EMERSON, N.J. — Emerson’s new Historic Preservation Committee resolved Monday night to do a survey of all the buildings in town that are at least 100 years old.
“It should be updated,” said Jill McGuire, committee member.
“The last one I’m aware of is the Bergen County survey done in 1980 and 1981.”
The committee’s inaugural meeting at Borough Hall was an infusion of fresh energy into the borough's local history scene.
For the past two years, the previous body – a Historic Preservation Commission, headed by Bill Wassmann – was mostly inactive.
It had four vacancies last month when the Borough Council voted to abolish and replace it with a committee.
While the commission operated independently, the committee has an advisory role and reports to the Borough Council.
Wassmann, who was chosen as chairman of the committee Monday, expressed disappointment at what the committee can’t do.
“We can’t preserve much,” he said.
But the committee collectively decided on a focus: to survey the buildings and educate the community about its history.
It wants to erect photo and artifact displays at a place or places in the borough, such as the train station.
“We also need events to bring people in,” said Frances Varoli, committee member and a member of the Pascack Historical Society.
“You can’t just put pictures on the wall.”
The committee is now actively seeking venues.
The borough, first populated by the Lenape Indians, saw its first non-native settler in 1748.
As the centuries rolled on, more and more Dutch, German and Italian families arrived in what became known in 1903 as Etna – and later, Emerson.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Ed Bueti noted Borough Hall itself has historic significance.
It’s a New Deal building built as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
There has been some talk of at least modifying the municipal building, which was dedicated in 1939.
“Since this building is going to be under construction, I think it has to be a priority,” Bueti said.
“How do you protect it? How do you protect murals and other artifacts from the WPA in this building with a survey designation of buildings that are at least 100 years old?”
Wassmann replied the designation is “flexible."
“You have to start somewhere,” he said.
In addition to McGuire, Wassmann and Varoli, committee members are: Phil Mazzo, vice chairman; Ann McElwain, secretary; Tony Basile; Vincent Benanti and Marie Castrovillari.
The committee's next meeting is April 17.
Recently, McGuire created an Emerson Facebook page to celebrate the history of the borough — Emerson, NJ Historic & Preservation Efforts .
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