HOWELL – The MacKenzie House, which is a museum and library, has been a destination of school trips, tours and events for many years. However, throughout the years, the house has received little care with the house and the contents inside being left to deteriorate.
Back in September of 2019, the Howell Heritage and Historical Society purchased and received ownership of the MacKenize from the Township. They immediately moved forward to making restorations with the plan in mind to reopen the historic building in 2020. If it wasn’t for the Society obtaining the building, the MacKenzie house could have possibly been demolished. As of February 14, 2020, the transaction had been completed.
The Historical Society later received grants for the house’s issues that were brought to attention in the 2017 Master Report. Throughout the many challenges 2020 presented to the Society, they were able to repair and strengthen the beams and columns in the basement, to give the structure needed support, and halt the settling into the soil.
During these repairs, the Society had unfortunately found more problems and unexpected architecture that needed to be fixed. President of the Howell Heritage and Historical Society Robert Novak explained how they would need to apply for another grant for this next project to be restored.
“The main project for 2021 will be fixing the south chimney, which showed some plaster cracking in the piano room, and wallboard settling in the upstairs gift shop corner,” Novak said. Members of the Society had to remove the fireplace mantel to reveal its condition, which showed that it needed serious repairs.
“We were shocked to see the condition of the chimney, and had come to realize that these conditions were occurring because the chimney bricks and mortar were grinding down to dust, and it was slowly collapsing in on itself,” Novak stated.
Initially, the quoted restoration price for the chimney was around $6,870 and the Society put in a grant application for that price. Yet the chimney seems to be taking a turn for the worse quickly.
With the chimney quickly disintegrating, they brought in a chimney specialist to analyze what it would cost to repair. According to the specialist, it could cost up to $15K to fully restore the chimney. Novak met with several contractors to seek options and see what could be done. He then contacted the NJ Historic Preservation Office (NJHPO) to request advice.
According to the Society’s December 2020 newsletter, the decision was made to “close up the roof, and at a later phase, install a replica chimney on the roof to give a matching appearance of the Georgian style architecture. This would be a wood “shell” with a brick veneer of the old bricks (taken from the earlier removed bricks, and cut to a thinner slice) – much less weight.”
This leaves the Howell Heritage and Historical Society with the challenge of raising funds to finalize the chimney restoration. The Society has been working hard to organize fundraisers despite the ongoing pandemic being a large obstacle for them. They’ve held yard sales, bake sales and attended the Howell’s farmers market to raise money and collect donations.
If you would like to help the Howell Heritage and Historical Society and make a donation for the MacKenzie House, you can send your donation to: Howell Heritage and Historical Society, PO Box 444, Farmingdale, NJ 07727.