Gatehouse begins new career

John Burton

The Hub

It may not look like much now, but members of Preservation Red Bank say this little historic octagon of a building may become a new visitors’ center for the town.

RED BANK — Thanks to a recent grant, Preservation Red Bank will be able to save and restore the former Red Bank Railroad gatekeeper’s house.

On Feb. 28, Andrew North, vice president of Preservation Red Bank, accepted a $2,310 grant from the Monmouth County Historical Commission to rehabilitate the aging and dilapidated structure that originally stood at the Shrewsbury Avenue rail crossing.

North said Preservation Red Bank intends to restore the house and have it placed on the Red Bank train station site where it will serve as an interpretive center for local early rail transportation and possibly as a booth for leading visitors to other significant sites in the borough.

"It will complement all the other amenities in that area," North said, referring to the recent renovations of the Red Bank train station.

The structure is an octagonal wood frame building approximately 6 feet wide by 9 feet high. It dates back to the 1890s and once provided shelter from inclement weather for the gatekeepers who manually operated the gates and switches for arriving and departing trains. It is believed to be the last such structure surviving in Monmouth County. By restoring it, North said he believes it will "show residents and commuters an element of rail service prior to electrification."

The structure was discovered at a residence on West Front Street, Middletown, last spring by a Preservation Red Bank member. It was then stored at Blaisdell Lumber, Bridge Avenue. Currently it is located at Ira B. Matthews Building Contractors, Farmingdale, who are performing the restoration.

The restoration and rehabilitation that the house requires are substantial. North said the building will have to have the windows and roof replaced and the interior floor will need to be repaired and the entire structure painted.

The project is expected to be completed in July of this year and the final cost is estimated to be about $4,800, North said. Preservation Red Bank plans to raise through donations the approximately $2,500 that the grant will not cover.

"This is the sort of project that goes hand in hand with our hope to make people aware of architecture of this area," he said. "It is our history."

The Monmouth County Historical Commission has awarded $65,000 in matching grants this year to 17 of the 28 grant proposals they received from various nonprofit organizations countywide, said the commission’s executive director, William E. Morrisey.

"It really is a special and unique object and one that is deserving of the grant," Morrisey said.