To help preserve, protect, and nurture the economic and cultural vitality of downtown Caldwell through the creation of public and private partnerships.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jail House Rock Coming to Caldwell Green

Historic Brownstone Donated by K. Hovnanian for Caldwell
By Diane Lilli
An old post card of the prison, which was once located in Caldwell before the borders changed. Now, the site is in North Caldwell.
Caldwell photographer Alan Schindler, who specializes in architectural photography, knew a good thing when he saw it – and reached out to the K. Hovnanian Homes firm last summer to see if the borough might be able to benefit from what otherwise may have been considered trash.
But Schindler, trained to see the historical significance in mortar and stone, knew the brownstone being taken down as the old Essex County prison annex was demolished was much more than trash, and instead, treasure.
“I was doing work in Morristown, photographing the green about 2 or 3 years ago,” said Schindler. “I had been working for a landscape architect, and had photographed the green. One of the interesting features was a curved bench, made out of an indigenous material. It was a type of stone with special significance to the Morristown area.”
When Schindler saw the prison finally being brought down, he knew he needed to get a closer look.
“The brownstone is amazing,” he said. “This prison was built back in the 1800’s, and the Presbyterian Church in Caldwell was built only a few years later. The stones look very similar, like they may even have come from the same quarry.”
After taking a tour of the construction site and seeing the brownstone first hand, Schindler reached out to Doug Fenichel, who was then the director of regional pr for the K Hovnanian Home company.
“I thought we could make an interesting curved bench out of the stone,” he added. “Doug was very receptive to the idea and said they would donate whatever we needed.”
Schindler had been working with the committee to redesign the Caldwell green, which had originally planned a restive area with a big clock. Now, since plans have changed for the green, this free brownstone may be a decorative link that also serves as an historical bridge not only for Caldwell but also for the First Presbyterian Church.
‘Using the same materials on the green as the church, for a bench or maybe for some planters, would give a sense of continuity,” said Schindler. “It would also make a great story for Caldwell.”
As for now, the council is aware of the brownstone and at the last council meeting, councilor Joseph Norton told the public about the new idea, with great enthusiasm.
And, as all good ideas, another town has also requested some of the prison. North Caldwell is reported to be taking the tower from the prison, to be used for something in their town.
Though money is tight in all municipalities, this free brownstone may be the building block of something lasting in Caldwell.
“We don’t have to spend a lot of money,” noted Schindler. “We can build something simple and iconic. It’s historic.”

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