The grounds of Jacob’s Chapel date back to one of New Jersey’s early African American communities.
Many Mt. Laurel residents are already well aware of the rich history of Jacob’s Chapel A.M.E. Church on Elbo Lane, commonly known as Jacob’s Chapel.
The grounds of the chapel were once a stop on the Underground Railroad, along with the still standing Colemantown Meeting House. The house served as the center of Colemantown, one of South Jersey’s early African American communities.
Yet for those residents who don’t know the history of Jacob’s Chapel, now they’ll have even less of a reason to remain uninformed, as Mt. Laurel Township Council has approved the construction of a historic sign marker for the site.
The marker comes as Jacob’s Chapel recently received a grant through the New Jersey Historic Trust for an overall preservation plan at the chapel, the physical manifestation of which is a historic marker to be placed outside the Colemantown Meeting House.
At council’s Nov. 14 meeting, Julie Williamson, a lawyer representing Jacob’s Chapel, said a township ordinance holds historic markers as exempt from normal signage requirements, but council still must approve them.
“It is on the national register of historic places here in our township, and it’s truly, in my opinion, a gem to the township. Its history is very rich,” Williamson said.
Williamson said seeking the township’s approval was somewhat of an urgent matter, as the research that went into the chapel’s preservation plan had taken several years, and Jacob’s Chapel had to have a sign in the ground by Dec. 31.
Williamson said the sign would not be lit, and would act as a standalone sign with two pillars.
Before the township granted approval for the marker, township solicitor Tyler Prime agreed the request met the spirit of the township ordinance, and he said the township engineer had also agreed the sign complies with all aspects of the ordinance.
Prime said township officials also had no concerns about any potential effects on traffic.
Williamson said the goal of the sign is to help spread the story of Jacob’s Chapel and to get those who might wander by to stop and learn.
“I think historic markers have always kind of been those dry looking things, but this is a much more interesting sign, and I think it’s one that will engender a little more interest in those who come by,” Williamson said.
Councilman Jim Keenan also requested the materials used in the construction of the sign be submitted to the township, just to ensure the sign would be long lasting.
“We’d like to have it stand out and make sure people are told about the history,” Keenan said.
Other members of council agreed, and upon approving the request, they also said they looked forward to seeing the sign once complete.