Express-Times article

Phillipsburg Historical Society regroups for Roseberry homestead restoration

Thursday, July 16, 2009

By SARAH WOJCIK
The Express-Times

PHILLIPSBURG | The excitement of uncovering the mysteries behind the town’s oldest home has reawakened the Phillipsburg Historical Society.

The organization, formed in 1972, is scheduled to meet for the first time in two years at 7 tonight in the Phillipsburg Municipal Building, 675 Corliss Ave.

Originally formed to preserve the historic Roseberry-Gess Homestead, the society is regrouping with the same goal still in mind.

Since being visited by two local history buffs about a year ago, the stone building on Warren Street has captured the imagination of several Phillipsburg residents, according to historical society member Frank Greenagel.

Greenagel said he and fellow historical society member Scott Curzi have aggressively pursued the building’s restoration in hopes of transforming it into an educational center for local history and architecture.

“I think the historic society’s been revitalized and we hope to make it a major force in the restoration and preservation of our town and our heritage,” Curzi said.

The society’s nonprofit status can open doors for grants to restore the home, officials said.

For the first time in decades, the homestead is scheduled to open to the public for tours July 24-26 during Phillipsburg’s Ole Towne Festival, said society Vice President Randy Piazza.

“A lot of people look at it as an eyesore … and it is going to be an eyesore if no one takes care of it,” Piazza said.

He invites history buffs to get involved with the restoration of the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s a whole new experience, he said.

“It’s another thing to go out there and see something tangible that you can touch. Whether it’s a cannon or a home, it’s really awesome,” Piazza said.

Greenagel has authored several books about religious architecture and said his research commitment to the homestead feels natural.

Sifting through historical documents at New York City and New Jersey libraries, Greenagel believes the house, occupied by John Roseberry, was built in the 1780s by the well-connected British officer John Tabor Kempe.

As attorney general of New York, Kempe owned much of what is now Phillipsburg, Greenagel said.

“This is not a farmer growing corn and tomatoes building a structure like this,” Greenagel said. “This was built by someone with architectural taste and a great deal of money.”

Reporter Sarah Wojcik can be reached at 610-258-7171, ext. 3631, or by e-mail at swojcik@express-times.com.