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Asbury Park Downtown District, Church Nominated for Historic Registers


Steinbach-featuredBy DON STINE

Asbury Park’s downtown business district has been nominated to be placed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places, as has the Trinity Church on Grand Avenue.

The Asbury Park Commercial Historic District and Trinity Church, at 503 Grand Ave., will be considered by the New Jersey State Review Board for Historic Sites for nomination to the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places and a public meeting will be held in Asbury Park on Friday, Feb. 14 to discuss the downtown district’s application.

A community meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. on that day in the Asbury Park council chambers at City Hall where a slide presentation will be shown and a member of the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) will attend to discuss the downtown business district application and answer any questions.

A copy of the downtown historic district’s application and related general information are available at the Asbury Park Public Library, 500 First Ave..

Asbury Park’s Director of Planning and Development Donald Sammet said he thinks the historic designation of the downtown may be a good thing but he wants more information.

“I do think that having the downtown recognized as having historic significance is an honor, quite frankly, and I think some important economic benefits may stem from that. It may also open up some potential funding sources and possibly tax credits for historic buildings,” he said.

Sammet said he would like all interested parties to attend the Feb. 14 meeting.

“I will also be present to learn more as well,” he said.

Comparable downtown business historic districts in New Jersey are the Paterson Commercial Downtown Historic District and the Four Corners Historic District in Newark.

“We don’t see nominations for larger city downtown historic districts often, but they are welcome when they arrive. The historic buildings in downtown historic districts date to a time when architectural character was seen as an important part of conveying the significance of a business and the community of which it is a part. Architectural character was important for both marketing and inspiring trust in a business,” SHPO Administrator Daniel D. Saunders said on Tuesday.

He added that listing a district on the New Jersey and National Registers acknowledges the importance of an area and identifies it as an area that must be considered in state and federal project planning. District status is often used as a marketing tool to attract visitors. Listing also makes income producing property within the district eligible for the federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives, which provide a 20 percent tax credit to those who rehabilitate historic buildings.

Both the state and national historic registers provide recognition of a community’s historic importance and requires protective review of public projects that might adversely affect the character of the historic property. The designation will also allow certain federal investment tax credits for rehabilitation and other provisions may apply.

Both Trinity Church and downtown redeveloper Carter Sackman paid private firms to prepare and submit their individual applications. Historic downtown buildings in Asbury Park include the old National Guard Armory (now home to VFW Post 1333), several old banks and an old post office building, the Steinbach building and the Kinmouth building which houses the former Savoy Theatre.

The Kinmouth building. Pictured at top of page is the Steinbach building. COASTER file photos.

The Kinmouth building. Pictured at top of page is the Steinbach building. COASTER file photos.

For private property owners, the historic downtown designation does not mean that limitations will be placed on their properties by either the state or federal governments. Within the limits of municipal zoning, private property owners are free to utilize, renovate, alter, sell or demolish their properties. The state and federal government will also not attach any restrictive covenants to the properties or seek to acquire them. But all public undertakings are subject to review and approval in accordance with historic register requirements, SHPO Administrator Daniel D. Saunders said in a Jan. 8 letter to city officials.

Trinity Church is also being considered to be added to the historic registers.

Land for Trinity Church was deeded by Asbury Park founder James A. Bradley and in July, 1875, a 30-by-60-foot wooden Gothic-style structure was completed. The wooden church was consecrated by Bishop John Scarborough on September 14, 1880 but was subsequently lost to fire.

The current church was built over a several-year period with its cornerstone laid in December, 1908. The church was formally consecrated as “Trinity Church” in June, 1919

The architect, Clarence Wilson Brazer, was 27 years old when he designed Trinity Church. It is widely recognized as one of the great church buildings in New Jersey.

Another public State Review Board meeting will be held on both applications on March 13 at which time the nominations will be considered. The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at the Department of Environmental Protection Public hearing Room at 401 East State Street in Trenton, on the first floor.


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