Save Piscataway history! Homeowners and Historic Commissions Must Understand they are Stewards for Historic houses.
Piscataway history is in danger by developers. Therefore significantly important historic buildings, part of historic Raritan Landing, are in the Road Up Raritan Historic District .
To protect Piscataway history, the historic buildings are overseen by the Piscataway Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).
The John Onderdonk House – part of Piscataway history.
Here is the John Onderdonk House. In 1997, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a contributing building to Piscataway history in the Road Up Raritan Historic District of Piscataway NJ – also referred to as the River Road Historic District.
The main part of the house probably dates back to the 1860’s. The original and much older part of the house is the smaller section to the left.
I have passed by this house many times over the years and am very sad to see the changes that the owner has made.
In the main section, historic two-over-two double hung windows have been replaced with six-over-six plastic replacement windows .
The arched window in the 3rd floor gable has been retro-fitted with a rectangular window that just screams “wrong”. A plywood cover would be an improvement!
Vinyl siding in a Dutch Lap style now hides the wood clapboards, destroying the shadow lines.
Part of the porch is now enclosed for additional space since this house contains three apartments.
The original doors were replaced with cheap looking doors that look like they were just purchased at Home Depot.
The wood Italianate cornice features some nice colors, but when combined with the white vinyl, there is no possibility for this house to look good. The opposite side of the house is the same.
True these awful changes were made by the homeowner – an absentee landlord. But how could the Piscataway Historic Preservation Commission, responsible for preserving these important buildings allow this? They were placed in a position of responsibility and they failed their official duties!
Commissions are responsible for educating homeowners.
It is evident that this homeowner lacks the knowledge and respect one should have for a historic house that is on the National Register. To give the homeowner the benefit of a doubt, he may watch “This Old House” on television, and to him, this is how to “improve” an old house. However, he is in a historic district and should be well informed on the do’s and don’ts of old house care.
Although the local Preservation Commission is advisory as most are, they should still serve as a role model and make an effort to promote higher preservation standards whether or not the homeowner chooses to follow.
They are the stewards for houses in the historic district and are responsible for educating the homeowner/steward on how to care for and preserve their home while helping preserve Piscataway history.
Being on the Historic Register or in a Historic District has benefits, but there should be a pro-active approach. Standards must be upheld or you will eventually lose the integrity of the neighborhood bit by bit without realizing it until later.
If you are part of a Preservation Commission and a new homeowner moves into an old house, welcome them. Help them to understand that they are stewards for a house that is part of history and help educate them. Motivate them and let them know how important they are to be in control of such a special house.
If there is not district or commission – do the same as a neighbor. Many homeowners just don’t understand. This is actually the reason I started my website .
The following is a photo of the north side of the house.
Even Sadder: A reader commented that “the only original piece in the house is the banister for the central staircase. It was gutted down to the studs when the landlord bought it, everything was replaced with drywall and the floors are cheap-o 18×18″ ceramic tile. Bathroom was installed at the top of the stair landing and they sliced through 3/4 of a structural beam to put in plumbing. The landlord really only cares about profit, and doesn’t know anything about home maintenance or historic preservation. I really wish someone could restore it to its former glory, but so much damage has been done unfortunately.”