Berlin Borough volunteers are continuing restoration of a historically important building as it also plans for future uses.
The James T. Dill House, located at 11 Jackson Road in the borough, remains an ongoing project for multiple organizations as Berlin looks to celebrate its past while also preparing for what lies ahead.
“It’s like the doorway to our historic district right there,” Councilman Len Badolato said. “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.”
Commonly referred to as the The Dill House, the building’s construction dates back to pre- Civil War, approximately 1855. The building was saved from demolition by the borough two years ago, and grants and donations have funded efforts to restore it.
The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) last month updated the board outside of The Dill House after receiving a $50,000 grant from the Camden County Freeholders Historic Preservation Trust Fund. The specific grant will help update the building’s HVAC, interior drywall, gutters and more, projects expected to be completed by spring, according to HPC member Tina Hoffman.
Approximately $150,000 has been raised for restoration efforts, with the goal being $180,000.
The Historic Preservation Commission has continued restoration efforts at The Dill House over the past two years without using taxpayer dollars. During the restoration, more than 800 volunteer hours have been logged tending to the exterior and interior of the building, ranging from paint, flooring, wallpaper and more.
While the building undergoes updating and restoration to accommodate its potential future uses, much emphasis has also been placed on historical accuracy. According to the HPC, after a shutter was found in the basement, extra work led to a significant part of the building’s originality being kept.
“A single shutter was found in the basement and at first, it was unclear if it actually belonged to the building,” Hoffman said. “It turned out to be an exact fit of a window on the front of the home, slipping right onto the shutter pins on the window frame. Because of that, the 1772 Historic Trust Foundation gave us permission to use funds they have supplied to have reproduction shutters made.”
The discovery led to 11 sets of historically accurate shutters being ordered; they are expected to be delivered later this month and installed shortly after. The result will be in keeping with the building’s history.
After completion, the building will be used primarily by the Downtown Berlin Revitalization Corporation (DBRC), which currently plans for it to be a Visitor Interpretative and Conference Center. But it also will serve as a museum with the ability to host special events, art exhibits and more. In addition, the exterior plan for the house currently includes sustainable outdoor living with art and historic themes, including water management, moss walling, indigenous gardening and more.
Contributions can be made toward project funding at The Dill House as the HPC and DBRC continue to strive for a goal of $180,000. Donations can be made to the DBRC c/o Foulk/Huber at 82 S. White Horse Pike, Berlin, NJ, 08009. A check or money order should indicate Dill House.