Thursday, March 22, 2012

Where is Lewis M. Green's house?

Sometimes I'm torn between keeping this blog non-subjective or letting my personal feelings fly. For this post, I will choose the latter. After my recent entry on the former mayor, Lewis M. Green, I received a few questions on what happened to his magnificent mansion once located on the NW corner of Barber Ave and Broad St. After some more research at the GCHS, I was shocked to discover the truth.

The Lewis M. Green mansion house, a four story residence of handmade pressed brick, featuring 10 bedrooms, walnut floors, French glass windows, gas lit crystal chandeliers, white marble steps, wrought iron trim, and formal gardens was torn down in November 1944 by the Gulf Oil Company to make room for a gas station. The Gulf Oil Company purchased the house from Maud & Lewis Lupton, niece and nephew of G.G. Green, Lewis's son, for $21,000 (about $257,425.23 by today's standard) just to tear the building down (Moore, 1988).

There are some in our midst that cannot see the value of preserving and/or adaptively reusing the wonderful resources our stock of old buildings offer. They say, "Out with the old, in with the new", never stopping to think that the "new" can be more effectively accommodated, on both an economical and environmental level, by utilizing the "old." In many cases historic preservation is a win-win situation. Firstly, these buildings are already here. The greenest building is the one already built. Secondly, more often than not, they will have been built with finer materials and offer a greater aesthetic charm than many new structures built today. As a result, they stand to be around a lot longer than newer buildings. Thirdly, these buildings tell a story and provide one with a sense of pride; a nod of recognition from whence we came. Tearing down old buildings, to me, is like admitting to the world that we cannot take care of the things we own. It shows a considerable lack of creativity when a HUGE corporation (like Gulf Oil was in the 1940's) cannot think of an alternative to obliterating a unique and stately structure; a structure that most likely could never be rebuilt in today's world and certainly could have made a valuable contribution in the city today if it had been properly utilized. The tear down approach is wasteful and it is lazy. Was there really no other location in town for a Gulf service center?

*See below for photo details. Click for larger image.
Yes, I know that sometimes an old building just has to come down. Extreme neglect, natural disasters, or an old building having no overall aesthetic character or historic significance, are a few reasons, but these do not seem to be the case in this instance. It was built by a long term mayor who spent the greater part of his life bettering the city. The whole thing just seems completely disrespectful. The mansion lasted 75 years, the gas station that replaced it, about 30, and the subsequent empty lot was vacant for a long period. The Rite Aid business that eventually replaced the gas station lasted about 20 years... are we getting the picture, yet!? We are constructing increasingly worthless buildings, housing increasingly worthless enterprises.

The City of Woodbury established the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) in 1977 to help prevent situations such as these and to better preserve the unique character of our community. The HPC page of the city's website goes on to state: In addition to preserving our rich cultural and architectural heritage for future generations, the maintenance and rehabilitation of buildings in historic districts have positive effects on the community including the stabilization of neighborhoods, retention of or increased property values, and the creation of civic pride. I couldn't agree more.

Moore, M. (1988, April) Woodbury remembers the Lewis M. Green mansion. The WORC News.
Woodbury’s historic preservation commission. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Woodbury (N.J.). (1971). Century of progress: Woodbury, N.J., 1871-1971. Woodbury, N.J: The Committee.

* The photo depicts the west side of Broad St. circa 1916 from about W. Centre St. to Barber Ave (formerly German St.) From right to left: Hattie Kirby's home, Hutchinson's Motor Company (Sears in 1971), Dr. Wilson's residence, driveway, S. Green's home, residence of Charles Moffett and Nelson Sparks, Harry Fish's Automobile Shop, Sithen's Grocery (currently Pep Boys), Bert Parks' Grocery Store (later Green's and Sithens), Adon Cattell's home and Lewis M. Green's mansion. Original photo from Century of Progress.


Jacks said...

Well put. How lovely that house would be today. Such a shame.