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.
Click here for a complete understanding of window design .
Click here for a book to better understand architecture: “Traditional Construction Patterns”.
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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Thanks for this exposé of a truly egregious example of what happens when a historic preservation commission either lacks the spine to do its job or has been taken over by people who have no interest in preservation.
I’ve been enjoying your tutorials about how old buildings work, and how they can be so thoughtlessly mangled. Maybe “enjoyed” isn’t the right word, but I’ve learned a lot from your detailed analyses. You’re proving a valuable and rare service!
That is just sickening. Honestly stomach-turning. I will never understand why and how some people have so little regard for historic architecture. Sadly, the HPC in my town allowed something very similar (although not quite as bad) in my hometown. A pre-Civil War brick Greek Revival was allowed to have two gigantic additions built onto it, one brick and one frame, which tripled the square footage of the house. That alone might not have been so bad (although the original architecture of the house was mostly engulfed by the additions)but there are plenty of McMansion architectural elements in the additions, including a two-story-high hideous vinyl “Palladium” window and one of those tiny and useless fake wrought-iron balconies. Horrid.
I’m not even getting the pics on my email and I feel like going
balistic. When will people realize that these buildings are an asset
and would draw tourists and could be used ‘as is’ for business.
Cincinnati has many fine buildings that have seen the wrecking ball
recently. Two notable examples were an early 1800s stone house north
of Cincy that was replaced by a Hardee’s! and the historic (meaning
on The Register) church where Harriet Beecher Stowe’s father preached
his sermon against slavery. The latter retained the bell tower as a
“nod” to it’s history.
It was actually very sad as the public outcry was great and the reason
was one man’s greed: the preacher’s. He wanted to erect a funeral
home, so down came the historic and beautiful church. All this in a
town that spent and is spending millions to support the Underground RR
History Museum I guess if you have a museum, then it’s all right!
At least the house where they lived (HBS) is a museum and I’m hoping
I also used to see the desecration of really old buildings in Montreal (think Banc de Paris where they kept the facade of a 1700s building and just attached a skyscraper), and lovely Art Nouveau residences when I live there. No place is immune without someone or group of people at the helm.CTD
Barry Jay says
I just can’t let this post go by without adding my two cents worth. I can appreciate everyone’s love for the past but there has to come a time when you have to draw a line in the sand. There are some things that are worth saving and some that are not. Sure, magnificent old public buildings that were built with longevity in mind, do your best to preserve them as they were usually build in a day with a different mindset and economy; but this old unremarkable building, I think one has to be objective and look at the other side of the story.
For the years that it sat in its previous condition, did anyone attempt to buy it and flip it restored? Was there a local movement to secure it and move it to public land for use as a local tourist attraction? Hardly. Historic houses are not big revenue generators (Look at the condition of the Burrows House in Matawan as an example) and the local municipalities cannot afford to be straddled with the upkeep and maintenance of them. However, when some entrepreneurs buy the property to develop it as an investment, suddenly everyone has something to say about it….
Everyone has an opinion and talk becomes real cheap, especially when it’s about someone else’s money. Here we are in an economy where improvements to a business district are certainly welcomed and those taking the risk suddenly become demonized. Where was everyone before Fox Associates bought the property?
Maybe every new building in town should be mandated to be restricted with design changes as someday, they could become “historic”. It’s bad enough that the towns are brutal with extortion like fees at every point of construction, but to make businessmen boogie men is unfair and unprofessional.
I think you’re missing the point of this somewhat lengthy blog post. He is criticizing the historic preservation commission which has the mission to protect the historic integrity of the town. This should be part of the master plan of the town – done by professional city planners. When someone who’s agenda may not align with this mission becomes a member of such a commission, you have a classic case of conflict of interest. This degrades the integrity of the commission and makes it lose any credibility.
To me, it’s sad when any such building is plasticized. Once lost, it can never be recovered. And if a line isn’t drawn somewhere, every town in NJ will look the same – strip malls with nail salons and pizza parlors. What makes a town unique and special is lost to modern blandness and suburban sprawl.
Carl Nittinger says
It is my understanding that the Richmond House is identified in the Historic Preservation Element of the Freehood Master Plan as a resource eligible to be listed in the National and State Register of Historic Places, and therefore under the purview of the Freehold Historic Preservation Commission pursuant to the Freehold Historic Preservation Ordinance. Therefore, the Richmond House was identified as a resource significant in American architectural history that possessed integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association under The Nationl Regiter of Historic Places Evaluation Criterion C to be listed in the National and State Registers of Historic Places because it embodied the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, and method of construction. It was the responsibility, therefore, of the Freehold Historic Preservation Commisson and Freehold residents to protect and preserve the integrity of that resoure for the enjoyment and education of not only the present generation, but for future generations. Historic architectural resoures provide a visual window into our past to teach us and help us understand from where we came and to guide decisions which will effect future generations as we strive to improve the quality of life through a better understanding of our built environment and American cultural heritage. The historic integrity of the Richmond House has cearly been dinminished to the point it no longer retains the integrity to convey the arcitectual significance which made it possible to identify the resource as eligible to be listed in the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Its value as a resource that conveyed its significance is now lost for the enjoyment and education of the present generation as well as future generations.
Susan M says
The real crime here has been committed by the architects. Of course, they had to produce a product at a price acceptable to the property owner. But the bad design, mis-use of building materials and lack of oversight on the construction site is unforgivable for licensed architects. Good design doesn’t cost any more than bad design. When I see bad design in renovations, I usually assume it is a contractor who is just slapping on an addition without benefit of an architect. For it to be architects who have an intimate knowledge of the building who have done this botch job is really a discredit to their profession.
Gregory Hubbard says
Forgive me, but your comments make you sound like a booster or employee for one of the firms named. You’ve learned nothing from the above architectural comments and criticisms.
Furthermore. Let’s simply consider dollars and cost of the work as completed, and what could have been.
Suppose we accept the requirement that the historic building had to have an addition added UNDER it to be profitable – not true, but accept that for a minute, simply restoring it would have saved the developers money. By saving original details, they would have saved the cost of removing the original columns and replacing them, the original trim and replacing it, covering the original siding, and removing and replacing the original windows.
Window replacement is very expensive since replacement windows are never the exact size of the originals, which means every opening must be rebuilt…
Since the commission and the rest of the participants in this fiasco agreed to a compromise they apparently had no intention of honoring, they almost certainly never evaluated the Historic Preservation Investment Tax Credit vs. the addition of the ground floor and other alterations intended to make money. They might have made more money with the credit. We’ll never know.
Others have made money. There are even tax-credit investment firms. They’re not in this for their health.
The impact on the town is more profound. There are any number of studies that document cities and towns that preserve their history are actually more profitable than those that do not, and a restored historic building brings in more economic value for a business district than a generic replacement.
The saddest fact of all is that they all shot themselves in the wallet. Of course this is all my opinion, but the studies are out there, so is the tax credit. So are hundreds of examples of tax credit work that allowed large additions to historic structures while providing the best tax write-off still available.
Freehold is so very, very sad.
Gregory Hubbard says
Sorry, but my remarks were intended for Barry Jay, not the other, in my opinion, very astute commentators.
Gregory Hubbard says
The tragedy in all of this is that Freehold is not unique with their ineffective Historic Preservation Commission.
Kennebunk, Maine has a spectacular district of historic homes and businesses, just as you’d hope. Except the district commission has given permission for really inexpensive replacement sash and replacement of original details.
As an example, the Federal Era barn adjacent to the Emerson House Inn was destroyed for a modern copy that dose not begin to replicate what it replaces.
The commission gave permission for the then owners to demolish and replace all but the front wall, which they all agreed to preserve as the owners claimed it was unsound. No one with heavy timber experience examined it.
That ‘compromise’ would have saved the original front wall, whose details which tied it to the work of Thomas Eaton, a remarkable Federal Era master housewright responsible for the Kennebunk Unitarian Church’s present appearance, and perhaps two dozen early 1800s homes across southern Maine and New Hampshire.
The owners asked me to develop an estimate for a top-of-the-line restoration. A heavy timber restoration contractor provided one. He emphasized that the job could be completed for much less with reasonable compromises.
The top of the line estimate he provided was used by the owners to argue that any restoration was prohibitive. So we were back to saving only the front wall.
I drove by just in time to see a bulldozer crush the entire barn, including the front wall. Of course, the bulldozer had to beat on the structure because, except for its sills, it was actually in fair condition.
Across both Kennebunk and Kennebunkport most of the Federal era homes and businesses have been resided with new siding, and all exterior trim replaced with larger, clunky moldings wildly different from the hand cut originals.
In Key West, Florida, the fronts of most of the historic buildings on Duval Street, the main street, have been replaced with the same generic shopfront developed by a local architect….
The ground floor interior walls in one large mansion, now a restaurant, have all been removed to create a large dining room. The house has begun to sag….
The only way to stop this insanity, in my opinion, is to attend every meeting, and crowd the room with preservation supporters. Raise your concerns at meetings, and never let the commission and those that appointed them forget what their duties and responsibilities are. Make it difficult for the Mayor, council or town planner, whoever appoints the commission, that this action or lack of action is completely unacceptable.
Nothing gets someone’s attention like an informed and forceful electorate.
This made all the difference when the wonderful Colonial Revival Kennebunk Business Girl’s Club building was scheduled for demolition for a new fire station. We were told it was structurally unsound. We were told saving it was too expensive. None of that was true, so we showed up at all the meetings, monitored the agreement and we won.
Richard Hallberg says
Thank you, Greg, for your passion, effort and dedication to the value, both economic and aesthetic, inherent in preservation of historic structures and streetscapes.
I live in a registered historic district in Roswell, Georgia and we continue to be assaulted by infill exteriors which mimic Alfred E. Neuman proportions and alignments supposedly justified by interior design. The majority of our developers and their architects promote this disturbing design with the excuse that it is what the buyers want. I wish more architects/designers understood the historic aesthetic and it’s value. I think it would be great if there were training and certification requirements for architects designing in historic districts.
Greg Hubbard says
Mr. Hallberg, with your permission, I’d like to borrow your ‘we continue to be assaulted by infill exteriors which mimic Alfred E. Neuman proportions and alignments supposedly justified by interior design…’ A more accurate description would be difficult to find.
One of the problems that preservation creates is the attractiveness of neglected buildings for developers who have no idea what they’re doing. Worse, there is no effort to ‘self-educate.’ After all, if a doctor recommended that you get a lobotomy, wouldn’t you get a second opinion? Just as when someone recommends rebuilding a building for which you’d just paid good money, wouldn’t you consult someone else, anyone else, for a second opinion?
It is up to us, as preservation minded professionals and enthusiasts, to make certain that the developers and the public know what their options are. And to keep pushing to keep them on the straight and narrow through constant education.
Again, thanks for a great description.
Ed King says
Not only has the Richmond House been turned into one of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen, the other great historic Greek revival building across the street was demolished by the owners of the Freeman Funeral Home because they didn’t want to correct the contaminated soil from a leaking heating oil tank.The State of N.J. would have allowed the contaminated soil to remain in place because it was covered by a building. However they would have insisted in a deed restriction to notify any future purchasers of the issue.
S. Lori says
I lived in Jersey City. With the frenzy of building there over the past 15+ years and going, I can assure you these developers know exactly what they are doing. They promise the world to comply with regulations, requests, and to respect those living within close proximity of the project(s) a quality of life. However, once they start, they move their agenda at lightning speed. It is all about cranking out buildings and getting paid. Those in local government can be pressured by others, who knows, maybe even paid to allow things to move along smoothly. More than a Historic Preservation Commission, the Buildings Department knows what’s going on with permits. Was anyone alerted of violations? Did anyone investigate complaints or issue a “stop work”? Doubt it. Very sad. Trust me, it was almost impossible to stop them. This is going on throughout the state.