In an effort to continue to preserve its history, Borough Council is in the process of restoring the residence of James T. Dill at 11 Jackson Road, commonly referred to as The Dill House.
The Dill House is a pre-Civil War home estimated to have been constructed between 1855 and 1860, and is currently being restored with no expense to borough taxpayers. According to Councilman Len Badolato, preserving and jumpstarting once again the celebration of Berlin’s history is something the borough council looks forward to doing – and The Dill House, specifically, could play an important role in the borough’s future.
“It’s like the doorway to our historic district right there,” said Badolato. “There are a few streets that are really historically significant (in the borough) … and The Dill House is almost kind of in the heart of that.”
Dill and his wife Martha purchased the lot in 1855 for $17.50, according to documentary research by the late borough historian Charles W. Wright, with typical era construction and materials of the house to back it up – the house contains four-panel interior doors with three-knuckle hinges, cast iron box locks, porcelain knobs and more.
The house, over the years, as expected, has had numerous owners and has undergone slight changes. However, the historic nature of the house is still present in its architecture, interior design and furnishing.
The National Park Service and the state Historic Preservation Office have deemed the house historically significant, making it a “contributing property” within the Berlin National Register Historic District.
The future use of the building remains unclear. Badolato says the council and historic commission have discussed multiple ways the building can be in the future, however the foremost priority is restoring the building.
Restoration is underway under the supervision of the borough’s Historic Preservation Commission, funded by grants, donations and volunteer labor.
Badolato said that over the past two and a half years, council has received $105,000 in grants from the state and Camden County for historic preservation on multiple projects, having received $50,000 from Camden County for The Dill House and $25,000 to amend the Berlin historic district, among other grants.
The $50,000 for The Dill House was received back in 2017 to “stabilize the masonry and secure the exterior of the home,” according to a Camden County release.
After the community and borough were able to save the Berlin Hotel approximately 30 years ago, Badolato says he hopes the same can be done now with the Dill House after the borough was able to acquire and save it from being demolished back in 2017.
“It’s nice to keep some of your past, it gives your town character,” said Badolato. “I totally understand progress, but you want to keep the important parts of your town as time goes by. If I were to name five towns off the top of my head, you’d have a mental image of what those towns look like. When I say Berlin, I’m proud of my town and its history.”