reception is at Maxine’s, a recently

restored art deco restaurant on South Warren Street.

Capital Sunday 2, Preservation New Jersey, New Jersey

State Museum, Trenton, 609-777-1770. Register on the day at the State

Museum auditorium or the Trenton Convention & Visitors Bureau in the

Old Masonic Lodge. $10. Sunday, October 4, noon to 5 p.m.


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