Historical Society Reforming

The MacKenzie House on Lakewood-Farmingdale Road is a historical landmark that people in the community would like to see restored. (Photo by Micromedia Publications)
The MacKenzie House on Lakewood-Farmingdale Road is a historical landmark that people in the community would like to see restored. (Photo by Micromedia Publications)

HOWELL – There has been talk recently that the Howell Historical Society is re-forming in light of all the discussion around the fate of The MacKenzie Museum. The topic was brought about at the April 2 council meeting.

The MacKenzie Museum, located at 427 Lakewood-Farmingdale Road in Howell, is a home dating back to the 1700s currently owned by the Howell Historical Society. While it is rich with historical artifacts, the museum has been closed to the public for quite some time now, officials previously said.

Director of Community Development Jim Herrman explained back in March that the building would need to be renovated and updated to allow people back in. These renovations could run the township over $150,000.

The owner of the museum, the Howell Historical Society, has been inactive for some years now. Township Manager Brian Geoghegan informed the council that the township attorney previously sent a letter to the prior historical society putting them on notice of their noncompliance.

On April 2, Geoghegan received notice from a new group of individuals looking to form a “new” historical society. This new group is looking to keep the history of the MacKenzie house alive by reopening it.

“It would appear that they’re starting to put together a decent plan in place,” Geoghegan said.

During public comment, resident Don McGirr read a letter into the record written by those individuals looking to reorganize the historical society, in order to generate publicity and support for the new group.

“Although there are many issues to address, it seems the first line that must be resolved is 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,” McGirr read.

The letter details the types of ownership within the realm of the property i.e. items that were donated and items that are on loan.

“Possessions at the MacKenzie house and the Ardena Schoolhouse are owned by, and expected to be under the care of the Howell Historical Society,” McGirr read, imploring the council to grant ownership of the property to the “new” society so they can carry on the “historical torch” that was lit back in 1972.

In order to reopen the museum with the much-needed repairs, they need funding. McGirr noted that they need to submit a 501c3 application in order to apply for funding from the New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund. This application is due by May 2. An application is also needed for funding from Monmouth County Historical Preservation up to $7,500. This application is due in November.

“We will complete those applications as soon as we are recognized as the current Howell Historical Society,” the letter stated.

According to township attorney Joseph Clark, the township has already terminated the previous historical society “based on their default under the lease agreement.” Assuming the council gives the go ahead for the new historical society, “it’s as simple as putting together a resolution,” he added. The rest of the work is to be done by the historical society.

Aside from funding, the group has already accomplished much. They have a tentative list of officers, 25 members, an EIN number, a bank account, and a venue for meetings.

“Although our main goal is opening the MacKenzie house…we realize that a great deal needs to happen in order to reach that goal,” read McGirr.

The new historical society hopes to open MacKenzie house by spring of 2020.