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Moisture causes damage to historic Cherry Hill site BY ADAM SMELTZ • COURIER-POST STAFF • APRIL 8, 2009 Within the past 18 months, moisture has been seeping through the roof and into the attic area at the landmark brick farmhouse, built in 1816. The moisture so far has reached into some old plaster work there, said Sandra Ragonese, township director of historic properties and programs. "When you're talking about an old house, moisture damage is never a good thing," she said. But the township, which owns the structure, last month scrapped a $42,000 repair project after building experts found that the 29-year-old roof needs to be replaced entirely within two to eight years. A key seam "is beyond repair," and any efforts to fix it would not be cost effective, according to a resolution approved by the township council. A complete replacement of the tin roof, last safeguarded with a protective coating in 1997, would cost $160,000 to $215,000, Ragonese said. But for now, the township does not know where or when it will secure the money to finance that project. If the roof deteriorates rapidly, workers may use a rooftop tarp to guard against leaks, Ragonese said. "Any other repairs . . . would be so expensive to make to a roof of that age and nature," she said, putting estimates for alternative fixes in the five-figure range. The federal-style farmstead, off Route 70 East on Barclay Lane, hosts a museum that reflects 19th-century farm life in South Jersey. Events including festivals, concerts and other community gatherings also are held on the property. Township spokesman Dan Keashen called the spot a "hidden gem in Cherry Hill." He said the township will do everything possible to keep the house "preserved and a destination in Cherry Hill -- and the landmark that is is." The Camden County open-space fund provided the $42,000 that had been earmarked for the repairs. Now the township is planning to use that money to help finance preparations for a full roof replacement, plus "very temporary repairs," Keashen said. He said those may include extra layers of caulking around some problem areas in the attic. Keashen said that the farmstead has seen no structural damage from the water seepage and very little aesthetic damage. The township had hoped to receive -- and applied for -- some roof-replacement money from the New Jersey Historic Trust, funded in part by the Garden State Preservation Trust. But a recent grant application was unsuccessful, according to a township memorandum. Ragonese hopes the roof project will receive more consideration when the historic trust considers applications again in 2010. Keashen said the township could pursue other avenues for funding, too, including nonprofit groups and federal stimulus funds. "First and foremost, we would do everything in our power to not use local property taxes for this repair," he said. Reach Adam Smeltz at (856) 486-2919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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