The Historical Preservation Society of Upper Township welcomes the opportunity to respond to Mr. Simon's suggestions and concerns. The HPSUT has been searching for nearly three years for a suitable home for an Upper Township Historical Museum. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to buy a building or pay rent and utilities for a museum. We do two major fundraisers each year: the Strawberry Festival in the spring and the Apple Fest in the fall. Both set up at the Gandy Farmhouse in Greenfield, but these do not provide the necessary funds to take on a project of this size. This is why we believe that partnering with the township is the best way to go. After all, this is not a private museum but one that profiles the entire history of the township!
The possibility of using a currently unused building owned by the township (the old township hall in Tuckahoe) has become our very best option. Despite its appearance from the outside, the building has been judged by an architect and engineer that, "it has good bones" and, incidentally, a roof installed just 8 years ago.
Mr. Simon has suggested the use of the Tuckahoe Train Station for the proposed museum. I wonder if Mr. Simon has been inside of the restored train station? The train station is not a suitable location for the historical museum because it does not have the suitable space for displays which would profile the history of the entire township. This is a venue which profiles train history and specifically the history of the Tuckahoe Train Station and the railroads it served.
The second floor of the building is accessible only by a very narrow staircase. In addition, the staircase would prevent handicapped individuals from visiting the second floor. Also, the space upstairs is hardly adequate for the needs of a comprehensive township museum. Constant year-round traffic and wear and tear in that building would greatly diminish its current restored condition.
As for the use of any part of the public library in Petersburg, the library is not a township-owned building. The Upper Township Branch Library is a Cape May County building, built and staffed by the county. The employees in the library are paid by the county, not Upper Township.
The historical society is not asking the township's taxpayers to foot the bill for the renovation of the old township hall, originally built in 1908 as the Upper Township High School. The renovation of the building would be 100 percent paid for by an application for a Parks and Recreation Open Space County grant. There will be no overwhelming costs for the taxpayer.
The only costs we expect that the township to incur are some portion of the architect's fees, about $20,000, and the expected energy costs for the building, which with modern heating and air conditioning systems would not be more than $1,000 a month. The current costs for the Senior/Wellness center are about $1,200 per month.
The exhibit rooms would be cleaned and tended by our own volunteers, but the cleaning and maintenance of restrooms would be done by the township as they do in all of their buildings. In addition, the staffing of the museum would be done by members of the historical society.
It is also hoped that by restoring the entire floor of the building, the township will have the opportunity to make money by renting out the unused space for receptions and meetings.
One idea proposed recently is that the unused rooms on the left of the first floor be used as a retail area for the sale of Upper Township produced crafts and goods. Several other proposals have been brought forth by the mayor and others which will be up to the township to decide.
In the final analysis, it is the intention of the HPSUT to bring the vast history of the township to all citizens of the township, and share this with the numerous visitors who come to Upper Township and simply do not realize or appreciate the wonderful history we have. This is why the HPSUT believes this museum is long overdue and the use of this building is now the best time for this to happen.
It has been the position of the HPSUT Museum Committee that, "If we build it, they will come." This quote from the movie "Field of Dreams" is meant to suggest that the residents of the township surely have many family items and other historic treasures to contribute to the museum for display and enjoyment by all who visit. We have a large collection of things that rarely see the light of day.
Using the old township hall building is doing exactly what Mr. Simon suggests in his letter: "Let's make use of what we already have."
Robert F. Holden
Chair, HPSUT Museum Committee