It’s kind of a brain tease to use the word “emerging” to describe a building that was constructed in 1867. What’s emerging are renovations to the historic Greek-Revival style Barrow Mansion. Property Manager Gerry Bakirtjy says the mansion differs from others of that type because it was built off center.
It was one of two similar homes constructed by Cornelius Van Vorst, a founder of the Township of Van Vorst and mayor of Jersey City from 1860 to 1862.
The Barrow Mansion has been a public space since the 1890s, when it was briefly a YMCA. It is currently home to scores of nonprofit organizations.
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church took ownership of the property in 1897. The building is on the State Register of Historic Places and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
The Barrow Mansion Development Corporation (BMDC) was founded in 1985 to restore, preserve, and promote the mansion’s use as a community center.
With that in mind, its front rooms, halls, and restrooms will be upgraded, not just to preserve the past but to create a space for art shows, performances, and other events. The improvements will not compromise the building’s historic footprint. To make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, closet space on two floors was turned into an elevator.
Bakirtjy says the BMDC hopes to get funds to restore the bowling alley and billiard table. Leasing the front rooms for events generates money to maintain operations.
The next phases include restoration of the floors on the main hall and two parlors, repainting and lighting the front of the building, and structural reinforcement of the main floor.
Improvements to the floor in the main rooms will prevent deterioration of the original massive fireplaces.
Nearly all the funds for restoration come from grants from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the city. BMDC recently received $250,000 in grants allowing the next phases of restoration. A majority of funding came from the New Jersey Historic Trust. Additional funding was awarded through the City of Jersey City’s Community Development Block Grant program.—JCM