— Living History Program to Feature a Visit from Civil Engineer James Wallace Higgins (1873-1956) and a Display of His Original Master Plan/Map (c. 1894) for New Orange/Kenilworth —
KENILWORTH, N.J., Oct. 9, 2014 – Visitors to Kenilworth’s newly restored historic Oswald J. Nitschke House (c. 1880) at 49 South 21 Street on October 18 and October 19 will have an opportunity to meet civil engineer James Wallace Higgins (1873-1956) (portrayed by a historical interpreter/re-enactor), who created the first Master Plan for New Orange (later renamed Kenilworth).
Higgins’ original c. 1894 map depicting his “grand plan” for New Orange/Kenilworth, together with related illustrations from a 19th-century promotional brochure that was produced to attract residents and businesses to the area, will be exhibited during the weekend event at the Oswald J. Nitschke House museum and cultural arts center which, with the recent installation of an elevator, is now completely accessible. Also on display will be artifacts that were uncovered during a 1979 archaeological dig at the site of Higgins’ local pre-Revolutionary home, which was demolished in the 1930s.
The overall program, which will celebrate the early development of New Orange/Kenilworth, a unique planned community, within the context of this year’s 350th anniversary of New Jersey, will be presented for the general public between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on October 18 and from noon to 5 p.m. on October 19, during Union County’s annual historic sites tour, “Four Centuries in a Weekend.” Admission is free.
During the event, visitors to the Nitschke House will be able to view the building’s five historic rooms, which are authentically furnished in the 1905-1934 period (the time of Kenilworth’s first wave of suburban development when former Mayor Oswald J. Nitschke made his greatest contributions to its growth), as well as its exhibition center, the venue for an ever-changing array of year-round historical and cultural exhibits. For further information about the event and the Nitschke House, please call 908-709-0434.
Funding for certain aspects of the “Four Centuries in a Weekend” program at the Nitschke House is being provided, in part, by the Kenilworth Municipal Alliance Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
The Kenilworth Historical Society saved the Nitschke House, former home of Kenilworth Mayor Oswald J. Nitschke (1867-1934), by moving it in 2003, following Dr. Jerome Forman’s donation of the building to the Society, to its present location (land acquired with the help of the Kenilworth Veterans Center and a New Jersey DEP Green Acres grant).
The Society’s project to restore the Nitschke House for transformation into Kenilworth’s first “living history” museum and cultural arts center and to add an elevator to the site, has been funded, in large part, by historic preservation/rehabilitation grants awarded by the New Jersey Historic Trust, New Jersey Cultural Trust, Preserve Union County Grant Program, Union County Community Development Block Grant program, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The Merck Foundation, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, numerous individual and corporate donors and grant makers, and with financing assistance from ConnectOne Bank. Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects (Cranford) designed the elevator addition, as well as the plans for the building’s exterior and interior restoration, and Wagner Construction (Kenilworth) and Straightline Restoration and Construction, Inc. (Cranford) carried out the interior restoration and elevator construction plans, respectively.
The Nitschke House project was recognized by the State of New Jersey with a 2008 New Jersey Historic Preservation Award and most recently was cited as one of six “success stories” statewide in the 2011-2016 New Jersey Historic Preservation Plan, “Preserving New Jersey’s Heritage: A Statewide Plan.”
Once the Nitschke House site is fully operational, it will feature not only a “living history” museum on the first floor and a cultural arts center in the basement, but also three rooms of exhibits on the second floor, additional heirloom gardens, and a Kenilworth Heritage Walkway featuring engraved commemorative pavers sponsored by local donors.
The Kenilworth Historical Society (www.kenilworthhistoricalsociety.org) is an independent, volunteer-based non-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the research, preservation and interpretation of the historic Oswald J. Nitschke House, local history and culture. Funding for the Nitschke House preservation project and all other programs that the Kenilworth Historical Society provides to the schools and general public is entirely dependent on donations, fundraising activities and competitive matching grants that the organization applies for and is considered for based on merit.
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Photo Description: The newly restored and furnished historic Oswald J. Nitschke House (c. 1880) will be open to the general public on October 18 and 19, during Union County’s annual historic sites tour, “Four Centuries in a Weekend.” With the recent installation of an elevator (addition shown in accompanying photo of building’s side view), the site is now completely accessible.