Union County Funds Available to Preserve Historic Treasures

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Photo Caption (photo attached): Drake House in Plainfield. Once used as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, this former farmhouse was built in 1746. It was enlarged and restyled to Victorian tastes in 1864, and was recently restored with support from Preserve Union County. (Photo courtesy of Union County)

Drake House in Plainfield. Once used as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, this former farmhouse was built in 1746. It was enlarged and restyled to Victorian tastes in 1864, and was recently restored with support from Preserve Union County. (Photo courtesy of Union County)

UNION COUNY – The sixth round of funding is available for Preserve Union County, a matching grant program under the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders announced Monday.

Preserve Union County is a merit-based grant program that helps local governments and preservationists save treasured civic landmarks and historic sites.

“Union County’s roots go back more than 340 years, with a legacy rich in the historic moments that have defined our communities and our country,” said Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, who is chairman of the Trust Fund. “We are very proud that Preserve Union County has played a key role in ensuring that future generations can experience these living reminders of our shared past.”

The Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund was established in the year 2000 with overwhelming support from Union County voters, who approved it by referendum.

The Preserve Union County program was added in 2003, providing for grants every other year. Since then, it has awarded more than $2.5 million in dollar-for-dollar matching funds. This year’s funding total will be $300,000.

“If you take a look at the previous grant cycle in 2011, you can see how Preserve Union County reflects the complex effort involved in refurbishing these sites, and making sure they are accessible to the public,” said Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter. “This program is a real testimony to the dedication of local preservationists in Union County.”

Some of the projects approved in the 2011 cycle dealt with basic upkeep needed to prevent water damage and deterioration. That included funding for the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, to restore the slate roof and masonry at the tower; repairs to active roof leaks at the George A. Strong Residence in Plainfield, and complete replacement of the slate roof at the Liberty Hall Museum Carriage House in Union.

Other grants involved upgrades to windows and building systems, needed to ensure the safety and comfort of those visiting it, as well as to replace inefficient or non-functioning equipment.

For example, the Carriage House in Fanwood and the Caldwell Parsonage in Union received funding for air conditioning and other upgrades, and the Deacon Hetfield House in Mountainside replaced a hot water heater.

Access is another type of project eligible for grants. In 2011, Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit was awarded a grant to build a short walkway across the grounds, in order to provide visitors with a safer route from parking areas to the main building.

Aesthetic upgrades are also part of the Preserve Union County mission. These were represented in the 2011 cycle with new paint for doors and trim at the Merchants and Drovers Tavern in Rahway (among other repairs), and a period stove for the Oswald J. Nitschke House in Kenilworth.

For the 2013 grant cycle, application packets were mailed to municipalities and preservationists on Friday, April 26. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, July 25.

To obtain a packet or to get more information about the Preserve Union County program, contact the Trust Fund at 908-558-2277.


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