HOWELL – The members of the Howell Heritage and Historical Society are planning to use a $5,000 grant to improve the foundation of the MacKenzie Museum and Library, 427 Lakewood-Farmingdale Road (Route 547), Howell.
In June, the society received a $5,000 Presidents Grant from the New Jersey State Questers for the preservation and/or restoration of the Mackenzie house. The Questers’ mission is to keep history alive by supporting preservation, restoration and education.
The MacKenzie house was previously owned by Howell and is now owned by the Howell Heritage and Historical Society. Township officials have said the building, which has been closed to public for a number of years, requires more than $150,000 in renovations.
Artifacts that remain in the building were owned by an historical society that no longer exists.
In 2019, the Township Council sold the building to the Howell Heritage and Historical Society. Bob Novak became president of the new organization in January. In February, the society officially took over the building.
Regarding the use of the $5,000 grant, Novak said, “We have been lining up work to have a contractor do a structural reinforcement in the basement. Because the ground is sandy and because of the water table, some of the chimneys, the fireplace and other structures have sunk into the ground a little more. (The contractor) is going to set up a system to give us extra support.”
When the structural work has been completed, the society’s members will seek a certificate of occupancy from Howell and then, hopefully, begin to address other issues in the building.
The society has been awarded a $6,400 grant from the Monmouth County Historical Commission, but must raise the same amount to secure that grant, according to Novak.
Novak said the society’s members want Howell residents to know they are trying to move forward with renovations at the MacKenzie house.
“We are trying to hold fundraisers to obtain funds to do some of the major work (that is necessary) and some of the minor work that will be required afterward. The settling has caused cracking in the walls, so they will have to be replastered and repainted,” he said.
He said the house must be cleaned because it has been closed for years.
“Ultimately, we would like to get back to having the MacKenzie house open on weekends, as it had been in the past; where people can come by and visit, have a tour, hear about the house and what went on there, and about what else is going on in Howell,” Novak said.
The house had its origins as a settler’s cabin between 1730 and 1750. A grist mill was built in 1779 and the cabin became the miller’s home. An addition to the home was built in the 19th century.
Jessie and James MacKenzie purchased the house in 1956 and owned it until 1982, when Howell paid for a restoration.