Allentown library association receives grant from preservation fund

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ALLENTOWN – The Allentown Public Library Association has been awarded an $18,750 grant from the Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund.

The intent of the grant is to provide the means for associations that own and maintain historic properties to develop an updated preservation plan to properly maintain the historic integrity of the property, according to a press release.

Joan Ruddiman, president of the Allentown Public Library, explained the significance of the grant, stating, “The New Jersey Historic Trust for the past several decades has invested in preserving historic buildings, like the Allentown Public Library, which was built in 1879 as the First Baptist Church and parsonage. By providing a generous 3 to 1 matching grant, the trust encourages associations like ours to appropriately maintain the building.”

The Allentown Public Library Association has been the beneficiary of grants from the New Jersey Historic Trust. In 2018, the trust provided a grant that allowed the association to preserve the original front doors and the original floor as the foyer was renovated to be a better lighted and more welcoming space, Ruddiman said.

At the turn of the 21st century, a significant grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust helped the association complete the preservation of the exterior of the 19th century church on South Main Street that now serves the community as the Allentown Public Library, according to the press release.

“Michael Calafati, an architect who is known for his work with historic buildings in New Jersey, managed that important project with the association,” Ruddiman said. “At that time, 1999, he developed a preservation plan that detailed how to address building issues and implement plans for repairs and maintenance. The association’s board has followed these guidelines for almost 20 years.”

At the completion of the foyer project in 2018, Carrie Hogan of the trust advised the association that the preservation plan should be updated, according to the press release.

“She told us about the 3 to 1 matching grant. We contacted Michael to again work with us and together we wrote the grant, which has been approved,” Ruddiman said.

“As the board considered this expenditure, we realized the building has not had a thorough structural inspection in almost 20 years. Most homes are sold about every 25 years or so. At that time, they are inspected and needed repairs are addressed.

“With this grant, the library will have that careful inspection under Michael’s guidance. From steeple to basement, the building and all systems will be carefully examined and then the preservation plan will be delivered,” Ruddiman said.

Another important advantage of updating the preservation plan is that the association will be well positioned to apply for New Jersey Historic Trust grants in the future, according to the press release.

“Any exterior work, like painting the building or roofing work, would qualify for trust grant applications, and the first thing the trust will check for is if the building is operating with an updated preservation plan,” Ruddiman said.

The Allentown Public Library Association owns and takes responsibility for the maintenance of the building, which is home to the Allentown Public Library, a branch of the Monmouth County Library System.

“This is a fine example of a public-private partnership, but maintaining an historic building demands our attention. The community just received the annual fund drive letter, which in part proudly shares the successes of our community library, but also importantly asks that community to donate to the operating budget. Part of that budget will provide the match for the grant, as we also pay for utilities and general maintenance like any homeowner does,” Ruddiman said.

The next big project the association will tackle is re-carpeting the entire library. The project has been the focus of special fundraising efforts during the past year, according to the press release.

“The carpet we have has served us very well. It was put down in the mid-1990s when we renovated the old church. We have been raising money for the carpet project this past year, hoping to have new carpet in 2020,” Ruddiman said.

Currently, the association is selling mega-raffle tickets – 100 total tickets are being sold at $50 each for the winner to take $2,500.

“The drawing is Nov. 13. We have a few tickets left and certainly would encourage our friends to buy their ticket so we can get this big project done,” she said.