Yesterday, Preservation NJ announced that it was designating Princeton’s Valley Road School on its 19th annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in the State of New Jersey. Explaining that “the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places program spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural and archeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost.” Nominees are evaluated on the following criteria, according to Preservation NJ: “historic significance and architectural integrity, the critical nature of the threat identified, and the likelihood that inclusion on the list will have a positive impact on efforts to protect the resource.”
Kip Cherry, president of the Valley Road School Community Center, Inc. explains the significance of this listing in saving the Valley Road School. “May 22 has been a big day for saving Valley Road School. Not only does Valley Road School represent an important part of Princeton’s very significant history over the last 100 years, but as an adaptive reuse, we see the building fulfilling a major need in the future as a center for nonprofit organizations serving the Princeton Community. We see it providing office, classroom and meeting spaces for community organizations and, most importantly we envision two well-needed black box theaters.” Ms. Cherry noted that “nonprofits serving Princeton residents have ongoing problems in finding rental space that they can afford.”
In a press release, the Valley Road School-Adaptive Reuse Committee (VRS-ARC) wrote, “At its Annual Meeting tonight the VRS-ARC and VRSCCI kicked off a petition campaign to put the question of saving Valley Road School on the General Election Ballot in November.
Preservation NJ shares some background on this historic site: “When the oldest part of the Valley Road School opened in 1918, it was the first regional school in Princeton Township. Cafeteria and gymnasium wings were added in 1927, and a classroom wing, a library, another gymnasium, and locker rooms were built in 1949, the year after Valley Road had become the first integrated elementary school in Princeton. The original Collegiate Gothic school was built by the same Italian-American stonemasons who worked on the famed masonry buildings on the Princeton University campus. In the 1950s and 1960s, Valley Road received national recognition for its innovative science programs.
After the Princeton Regional School District built several new schools in the 1960s, Valley Road was converted to offices for the municipality, the school board, and the Princeton Medical Center. In 1989, the school board gave a portion of the school’s property for construction of a firehouse, and in 1999 the municipality moved its offices to a new complex across the street. Currently the building, which has not been well maintained, houses a number of municipality-related organizations, which have been ordered to vacate by June 30 and are in the process of moving out. A task force formed to consider expanding the adjacent firehouse, potentially jeopardizing the school, is expected to report in May. Meanwhile, the school board has rejected a proposal from the Valley Road School Adaptive Reuse Committee (VRSARC) to rehabilitate the school for use as a community center that would provide nonprofit tenants with affordable rents and shared infrastructure.”
For more information, visit the Save Valley Road School website: http://savevalleyroadschool.org/Home.html