2020 Year in Review

1946 Parade Lambertville, NJ

1946 Parade Lambertville, NJ

Marshall House Museum

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Marshall House Museum was closed for most of its normal operating season of weekends from April through November 2020. We were open for Winterfest weekend in January and had about 20 visitors. By March 2020 the state had closed all museums and we turned to new ways to keep in contact. We are a volunteer organization, so there were no payroll issues. The Board Members continued to address issues from mail inquiries, emails and social messaging. Meetings and presentations were conducted virtually.

Lambertville Historical Society

For 2020 the Lambertville Historical Society, a non-profit, had 4 Officers and 7 Trustees for 11 total voting. The Advisory Board (non-voting) has 7 members. We have a full slate of Trustees and Officers for the 2021 Board for election at our next Annual Membership Meeting of Jan. 17, 2021. 

Paid memberships total approximately 218. Since many memberships are couples, and some are family memberships, the actual count of total members is about 342 people.

For 2020 LHS received an operating support grant of $4,800 from the Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission, with funds from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State. 

In fall 2020, the 8.5-acre Closson Property, which includes the circa 1733 Washington’s Headquarters Holcombe House and two associated historic barns, was listed for sale, and the City of Lambertville entered into a purchase agreement with the owners. In November, the LHS Board sent a letter to Mayor Fahl and the City Council stating that the Holcombe House and colonial outbuildings constitute an unequaled treasure within Lambertville’s rich Revolutionary, agricultural and architectural history, and reaffirming support for their preservation. The LHS Board has since discussed possible uses of the property with the Mayor.

Community Programs and Services

At our 2020 Annual Membership Meeting on Jan. 19 we reviewed our accomplishments and spoke of plans for the future. The meeting featured a talk by Linda Barth on “The Delaware and Raritan Canal.” Attendance was approximately 80 people. The event was free and accessible.

On February 22, an auction and reception was held at the Rago Arts and Auction Center for the en plein air paintings inspired by the 2019 House Tour. Twenty-seven local artists participated. Proceeds after expenses benefited the Lambertville Historical Society. Approximately 250 people attended.

We normally conduct free town tours on 1st Sundays, April through November, and for Shadfest  and the Winter Festival. With Covid, such tours were not possible as group size was severely limited. Board Member and Historian Lou Toboz worked with President Michael Menche to conduct one-hour virtual tours using Zoom. Photos of properties and vintage images and maps were shown with live narration. These were free and well-received: several were attended by more than 100 people.

Other virtual programs included a tour of the circa 1816 First Presbyterian Church, narrated by church historian Craig Reading. Michael Menche worked with Mr. Reading to present a series of interior and exterior photos, supplemented with background information. LHS also launched a free online gallery of dozens of vintage postcards of Lambertville and the area, donated by JB Kline, whose ancestors operated a postcard store on Bridge Street during the early and mid-1900’s. In May and June, LHS conducted two free virtual concerts, called “Sheltering in Tune,” featuring performances by local musicians.

To support our town during Covid, LHS worked with the City of Lambertville and The Delaware River Towns Chamber of Commerce on an outdoor exhibit of photos of 20 classic scenes of Lambertville, mostly circa 1900. The program was called “Lambertville Then and Now.” An historical image was posted at each current site. Visitors could compare the old photo with the present-day site and use their smartphones for added information. The exhibit was a great success and ran September 4 to November 8th. Kudos go to LHS past president Suzanne Gitomer, who liaised with the Chamber and the City, and to Mary and Rich Freedman for executing this impressive initiative.

We again awarded a $500 scholarship to a student from South Hunterdon High School. This year we asked students to interview a long-time resident about his/her first job and submit an article. The scholarship went to Rylee Bordwick, who wrote about Sharon DiSalvi’s experience working at St. John Terrell’s Music Circus in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

We secured 60 digitized images of John A. Anderson photographs, mostly taken from 1890-1910, from the Mercer Museum’s archive. When the pandemic has abated, we plan to hold two exhibits of high-resolution prints at Marshall House: one to reintroduce Anderson’s work and his main themes, and one devoted to his images of Lambertville and the area.

Our website now features improved software for looking at items in our extensive archive. Mary and Rich Freedman adapted our old system and merging it with Past Perfect software. This approach allows improved online searching of our archives, including photos and artifacts that are now pictured.

The Marshall House will be converted to gas for heating and the oil furnace and tank will be removed. A new gas line was installed in December and the furnace conversion will occur in spring 2021.  

Our October Annual Historic Lambertville House Tour was jeopardized by the pandemic because visits to homes were not possible. To keep the 38-year tradition alive, a virtual tour was conducted as a webinar on October 24 and 25. It showcased nine video tours of some of Lambertville’s earliest dwellings, beloved landmarks, and restored residences. The videos were created with local narrators and musicians, and the outstanding efforts of producer Gary Cohen. The webinar also included four presentations by local architects and interior designers, who highlighted restoration projects and creative use of salvage and antiques. There were more than 200 webinar attendees and approximately $1,000 was raised. Several of the videos remain viewable on the LHS website.

Though LHS could not produce its annual Holiday CD and hold fundraiser concerts this year, we did for the ninth year assemble traditional and original holiday songs by local musicians. On December 10, we held a virtual holiday concert of memorable music and spirit through a series of 24 videos that were either created by the artists or by LHS’s combining of audio tracks with photographs of past performances.

On December 13 LHS held a virtual meeting with Bob Richter, the nationally known expert on vintage design, decorating and shopping. The meeting was inspired by Bob’s popular book, “A Very Vintage Christmas,” and his recent TV appearances and interviews about the holidays.

LHS initiated and continues to work with the City of Lambertville on the historic preservation of the c.1840 Jail, a central landmark in Sheridan Park. In 2019 LHS was awarded a grant of $84,194 from the Hunterdon County Open Space and Historical Preservation Trust Program for exterior work to stabilize and restore the building. Initial funding was received in 2020, the project was put out to bid and awarded, and the contractor is expected to begin and complete the work in early 2021. The County has invited LHS to apply for a grant for the interior restoration, which we plan to do in spring 2021.

Approximately 40 private requests were made for historical information or images. Topics included supplying: 

  • information on the history and family of James Marshall.
  • information on local homes or businesses and on local families.
  • information on artist B.J.O. Nordfelt, a Lambertvillian, for a museum catalog.
  • a historic registry plaque was supplied to a home owner; a dozen historical D&R Canal 

District registry sheets were requested and supplied to residents. 

  • information on our Civil War monument and the names and battles.
  • information on the Belmont House and Union House hotels.
  • information on the old Lambertville High School. 

We continue to be active on Facebook and our website was upgraded. Features include an interactive map, an active calendar and historical and membership information. To help local merchants during the pandemic we added links to resources throughout the area.

For 2020, four editions of the LHS newsletter were published and sent to members and friends with stories of local history, items regarding James Wilson Marshall and news of member events.

Michael Menche, President, Lambertville Historical Society