Repairs begin on historic Lawnside house, but more funds are needed

Roofers make repairs to the historic Peter Mott House in Lawnside, N.J.  The home was a station along the Underground Railroad and serves as a museum and home to the Lawnside Historical Society. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Roofers make repairs to the historic Peter Mott House in Lawnside, N.J. The home was a station along the Underground Railroad and serves as a museum and home to the Lawnside Historical Society. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Peter Mott House in Lawnside, Camden County, is the oldest known building in the historic borough. First built around 1844, it was where Mott, a Sunday School Superintendent and AME church minister, helped slaves escape to freedom.

More than a century and a half later, it now serves as a museum for the Underground Railroad. But it needs some repairs. For starters, its cedar shingle roof needed to be replaced. Linda Shockley, president of the Lawnside Historical Society, said work began on the roof Monday and wrapped up Wednesday.

“We’re very fortunate that we were able to raise enough money to get to the point where we can work on the roof,” she said. “We thought that was the most important thing to do at the moment.”

Beyond the roof, the siding for the house clad in clapboard needs to be replaced along with window trim and the hatch door to the basement. In addition, restoration is needed to the shutters and interior stair treads. The house also needs to be painted.

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Due to the house being a federally registered historical site, repairs and restoration cannot be solved with a simple trip to the nearest hardware store.

“You have to meet the standards of the Secretary of the Interior,” Shockley explains. “For instance, the window sash has to be wood, the glass has to be replaced. We have to re-glaze the windows with linseed oil putty.”

The repair estimate is $101,011.

The historical society, which owns the house, raised about $50,000. They also received a capital preservation grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust, an affiliate of the state Department of Community Affairs, for $60,607. However, it’s a matching grant. That means the society will have to spend money first, before receiving money from the state.

“So we do work and then we get reimbursed, and we do more work, and then we get reimbursed,” she said.

To raise the rest of the money, the historical society is seeking support from other organizations and county agencies. It is also accepting donations through its website.

“We have some plans for direct campaigns and for more outreach to the community,” Shockley said. “We’re looking forward to opening safely to the public very soon.

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Disclaimer: Linda Shockley is a member of WHYY’s Community Advisory Board.

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