Haddonfield Historical Society raises money for new archive center

With $600,000 down, the society is still in need of another $300,000 to complete their goal in hopes to have the necessary funds to start construction in 2018.

The Haddonfield Historical Society provides an opportunity for both residents and non-residents to delve into Camden County’s past and play a role in preserving its future. The Samuel Mickle House, an extension of the Historical Society, serves as a historical treasure chest, housing archives that date to the 1700s.

The Mickle House was constructed in 1736 as a saddler’s shop, being recognized as the oldest frame structure still standing in Camden County, according to Archivist Dana Dorman. Less than half the size of Greenfield Hall, the headquarters for the Historical Society, the two-story house surprisingly contains 725 linear feet of old letters, photos and diaries, according to Dorman.

These documentations are brought back to life when read by elementary and high school students, teachers, community members and those from other towns. Field trips and school projects are regularly held at the Historical Society, specifically the Mickle House.

“Then they come here and next door we have that fabulous tool cellar and they get to see the tools they would have been using, and their eyes just light up because it’s the tangible link to the past for them,” President of the society, Carol W. Smith, said as she recalled a third-grade field trip experience at the Mickle House.

The Historical Society has been trying to raise enough funds to build a new archive center to safely house documents. Unfortunately the building isn’t a safe location for the archives.

“It’s not ideal for storing documents, you know, it’s built of wood and we can’t use the second floor anymore because it doesn’t meet modern office building code,” Dorman said.

The journey to build a new archive center roughly began two years ago when the Historical Society set out to raise $900,000 to restore the Mickle House to the original 18th century aesthetic. The space would provide guests with new learning experiences and interpretations for those interested. A plethora of ideas have been tossed around for the potentially updated Mickle House.

“You would certainly still see the architectural features we would be able to use it to perhaps display some of the tools of the trade, or we have been talking back and forth about apprenticeship papers because we do have some of those here,” Smith said.

The proposed architectural design for the new archive center is a take on a modern interpretation of a barn. A velvet red barnyard style structure with white trimming will take the place of the parking garage positioned behind Greenfield Hall. Although the square footage will stay consistent with the proposed architectural model, the inside will offer additional space for filing documents, as well as meet the safety standards required to house the current archives. Planning, zoning and other organizations, as well as neighbors, have all approved the current design plans.

Just a few weeks ago, the society reached two-thirds of its goal with the help of one of the largest single donations of $100,000 from the Library Company. With $600,000 down, the society is still in need of another $300,000 to complete its goal and hopefully be able to start construction in 2018. In addition to preserving the house, the donations would also be used to build a new and improved archive center. With the support of the community, the society intends to provide a sanctuary for these irreplaceable archives.

“We have such a huge, unique and deep history in Haddonfield, such a core place in South Jersey. I have often said we have probably the deepest collection of materials that a town historical society has. We are preserving something very unique and very valuable for future generations,” Vice President of the society, Doug Rauschenberger, said.

To donate and help the Historical Society reach its goal, send a check to 343 Kings Highway E., Haddonfield, or go to the website at http://haddonfieldhistory.org.