HOWELL – The Howell Heritage and Historical Society may be an organization designed to preserve the past but their membership was looking toward the future during their first meeting of the year.
During their meeting, the reformed group’s officers were sworn in for 2020 and also allowed for the members make plans and catch up on the status of their organization’s main projects. The group meets at the Ardena Baptist Church Hall, Adelphia Road.
Bob Novak was sworn in as the organization’s new president with Ann Malsbury taking the oath as vice president. Other officers include Secretary Leigh Shaffer, Trustees Ellen McGirr, and Virginia Krzyzanowski and Treasurer Cathy McKee.
“We have received a signed contract from Howell Township for the purchase of the MacKenzie House,” Novak said. Novak signed the contract in order to have it completed before the meeting of the Monmouth County Historical Commission when they will be reviewing the status of the Society’s ownership to determine its eligibility for a grant.
The gathering also provided an opportunity for a meet-and-greet of the new executive board and other members of the group. The society was busy reforming last year and with that reformation brought its ongoing mission to restore the MacKenzie Museum located at 427 Lakewood-Farmingdale Rd.
The historic home dates back to the 1700s and had been owned by the Howell Historical Society.
Krzyzanowski said, “I always had an interest in history and I joined the historical society right away and I was 20 years old when I joined.”
“I moved to Howell in 1982. I got interested in the Historical Society back in the mid to late 1990s and I was really inspired by the knowledge and hard work that many people there put into it. We had some unfortunate events and eventually the group disbanded and the MacKenzie House got abandoned but hopefully that will be taken care of now. I have found Ann Malsbury is a super source of information on everything to do with Howell. We are looking forward to getting control of the house and ownership of it,” McKee said.
As McKee noted, the prior owner of the museum, the Howell Historical Society, had been as dormant as the museum for years and Township Manager Brian Geoghegan reported to the mayor and council last year that the township attorney previously sent a letter to the prior historical society putting them on notice of their noncompliance.
Last April, Geoghegan and officials became aware of the “new” historical society which was looking to keep the history of the MacKenzie house alive planned to reopen it.
The Howell Mayor and Council sold the MacKenzie to the new organization on Sept. 24, 2019 and plans immediately started on how to raise funds for restoring the schoolhouse and opening the MacKenzie house in 2020.
Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell provided some good news on that front. She was present at the meeting and is also a member of the new organization. “I am responsible for the MacKenzie house not being sold to the county which would have meant it would have been demolished because all they wanted was the property.”
“As a result of this new group showing enough interest to stop that it is my understanding that we are two to three weeks from actually getting the deed to the house and the closing will occur. I was just informed of that during our last council meeting,” O’Donnell said.
The existing group had to see to the proper termination of the previous society (Howell Historical Society) and identification of the ownership of the property of the MacKenzie house and the Ardena Schoolhouse.
“I remember being at the MacKenzie House years ago. You have a certain interest of things that really don’t exist anymore other than in pictures or memories. I appreciate the opportunity to help this move forward,” Novak said.
The organization discussed some ambitious fundraising efforts for the year as well as some speakers who will part of their meeting programs during the year.