Bordentown Residents Worry NJ's Plans for Historic Bridge and Memorial Won't Fit In
The New Jersey Department of Transportation is preparing to demolish and rebuild the Stone Arch Carriage bridge on Farnsworth Avenue due to its poor condition and outdated functionality.
What once was a bustling railway built in 1831 that carried the iconic John Bull , the world's oldest functioning steam locomotive, is now operating at minimal use in Bordentown , carrying at most one freight train in the evening hours.
Demolishing the bridge also means removing the Bordentown City Veterans Memorial that sits above the bridge and is dedicated to honoring residents who fought in every U.S. conflict dating back to the Revolutionary War.
"I think Bordentown right now needs a bright light for our developmental success not a roadblock to our success and I think taking this arch down and this whole construction project would have huge implications for business, for the community and for the residents," George Xuereb , resident and business owner, said.
When the DOT hosted public hearings on the project three years ago, state officials explained the memorial would be removed to allow for the bridge work and then upgraded and reinstalled at the end of the project.
The memorial honors residents that served in battle as well as those who lost their lives. Their names are inscribed in granite panels encased by brick. The state's proposed design is rendered as a fieldstone structure.Developer proposes warehouse in Bordentown TownshipBordentown Twp. Committee to consider rezoning of Route 130 site for proposed town center
Stephanie Pecht , resident and chair of the Bordentown City Veterans Memorial committee, says she fears that the state's designs will not blend well with the brick architecture seen elsewhere in the township.
"There were renderings of what the state thought the memorial should look like when and if they put it back in and it was almost nothing like what we have there. It was fieldstone not a brick structure. It would look very similar to was something you would find in Bucks County and Bordentown is a brick city," Pecht said.
Bordentown Mayor Jimmy Lynch is also concerned with maintaining the city's historic value.
"Being a historic town, I've seen many instances where we have lost historic structures over the years just in my lifetime and I grew up in Bordentown ," Lynch said. "We've lost the Bordentown Military Institute to a fire, we lost the railroad station down at the river, that was historic for the first railroad on the John Bull that burned. We're turning the corner now in trying to keep our historic value exactly that."
Steve Schapiro , spokesman for the DOT, said the plans for the bridge are pending additional funding. It's undecided whether the bridge will be replaced or rehabilitated, Schapiro explained, but the preference is to replace it.
Schapiro said it is too early for the DOT to determine construction methods and schedules and added that additional public meetings will be held by the state as the project advances.Evesham to preserve 165 acres of open space from development, town announcesClara Barton Schoolhouse in Bordentown City gets new roof
After the state's public hearings on the project in 2019, Lynch said he took officials to the memorial in an effort to better highlight its historic value in a way that paper drawings and photos could not.
"The second or third meeting I called and I took everybody down there and I showed them the bridge and I showed them the memorial because they really hadn't seen it. I think it was important for them to see the visual of this and not just a chart and not just a picture and I think they understood by the end of the meeting that this is something that they are really going to have to pay attention to in a reasonable manner," Lynch said.
The Bordentown City Veterans Memorial Committee has also mobilized to save the bridge and memorial by hitting the streets to educate other residents.
"Lots of Bordentown news is on the street so we have spoken many, many, times in passing on the sidewalk or we call each other on the phone since meetings are of course difficult to have at this time," Pecht said.
Lynch, who witnessed the design of the memorial come to life by the committee, says he understands their concerns after the years of work put into its creation.
"The time, sweat, and tears, that went into the memorial I want to say for the last 15 years, I've been in office for 32, so I saw it when it was born," Lynch said. "So that would have to be disassembled, stored, and then replaced and there were some gray areas on how they were going to replace it, to their specs or our specs so naturally Stephanie and the veterans committee are concerned."
While the state remains in the early phases of project planning, Xuereb feels that not only will the demolition be a loss for him as a resident but the ability for the town to express its historic legacy to visitors.
"It's a place where people can pause in their busy lives to sit, to reflect, on the folks who have fought for our freedom. It also tells the visiting population who come to Bordentown that its residents care about their vets. So it would be a huge loss to the community," Xuereb said.