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Cranford Designates Crane-Phillips House a Historic Landmark

The ordinance will make the Crane-Phillips house the first historical landmark designated by the Township.

On Tuesday, the Township Committee introduced the first reading of an ordinance to designate the Crane-Phillips house as Cranford’s first historic landmark.

Although Cranford’s Crane-Phillips House is on both the National and State registers of historic landmarks, Cranford never had a procedure for designating local sites or districts as historic until an ordinance was passed in March 2013.

The ordinance declaring it as a landmark will have its second reading during the Township's next official meeting.

The initial ordinance passed in March outlined the process that is required in order to designate a local historic landmark, which was being followed when the Cranford Historical Preservation Advisory Board held a public meeting on Nov. 18.

Strazdon said at the Dec. 10 workshop meeting that the designation does not place any restrictions on the property and owners can still do what they want to sites. The home would be added to the zoning ordinance and the Township’s Master Plan, but existing zoning restrictions would take precedence over any historic designation.

Commissioner Bob D’Amobola said it seemed backwards that there would be no restrictions on a property deemed a historical landmark.

Strazdon said that the current ordinance does not include anything that would allow them to create restrictions, but it could be something they add in the future.

Commissioner Lisa Adubato said when the ordinance was passed, they did what they all could agree on, but she is sure it will be an ongoing issue. She said the restrictions would be issues through a process by the Township Committee.

According to the CHPAB, there are several criteria that the state department uses to designate a historic landmark and although Cranford’s ordinance did not require those to be met, the organization felt it was a good argument to defend that the Crane-Phillips House should be designated. 

Some of the reason the CHPAB felt it should be designated include that the Crane Family developed the town and the Phillips were also an important well-known family in town. Also, the home itself is consistent with the architecture of the time period. Although it no longer functions as a home, it is a house museum and has many of the original materials still present, according to CHPAB board member, Maureen McDougall.

“It is an excellent candidate to bet he first Cranford landmark,” McDougall explained.

Victor Bary, also of the CHPAB, provided a bit of history on the Crane-Phillips House during the Nov. 18 public meeting about the designation.

He explained that in the 1840’s, Josiah Crane built the simple two-room cottage for his son, Josiah Jr., and his wife. After about 12 years, Josiah Jr. was able to build a much larger, fancier home for he and his wife so the cottage was sold to the Phillips’ family. Phillips patented the kitchen range hood, according to Bary, and decided to update and expand the house. To do so, he hired one of the first American Architects, Andrew Jackson Downing. Bary explained that this also makes the home significant due to its architecture style. 

Christine Blazer, a volunteer with the Cranford Historical Society for over 20 years, said during the public meeting held by the CHPAB, that the home continues to draw thousands of visitors every year.

“It is much appreciated by every third grader in Cranford and the organization has really considered it its duty and pleasure to keep it in wonderful condition,” she said.

She added that it is just a designation and a beautiful thing.

According to McDougall, the value of properties in or near a historical district usually increases 3 to 4 percent. Also, it allows the Township to be available for historical preservation grants.

Steve January 17, 2014 at 09:07 AM
Numerous mistakes in this piece. For one thing, Andrew Jackson Downing, said to have been hired by Phillips in Cranford to update and expand his house, died in 1852 on the Hudson River when his passenger steamship blew up, a common occurrence of the time. From the historical society folks, I understand Phillips didn't come to Cranford and buy his house until after the Civil War in the 1860s. So Phillips could not have hired Downing to perform the work, contrary to the article.
Nicole Bitette (Editor) January 17, 2014 at 12:40 PM
Hi Dan, Thanks for the information. The information in the article was background provided by Victor Bary of the Historical Society during one of the meetings.
Steve January 17, 2014 at 01:18 PM
This from the top of page 6 of "The Little House, The History of the Crane-Phillips House Museum," by Widdows and Price: "Henry and Cecilia Phillips came to Cranford in 1867." And on page 4 of the same book it also says that Phillips bought the property in 1867. That would be 15 years after the death of Downing. The book was purchased from the Cranford Historical Society.

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