When the borough was gifted the Parker Homestead 17 years ago, not only acquired the rich history of the 300-year old property - settled in 1667 by the Parker family - but also its aging structures that include falling-down barns brimming with, well, old stuff.
Members of the Parker Homestead Board of Directors have struggled over the years to find a cost-effective way for the borough to restore the house and outbuildings and preserve that slice of Little Silver for generations to come with a working museum.
The board made a big leap forward earlier this year when it garnered a place for the Parker Homestead on the National Register of Historic Places. Earning that designation was important because it opened the Rumson Road site to federal grant programs and private donations.
According to board members that spoke on the issue at the June 11 council meeting, the next step is to address the sagging red bars on the property that are stuffed with stacks of old apple baskets and farm equipment. Until the barns are cleared, there's no way to properly assess the structures for architectural and engineering purposes, they said.
Stabilizing the structures - in particular the crumbling roof of the horse barn - will allow the board to move forward in its fundraising efforts for the project, according to Monte Edwards who serves as chairman of the board of directors.
"Right now we have a deteriorating property," said Edwards, adding that a roof on one of the three barns is "starting to cave in."
The four board members in attendance - Jennifer Pardee, Chet Apy, Rosemary Brewer and Edwards - proposed spending approximately $60,000 to clear out the barns and shore up the roof of the horse barn, which Edwards said would help make the project more marketable in their fundraising efforts.
But members of the council argued that instead of just spending money and putting a "Band Aid" on the barns until a later date, the board should go ahead and get architectural and engineering plans for a complete restoration.
"I support spending potentially a lot more money and doing it right," said Councilman Jon Bitman at the meeting.
The council authorized the Parker Homestead board to spend up to $10,000 to remove the items stored in the barns, which will allow experts to get inside the structures and create accurate construction documents. Money from the Parker Sickles Development Trust will be used to finance this portion of the project.