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This article was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 30,
1998. All rights reserved.
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
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
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,
in 1948, to make room for additional state buildings."
Lane does not hesitate in dating the birth of the preservation
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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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