Preserve Freehold History – Outcry by Residents
News reports: The messages from residents were: “Once it’s gone it’s gone” and “Do the job you were entrusted to do – protect the town’s historic resources and preserving the building is the only environmentally responsible approach”.
This was the plea to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) of Freehold NJ by residents to prevent the destruction of the Richmond House and save Freehold history.
It is reported that the residents won. But in reality they did not. They asked the HPC to “do their job” and the result is a joke!
The History of the Richmond house.
The Richmond house, built in the 1830’s, was one of seven pre-Civil War buildings left in Freehold NJ. Their were eight until the HPC foolishly approved destruction of the town’s #1 prize landmark building, the American Hotel. The reason the HPC was started was to protect the American Hotel.
The Richmond house was owned by its original family until Dr. Richmond’s death in the late 1990’s, and was one of the few residential buildings in the business area, balanced out by two others across the street. It was an excellent example of temple-front Greek Revival architecture in Monmouth County.
Several additions which date to the later 1800’s have been added on to the rear of the building. A large carriage house was razed about 10 years ago. The house, except for its recent plastic siding, retains all its exterior integrity including its old glass windows. This Main Street building was part of Freehold history for close to 200 years.
Those Responsible for the Richmond House and Freehold history.
- The Richmond House, which is at 42 E. Main St. Freehold, NJ is owned by Edward Ketcham and Victor Scudiery of Fox Associates in Hazlet NJ.
- The building housed the office of architects Daniel Bach and Gregory Clark of Bach & Clark LLC.
- Fox Associates is the owner/developer and Bach & Clark LLC are their architects.
- Greg Clark of Bach & Clark LLC is ALSO on the Historic Preservation Commission.
Do you follow all this?
The proposed plan was to demolish the Historic Richmond House as shown above and construct a new three-story office building with parking, as in the photo below. Excerpts from the News Transcript are as follows.
Mayor Michael Wilson said the applicant had designed a beautiful building and said it would certainly be an improvement, but he wanted the applicant’s representatives to address the issue of the garbage bin and come up with a plan to take the container off borough property.
“would certainly be an improvement” yes – the previous owner installed plastic siding. The siding looked like a slip cover on the building and made it look cheap. What did they expect?
There was much discussion of the garbage issue since that was more important than a historic building, Freehold history, or preserving a sense of place in town.
Note the proposed brick building above. The plan for the new office building was reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. The advisory commission made several recommendations about the proposed building, but did not object to the razing of the Richmond house. They merely commented on changing of the third story window appearance and setting aside a place to document the history of the building. (Erecting a sign makes it OK for the HPC to destroy part of Freehold history)
According to the News Transcript, architect Dan Bach of Bach & Clark, said vinyl siding covers the original wooden structure and said the back of the building is no longer historically significant because much of it had been replaced over the years.
I guess he is not aware that vinyl can be removed and one of the reasons for the building not appearing attractive. Additions were added to the rear of the building during the later nineteenth century – they are significant in their own way as part of the evolution and changing use of the building. This is all part of Freehold history.
Dan Bach said the plan is to replicate the current building as much as possible, including duplicating the Federal style architecture.
This statement from a seasoned, experienced architect stated the building is Federal Style when it is actually Greek Revival. There is a big difference! I guess he may have missed that day in Architecture 101. Since when is replacing a wood building with a brick building replicating it?
“We looked at various ways to save some of the building, but we would have to chop off more parking spaces and it will then become less conforming” with parking regulations, Bach told Smith.
We all know parking is a priority and a good reason to demolish a historic building! I remember hearing one commission member actually made a comment several years ago. He said the town just has to wait for some old houses to go up for sale so the parking lot can be expanded.
The Fight to Save Freehold History.
So this is what happened. The HPC approved the demolition of the historic building. Based on the outcry of objection from the borough historian, residents, and other preservationists, the issue was returned to the HPC to be re-evaluated.
Expert Gail Hunton, a supervising historic preservation specialist for the county, attended the next HPC meeting and informed the HPC that it is their responsibility to protect historic resources.
This must have been a shock since the HPC is known for allowing the destruction of historic buildings. (Councilman Marc Le Vine, was the council’s liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission during this period although he obviously had no understanding of Freehold history.)
We win! Freehold’s Richmond House is Saved?
To make a long story short, it was agreed that the main (front) section of the building would be saved and restored, the rear additions removed and a 10,800 sq. ft. new building added to the rear.
Finally for the first time since its inception, the HPC took a responsible stand to save history – if not only for the reason that they were in the public spotlight.
Preservation architects were consulted and it all seemed like the building and Freehold history was safe. It was a fair compromise to remove the later 19th century additions in the rear for the new construction. The owners/developers of the building were satisfied. The people of Freehold can sleep soundly now…..or so we thought.
What in God’s name did they do?
Several months later while driving down Main Street I had a shock. What they did was instead of restoring the building and adding new construction to the rear as planned, they constructed a new one story building in the front and much closer to the street, and then took the original historic building and put it on top of the new building!
What happened? How can they do this? They were consulted by the best in the historic preservation field!
Is it possible that it may have something to do with a conflict of interest? The same architect Greg Clark of Bach + Clark LLC that worked for the developer was also on the HPC. The battle was so stressful. We were assured the building would be saved but it was not. It was destroyed!
The building was eligible for, but not on the National Register of Historic Places. Being on the National Register would not prevent demolition however. It would just draw attention to the fact that the building is significant. Since the building was placed on the roof of the new building it is now out of context. It would NOT be eligible for the Historic Register or any future funding such as the 20% tax credit for commercial historic buildings.
Nice job Freehold HPC!
The dreary wintertime ‘before’ photo above makes the vinyl sided building appear quite sad when compared to the new construction photographed on a bright sunny day in August.
True the old building was obviously unloved since it had vinyl siding slapped on it contributing to a fake looking and run down appearance. Believe me – removal of the vinyl would make the greatest improvement. Vinyl siding fits a house like a slip cover on a sofa. The sofa may look ok but nothing like the crispness of upholstery.
A restoration by a qualified architect would bring back the building’s charm, make it usable office space, be an asset to Main Street and to Freehold history. Qualifications are key. Just because your name is on your door does not make you qualified.
As you can see in the photos above, the original ground floor was set lower in the ground and the main entrance was elevated. Only the old section from the porch up was saved and placed on top of a newly constructed 1st floor.
There is no visual separation between the historic building and the new construction as new siding blends them into one new building. Except for the bad replacement windows, the historic building is still there, but totally hidden. Historic chimneys were also removed.
Now if you recall, the HPC originally approved demolition of this building but only reversed its decision based on public outcry to save this historic building. Looks like they got their way in the end.
This is how the Freehold Preservation Commission and architect Bach & Clark can proudly display Freehold history. Disneyland architecture that tries to make the viewer think the building is historic. Sadly many simple minded people will not notice the difference and some will think it’s an improvement over the gray old building just because it looks cleaner.
While many local people will remember the Richmond house and its long history, many of us will remember this sad desecration of Freehold history and those responsible for it.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at the New Building Designed by Bach & Clark.
The old building now has a “cover” that matches the new construction which boasts bad architecture so common today.
Here the cheap vinyl siding is removed, exposing the original 1830’s flat siding also know as German Siding. This is now covered up under Hardiboard – a man-made substitution for clapboard. As you see, Clapboard is different from German siding. This old wood – hard as rock – could have been sanded and painted, giving the historic building a bright new life and preserving part of Freehold history.
Why this is bad architecture
To the average person driving by, this new building may look beautiful to them. For one reason it is bright and clean but the real issue here is for those that have an untrained eye and don’t see the design problems. Those of us that know architecture and design can pick out design flaws easily. These flaws may see insignificant but they add up quickly. They do have an effect on how we perceive buildings. The reason we like old houses is better explained here.
This may not seem important to you but wouldn’t one expect the columns to line up?
We all know that most structures today are designed pretty bad but seriously – this is simple and obvious. Doesn’t anyone use rulers anymore?
There is only one method for installing columns and new or old architecture does not matter.
Please see the diagram to the right. Notice how nice the example building is when designed correctly. Not only do the columns not line up neither column is located in the correct place.
The column must be located at the corner of the porch beam above. See in the diagram how the top of the column extends away from the beam? It should be this way for all columns on both floors.
There is also a hierarchy for columns. A heavier column on the bottom and thinner on top.
This is the new window in the historic building, although one would never know that 1830 siding is hidden underneath.
As with most new construction, windows are incorrectly designed.
This window is absent of a sill, an important element that acts as a visual base for the window and diverts water away from the siding.
As you see in the photos above, there is quite a big difference in the window style. The window sashes are set much deeper into the window casing. In the picture above, the distance from the face of the casing to the upper sash is about 2 inches and 4 inches for the lower sash. In the new window, the distance is less than ½ inch for the upper sash as shown by the arrows. This creates a flat, bland appearance.
Please remember – shadows are important for the create interest and make features come to life.
As you see, the replacement window is manufactured by Pella. Pella does not make a bad window. Pella is able to reproduce the detailing of a historic window. Unfortunately the architect chose one of their cheaper products and that is obvious.
The windows are the eyes of the building and a very important feature. These old original windows were designed to be taken apart and repaired . They could have been restored to last another 100 plus years, but instead are now contributing to the landfill.
Let us look at the Header Casing and the Cornice. The cornice you see (A) is just a bunch of decorative moldings put together. In architecture, there are certain moldings used which have a purpose and are based on the Classic Orders of Architecture. These orders are important for the design effects our inner senses.
The design of this molding and allowing its use on any construction show complete ignorance of any architectural rules. It may look close, but it’s effect on how our minds process this design is unappealing.
Letter “B” and “C” above – what in the world is this for? This is just a piece of fake wood screwed on which has no purpose other than to destroy an already bad appearance.
Now look at where the siding meets the window casing. The window casing is first installed and is about 1/2 inch thick. This seals in and protects the window from moisture. Then the siding is installed to butt up to the edge of the casing – NOT UNDERNEATH IT. The window casing here is fake. Just a thin sheet of hardiboard to fool the viewer.
I am not opposed to the use of hardiboard. Hardiboard is not junk like vinyl siding and should not be installed as if it were.
If you really want an education in all this go to the Old House Guy website .
This is a photo looking up at the inside of the porch roof. Notice that the original bead board, still in good condition after all these years, is now being covered up. This is a good example of an architect who wants no trace of Freehold history to be visible. Plastic Disneyland architecture is what they understand and build and they are training your eye to accept this cheap substitution.
Notice the above image showing a column supporting a porch ceiling instead of the porch beam. This design only shows that the architects Bach & Clark have to be complete idiots. Time to send them back to school. Here is a better explanation of porch column alignment.
Now let us look at the massive, newly constructed rear addition. One may think that it is tastefully done and it would be wrong to create a false sense of history. Actually, it is a mish-mosh of various architectural styles. As with McMansions, (click here for a great definition ) the trend is to choose random elements and put them wherever you can. Here I see six-over-six windows reflecting a style of mid 18th century to pre civil war.
The arched window to the right contains square window panes, while the others are rectangular. Window panes/lights are something that should be in harmony throughout the building. The arched window resembles that of a wagon wheel and NOT an architecturally correct window.
There are architectural rules for arched window design. Below is an example of a good window. The keystones in the casing above the arch is just a cutesy embellishment for the simple minded. The keystone arch should be used in masonry construction only.
Above we have a cornice providing a later 19th century style. There are numerous problems with this – again there are time tested rules of architecture that must be followed to provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Skimpy panel molding, tiny brackets and vertical soffit boards are completely wrong.
This poor architecture is all over and spreading like a cancer. For a better understanding of aesthetics click here. To top it all off from what I can see, it appears that the historic interior millwork has also been replaced. It is shocking and sad that one can have such a hatred and disrespect for history.
A part of Freehold history is now gone but hopefully you and other readers can learn from this and prevent this from happening in your town.
Edward Ketcham and Victor Scudiery of Fox Associates in Hazlet NJ have invaded our town and destroyed Freehold history, assisted by Bach + Clark LLC, and the Freehold Historic Preservation Commission. Having a Historic Preservation Commission, as you can see, has not had a positive effect on the town as one may expect. It has only provided a false sense of security.
Call Fox Associates at the number above and tell them what you think. Don’t let greedy developers do this in your town. Be careful of architects that are not knowledgeable in historic preservation, for as you see, they can be very dangerous and have the capability to alter the character of the town you would like to refer to as “home”.
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