The Morris County Board of County Commissioners allocated $3.6 million in grants from the county’s Preservation Trust Fund to advance significant initiatives to help revitalize, preserve and protect 23 historic sites in 15 towns across Morris County.
Including this grant disbursement, Morris County has awarded nearly $50 Million on preservation efforts at 122 historic locations since 2003, when awards were first issued for protecting historic sites through Morris County’s Preservation Trust Fund. The properties have benefited through 535 grants, with some properties receiving multiple grants over the years to conduct planning, acquisition and construction projects.
“The staff and volunteers do a phenomenal job evaluating these applications and making recommendations on how to invest our dollars. People often thank the Commissioners for the money, but it ultimately comes from the taxpayers, who always overwhelmingly support these programs and it’s fortunate that they do,” stated Commissioner Stephen Shaw, liaison to the Historic Preservation Trust Fund Review Board.
The Historic Preservation Trust Fund Review Board recommended the sites approved, with most of the funding — around 88 percent — designated toward the construction and refurbishment of 17 projects. The remaining funds will support a range of essential non-construction activities, including design and specification work for future construction on four sites, preservation planning for one specific site, and research and development needed for another property to submit a nomination to the renowned National Register of Historic Places.
A non-construction grant of $44,400 will provide first-time funding for the Darress Theatre in Boonton Township.
Located in downtown Boonton, the Darress Theatre opened in 1921 as a silent film and vaudeville theatre and is certified as contributing to the Boonton Main Street Historic District. The Town of Boonton purchased the property in December 2020 with plans to convert it into a regional performing arts center.
A grant for $470,500 will support the preservation of the Obadiah LaTourette Grist and Saw Mill in Washington Township.
Funding will provide for stabilization of the Mill’s stone foundation, which includes installing a cofferdam and micropiles underneath the foundation with a new concrete cap to help control the impacts of the South Branch of the Raritan River flowing against the anterior foundation walls for nearly three centuries. The circa 1750 mill represents an example of early industrial architecture and is on the New Jersey and the National Registers of Historic Places as a contributing property in the German Valley Historic District. The site was a vital component of the local economy providing a market for farm products and a business/meeting place for much of its history.
Application Review Process
The review board received 23 applications for consideration in 2023, amounting to nearly $5.9 million in grant requests. They were initially reviewed for their conformance to the U.S. Secretary of Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties,” which promote historic preservation best practices.
“These are very important federal guidelines set during the historic acts that have been passed since the 1960s, with antecedents going back even further than that. We want to be at the highest level with tax dollars,” said Larry Fast, Chair of the Review Board.
Site visits were conducted by the review board to assess the properties up for consideration. After a final presentation was made by the grant applicants, the review board deliberated on the funding recommendations. Twelve of the 23 projects received full funding requested for preservation purposes.
Top right: Members of the Historic Preservation Trust Fund Review Board during their May 13th visit to the Kountze Mansion, currently an educational and administrative building for the Delbarton School.
Center left: Street view of the Darress Theatre in Boonton Township.
Bottom right: Interior view of the Obadiah LaTourette Grist & Saw Mill in Washington Township