UNION COUNTY – Despite the troubled economy, the Union County Freeholders are planning a $1.49 million renovation of a 127-year-old barn in the Watchung Reservation, with the county picking up nearly three-quarters of the tab.
The 3,200 square-foot Masker’s barn is one of the 10 buildings that make up the Deserted Village of Feltville/Glenside Park in Berkeley Heights. The renovation project will transform the barn into a meeting room and lecture hall and take more than nine months to complete. The structure’s foundation will be rebuilt, the roof will be replaced, the interior redone, windows and doors repaired and a bathroom and kitchenette installed, officials said. The building will be rewired to include an alarm system and repainted to match its original color.
The move seems to run contrary to recent decisions to cut costs in the parks department. Earlier this year, the freeholders voted to close Oak Ridge Golf Course in Clark to save money and shelved a $586,000 renovation of Echo Lake Dog Park.
The dog park project would have been funded entirely through the county’s Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, which is contributed to by county taxpayers. The barn renovation will only use $426,834 from the fund, which will be matched through the state’s Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund. The rest of the bill will come from the county’s capital budget and a surplus from a recent utilities project.
According to county estimates, more than 30,000 people visit the Deserted Village each year for a variety of events, including annual Halloween hayrides and children’s educational programming.
The area was first settled more than 350 years ago. Daniel Felt bought the land in the mid-1840s to open a paper mill. The village of Feltville was created to house his employees. After Felt left in 1860, the property was eventually abandoned. At the end of the 19th century, the village became a summer resort renamed Glenside Park. The property was eventually abandoned again and the county purchased it in the 1920s. It was named a historic district in 1980.
Although county officials expressed concern about the timing of the barn project, they say they risk losing the state funding if a contract isn’t awarded soon.
The freeholders are expected to award the renovation contract to Schtiller & Plevy Inc. of Newark at Thursday’s meeting at the Union County Performing Arts Center, 1601 Irving Street in Rahway, which begins at 7 p.m.
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