A landmark of 19th Century architecture and a cornerstone of an impending land deal between the Borough of Haddonfield and the Board of Education, the vacant Lullworth Hall suffered at the hands of unknown vandals at the turn of the new year.
“Unfortunately, some individuals threw rather large rocks and papers through more than several of the windows. When we were notified of it, it was one of our police officers who picked up on it first. Between the Police Department and Public Works, we went into action to see what we could do to improve security in that building,” said Mayor Neal Rochford at the board of commissioners’ Jan. 14 session.
Haddonfield Police Chief Jason Cutler added the damage was limited to the broken glass and debris which landed on the inside of the property. He said the department has taken steps to improve external lighting, because there was none prior to the discovery of the vandalism.
“We have lights now on the property, and we have at least six cameras out there,” he stated.
“We put up surveillance cameras all around the perimeter. We’ve upgraded some physical features and cleared out some brush that was making it difficult for officers to see down into the house. And we’ve also increased patrols in the area.”
Cutler didn’t have any solid leads on potential suspects, but offered that he believed the culprits were “more than likely kids,” and categorized the nature of the vandalism as “nothing more than “stupid kid stuff.”
At that same Jan. 14 meeting, longtime resident Herb Hess implored the governing body to move quickly and remediate the problem, volunteering himself and calling upon concerned neighbors to help fix the damage.
Hess added that The Victorian Society in America, whose headquarters relocated from Philadelphia to Haddonfield last spring, could be of some assistance in the matter. Lullworth Hall was constructed in 1886 – the height of the Victorian Era – and, according to borough historian Kathy Tassini, from an April 2006 Sun article, one of the finest examples of Queen Anne Victoria-style buildings in town.
Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough told those in attendance she has already received proposals for replacing some of the broken windows, but some of the damage occurred to highly-specialized material.
“We’ve gotten a couple of proposals for replacement. Due to the fact that at least three of the windows are of a historic type where they have nine different panes, those (bidders) will have to replace the window itself,” she explained.
In the aforementioned land swap, the Borough is set to obtain Radnor Field from the Board of Education, while the BOE is slated to receive the whole of the west side parcel of the Bancroft site, except for an acre of land which will be attached to Lullworth.
McCullough also stated the borough is in the final stages of exchanging information between the BOE and New Jersey Department of Education as well as the so-called “Green Acres” program from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which is providing half of the funding for the land swap.
“We anticipate being able to have closing probably in the first week of February,” McCullough added.
Rochford said a judgment call on damage control was made, and it was decided that the broken windows would not be covered with plywood or any other material.
“We did not want to board up all the windows of that beautiful building as an entrance way to Haddonfield, “ he intoned. “People are concerned about the stained-glass windows and about the integrity of the building and our commitment remains to making sure that building is restored to its former beauty.”
Commissioner Colleen Bianco Bezich also issued some polite, but firm advice to any residents who feel the need to visit the venerable edifice with the intention of repairing damage or performing any cleaning activities.
“Please communicate with the Police Chief or with myself or one of the Commissioners if you’re going to attempt to visit any of the sites, particularly Lullworth,” she said.
“I know Herb, you did a good deed in picking up glass and we’re very appreciative of that. But be cognizant of the fact that there are conditions on the property which could lead to harm to yourself, and we also want to make sure we’re not getting the cameras tripped because Good Samaritans are trying to volunteer time or effort.”