Historic South Jersey home to be demolished to make way for highway project

The New Jersey Department of Transportation will demolish the Hugg-Harrison-Glover House in Bellmawr to make room for a highway widening project. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The New Jersey Department of Transportation will demolish the Hugg-Harrison-Glover House in Bellmawr to make room for a highway widening project. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A South Jersey home rife with Revolutionary War history is facing defeat before an unlikely enemy: a busy highway.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation plans to tear down the historic Hugg-Harrison-Glover House in Bellmawr as part of its nearly billion-dollar project to widen the roads where I-295, I-76, and Route 42 intersect in Camden County.

“It’s got more Revolutionary War history to it than almost any other structure in South Jersey,” said Chris Perks about the house.  Perks is board president of the Camden County Historical Society.

The 17th century brick dwelling, which sits between Littler Timber Creek and Big Timber Creek, was originally owned by the Hugg family.

In 1751 William Harrison Jr. bought the house, built an addition, and eventually mortgaged it to start the Gloucester Town Militia to fight British soldiers and Hessian mercenaries. Part of the Battle of Gloucester, in which Harrison fought, occurred on his property.

“As far as the Revolutionary War ties, this is hallowed ground,” said Perks. “Is this what our country’s about? We take our war heroes and then just bulldoze their houses 200 years later because we want to make the highway a little wider?”

NJDOT said it will have to demolish the house, which it acquired through eminent domain, to widen a curve in I-295.

A 2014 study by NJDOT and the state Department of Environmental Protection found that the house was eligible for listing on the state and national registers of historic places, but the agencies determined they could not relocate the building.

“While structurally achievable, moving the structure to another site was determined not to be feasible due to logistical complexities that would be involved,” said NJDOT in a statement.

When pressed why the house could not be moved to another part of the existing property, as Perks and others have suggested, a spokesman for NJDOT reiterated that it was “not feasible.”

But Perks is holding out hope that, before NJDOT demolishes the house, he can win a victory in the fight to save it.  The state has not said when demolition will happen.

“We believe it’s incumbent upon them to do the right thing and to make sure that this structure is preserved for future generations,” said Perks.

The Hugg-Harrison-Glover House sits in the northwest corner of the New Saint Mary’s Cemetery and has been serving as the administrative offices of the burial ground, which is owned by the Diocese of Camden.

Because the widened highways have also been encroaching on the cemetery, the Diocese has relocated the remains of 20 people at the request of their families to a more remote part of the cemetery away from the swelling traffic and construction noise.

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