HPAC eyeing grant for barn

Township-owned 1930s potato barn is in the worst condition compared to other Updike barns needing repairs.

By:Jessica Beym
   Members of the Historical Preservation Advisory Committee are hoping that a state grant may help fund the rehabilitation of a dilapidated historic barn on Cranbury Neck Road.
   HPAC, the committee that oversees changes to the Historic District, met Tuesday to discuss the possibility of applying for an emergency grant offered by the New Jersey Historic Trust in order to prevent the township-owned 1930s potato barn from falling into further disrepair.
   "It’s going to fall down if we don’t do anything," said Township Committee member Wayne Wittman, who attended the meeting with Committeeman Richard Stannard.
   The grants, which are designed to help preserve endangered historic properties, range from $1,000 to $10,000 and must be matched at a dollar-for-dollar rate.
   The barn is one of three — known as the Updike barns — located on a 1-acre parcel on Cranbury Neck Road. Because the township owns the land and the barns, it will have to apply for the grant. All three barns are in need of renovations, but the 1930s potato barn is in the most need of repair, said township officials.
   Mr. Wittman and Mr. Stannard said they would discuss the grant application with the Township Committee when it meets on Monday. Mr. Wittman said the money to match the grant would most likely have to come from community donations or fundraising, rather than township funds.
   "People in Cranbury will respond if you give them the opportunity," said Mr. Wittman.
   In August, the township approved the demolition of the potato barn after construction officials said it was in disrepair. On Dec. 19, the Township Committee postponed the demolition for three months after residents voiced their concerns about tearing down what they called a piece of Cranbury history. Committee members said the time should be used to research the feasibility of rehabilitating the barn.
   HPAC member, Cranbury resident and architectural historian Kate McConnell said she researched the grant program and found that the barn meets the application requirements.
   In order to apply for the grant, a feasibility study would have to be conducted to assess the condition of the barn and the cost of stabilizing it. According to the requirements, the applicant must also secure the matching funds, show the structure’s historical significance, plan for long-term preservation and show a benefit to the community.
   "If you wanted HPAC to help with that, we could to that," HPAC chairperson Bobbie Marlowe said to Mr. Wittman. "There’s a chunk of history that’s told with the story of the potato barn and I think it needs to be done."
   The Township Committee will meet Monday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. More information about the emergency grant program and the New Jersey Historic Trust can be found on the Web site at www.njht.org.