Welcome guest poster, Paul Qvale, Director of Sustainable Services at the Hillmann Group and NJ USGBC board member as he explains about the progress of bring back Rutherfurd Hall, a historic mansion to create an environmental educational center.
One of Norman Vincent Peale’s well known quotes is “Shoot for the moon! You might miss it, but you will be up with the stars…” If ever there was an exciting green project in NJ that fits that quote, it is the effort going on now at Rutherfurd Hall. In that regard, this article should be thought of as the first of several articles as Rutherfurd Hall develops, and as an introduction of what is yet to come.
Rutherfurd Hall is a unique place in New Jersey. It was originally an 18,000 sq. ft. manor home that sat on a large pond in the forested hills of Warren County. It was built in 1903 as the country manor of Winthrop Rutherfurd, a wealthy New York City attorney and socialite. It has a fascinating history, including several visits by President Franklin Roosevelt. The manor was later given to the Daughters of Divine Charity, who in 1959 constructed an infirmary addition wing for their retired sisters and used the mansion as both a retreat and as the base for a nursery school for many years.
Following a community wide referendum, the Rutherfurd property was purchased by the Allamuchy Township School District and subdivided to sell a tract of its open land including access to the clear water pond to the NJ DEP for preservation as open parkland. Meanwhile, the community advanced the construction of a new high performance primary school, the Mountain Villa Primary School designed by SSP Architectural Group, converting the former Infirmary wing into classrooms and constructing a passive solar heated community room wing to the east wing of the manor. The manor itself sits largely untouched and vacant, still facing Allamuchy Pond, which is now part of Allamuchy Mountain State Park.
On February 9, 2010, about 60 people participated in a brainstorming workshop within the manor to develop ideas on what the future of the historic structure could be. The workshop marked the start of a quest to create an environmental education center that would have a statewide impact and would benefit the entire region.
Attendees were impressive and included members of the Rutherfurd family, Assemblyman John Dimaio 23rd District, Allamuchy School Board, Allamuchy Town Council, Neptune Schools District, Willow School in Gladstone, Warren County Cultural and Heritage Foundation, Frelinghuysen Historical Committee, Newton Hospital Foundation, NJDEP and NJIT. Also attending were numerous professionals from Edgar David Associates, SSP Architects, Hillmann Consulting and Mark Hewitt Architects.
Numerous ideas were developed during this session. Some were historical in nature and dealt with the grand history of the manor, the surrounding Allamuchy community, or reached farther back to the early days of New Jersey including the Lenape Indians who originally inhabited the area; others involved nearby corporations with special event programs; others involved health and wellness; still others were directly about environmental education. All in all, well over 100 new concepts were introduced, all of them very exciting, and primarily centered around the idea of creating an educational environmental center in this historic location. A core team is working on those ideas now, and it is expected that additional workshops and events will be scheduled this summer. Stay tuned, as this story is only beginning.
For further information please contact Patrice Maillet, Director of Property and Event Services:908-852-1894.
Editor Note: Just to add to Paul’s article, renovating historic buildings and our cities in my opinion is as green as you get. If my readers recall, I was involved in helping green another historic property, Twin Maples. I have a soft spot for historic buildings. Their beauty overshadows everything that is being built today.
Rutherfurd Hall is another one of those buildings which should be brought back to life with a green unveiling. Stay tune for more articles to come as this story progresses.