The origin of organized municipal efforts to preserve historic buildings, sites and districts in the Township of Maplewood began in the fall of 1999, when two adjacent historic properties— Pierson Mill and Vaux Hall (located at the corner of Valley Street and Pierson Road) were put up for sale. The township recognized that these structures, along with many others in the community, might be vulnerable to alteration in a manner which would threaten their historic character, or worse yet, to demolition, due to the lack of a local preservation ordinance. Following a presentation by a historic preservationist from Morris County at a Township Committee meeting on November 23, 1999, the Mayor of the township, Gerard Ryan, invited members of the audience to serve on an ad hoc Historic Preservation Committee, whose charge was to study the issue. Thus was the Working Group to Study Historic Preservation born. The Working Group conducted a lengthy study on a variety of issues related to historic preservation, and issued a report in June 2000 recommending the creation of an Historic Preservation Commission. The report included a list of criteria to be utilized for the designation of historic sites and districts in Maplewood, and provided other recommendations related to zoning, education and funding in support of historic preservation. Two of the group’s members also identified structures in Maplewood that had been constructed prior to 1860.
The Working Group’s report formed the basis for the enactment of Ordinance #2166-01, the Historic Preservation Ordinance of the Township of Maplewood, on July 3, 2001.
The ordinance provides the authority for local historic sites, buildings and districts to be identified and formally designated; and for the regulation of future development and/or alteration of such sites and in such districts to ensure that inappropriate development will not harm historic character. Maplewood is among the approximately 25 percent of New Jersey municipalities that currently have a Historic Preservation Commission. Such commissions are authorized and empowered by the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL). Consequently, a Historic Preservation Commission is a participant in the development of local land use regulations. It is noteworthy that Historic Preservation Commissions are the only bodies among those prescribed by the MLUL for which the membership must include persons technically knowledgeable in the areas of concern, namely building design, construction and architectural history.