Monday, February 10, 2014

Paschal Medara: Woodbury's Victorian Architect

An original envelope showing the inscription of Allen & Medara
Not much is known about Woodbury's own 19th century architect and builder, Mr. Paschal Medara, yet some of his wonderful buildings still inspire us today. He was described in 1910 as "an architect of rare ability" having planned the city's "most prominent buildings." Even to this day anyone who passes through Woodbury has most likely laid eyes on his creations in the form of the Green Opera House block on Broad (recently restored by RPM Development) and the Green Laboratory on Green Avenue (Woodbury Mews). Medara's other buildings that have been lost to the ages continue to live through historic photographs and lithographs and have appeared worldwide in 19th and 20th century issues of Green's August Flower Almanac.

Odd Fellows Hall
In the mid-1840's, Paschal's father, Jacob was involved with Woodbury in part as a building committee and was responsible for the erection of the now demolished Odd Fellows Hall formerly on Cooper Street. Perhaps it was through this involvement that his son became interested in the creation of grand civic buildings roughly 30 years later. Whatever the case, Paschal Medara came to be - one could consider- the personal architect to Woodbury's multimillionaire family, the Greens. Having designed both Lewis and George G. Green's palatial mansions (pictured below) he also designed, among many others, the lab and opera house, as mentioned above and most likely the Merritt's Drugstore corner building commissioned by G.G. How this relationship with the Green family developed is unclear but records show interestingly enough that both Medara and G.G. Green were in Company E, 6th Regiment of the National Guard; Medara a Corporal, G.G. a Captain (later Colonel). According to New Jersey Civil War Gravestones website, Paschal Medara was also a Union Civil War US Navy Seaman who served aboard the USS Catskill.

A feature on Medara in the 1878 issue of the Green's Almanac
Paschal Medara's obituary notice in the Jul 30 1910
issue of the Woodbury Daily Times
Paschal now lies quietly beside his mother and father (Lydia Ann Dilks and Jacob R. Medara) in the Mantua Cemetery, his accomplishments nearly forgotten. Although very few associate his name with the buildings, I like to think that he would be happy to know that his laboratory and his opera house have been restored in recent years, much to the pride of his old hometown.

Paschal Medara's gravestone
Let's take a look at some of his astounding creations:

Medara's Gray Towers mansion for G.G.Green
Learn everything about the mansion HERE
Medara's Gray Towers is featured in the seminal reference book:
A Field Guide to American Houses
Medara's Italianate mansion for Mayor Lewis Morris Green
Medara's Laboratory for the Greens.
It was a state of the art lab/factory with bottling rooms, printing press, offices, etc.
... and don't forget the grand stable house in the rear of the lab
Medara's Opera House block.
He may have designed the church in the rear as well
Medara's Drugstore Corner Block
Medara's architectural creations live on
through the MANY Green Almanacs
and August Flower sales materials
Result of True Merit


Anonymous said...

Hi. As a student at St. Patrick's Elementary School from 1956-1965, I am very interested in the history of this beautiful mansion. I am curious to know if Paschal Medara, and therefore Jacob R. Medara, may have had Italian ancestry. I have been unable to locate the name through the Ellis Island website. I thought I saw that Medara used Italianate style of architecture in his building. Can you post - or do you need an email? Thanks, Mary Ann

Village Green said...

Hi Mary Ann, I have been able to uncover very little on the Medaras but I will check what the Gloucester County Historical Society might have next time I'm there. If you'd like to email me you can do so at Preservewoodbury AT yahoo DOT com

Village Green said...

Also be aware that Italianate style was very common in buildings at the time and was actually introduced to America by a Scotsman.