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The New Jersey Historic Preservation Office has a brief guide on How to Research the History of a House (PDF).
The following are questions to keep in mind when researching the history of your property/structure:
The following list of primary (archival and original) and secondary sources of documentation will assist in your property history search:
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Ordinance 1313 Section 24-18.3 Historic Designation Criteria for qualifying as historic. Generally, these include whether the landmark has historical, cultural, social or architectural significance. Homes from the colonial era would likely qualify as an historic landmark because of its significance in Mahwah's early history. However, a home might qualify as an historic landmark even if it is not especially "old" because it might qualify if it is associated with a person significant to the Township's history (e.g, Joyce Kilmer's home), or because it is of a unique architectural style (e.g, American Craftsman style). The Historic Preservation Commission can assist you in determining whether your home or structure might be eligible for inclusion in the Township Ordinance as a protected historic site.
First contact the Mahwah Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) by calling 201-529-5757, ext. 271 (HPC secretary, Jennifer Storms) to advise them of your intentions or you may attend an Historic Preservation Commission meeting. HPC Public meetings are held on the 1st Monday of each month (except September, which is the 2nd Monday), at 7:30 pm in the Township Municipal Building:475 Corporate DriveThird Floor, Room 319Mahwah, NJ 07430
Write a letter to the Mayor and Council, and copy the HPC, requesting that your home be added to the list of historic protected properties on the historic preservation element of the Township Code. In your letter, describe the reasons for requesting this inclusion. You may not have been able to establish all the criteria shown, but please provide enough identification factors, with verification citing sources of your information.
The Township will request the request be added to a Township Council agenda, but it may be a month before it is scheduled. When the request is placed on the Township Council meeting agenda, you will be notified, and it will be discussed and open to the public for comments. A motion will be introduced to amend Chapter 24 of the Township Code Entitled "Historic Sites" to designate the property as an Historic Site in the Township of Mahwah. Township Council will add it to its next public meeting, where it will be voted on and adopted.
The Amendment to the Township Ordinance is then signed by the Mayor and published. The effective date is 20 days after publication. At that point, the house or site will be protected as per the stipulations in Township of Mahwah Ordinance Number 1313.
On order to determine if a property/structure can be considered for local historic designation, the property/structure must meet the Historic Designation Criteria under the Township of Mahwah Municipal Code Section 24.18.3 Ordinance 1313 (PDF).
If a property/structure is added to the Historic Element of the Municipal Code as an historic site it does not necessarily mean that anything on the outside or inside of the property/structure cannot be changed. What it does mean is that the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) will over see changes under certain conditions. If the house is under 10,000 square feet, the Commission has no jurisdiction on interior changes. However, the Commission is happy to advise the owner in regards to any work to be done, to keep the historic integrity of the structure.
The following Emergency and ordinary repairs (including painting) which do not change the architectural integrity of the structure, and which use in kind materials, do not require Commission review:
Any work to change the outside of the structure will be subject to review by the HPC. The Commission will review the proposed changes and provide a written report as to the historical preservation provisions. The Commission can recommend approval, approval with conditions, or recommend that the proposed changes be denied. The Commission recommends that homeowners come to a Commission meeting prior to any application to speak to the members about any changes they would like to make.
It is an acknowledgement from the Township that your property/structure is valued by the Township. It helps tell the story of our community, as it represents an architectural style, historic time period or event. There is a good feeling to restoring and preserving the property for future generations. If you purchased an historic home, you understand the uniqueness of your home and the importance of carrying this piece of the past forward into our future.
Just 50 years ago, Mahwah was largely a rural farming community. Today, it is a busy, growing suburb with only vestiges of its rural past existing in small pockets around the Township. Placement of your home on the Historic Element of the Township Code ensures its historic character will be preserved for future generations. Years from now, it is likely that only those homes that were placed on the ordinance will remain much the same as they are today.
There are not currently many direct financial benefits for the owner of a private historic residence. Although its inclusion on the Ordinance could make it eligible for grants. There is currently little assistance available presently for private residences, future legislation may broaden eligibility for economic grants.