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Home > Columnists > Stephen Culpepper
January 13, 2012

NJ's compromise of history for money

By STEPHEN CULPEPPER
     Staff Writer

New Jersey has a rich history in this country as one of the original thirteen colonies and hosting a plethora of historical sites, most notably ones dating back to the Revolutionary War. But even so, as time and society move forward, can we expect to keep these sites intact? Especially in these hard economic times, it may seem much easier to let history fade into the dust in exchange for more money in the taxpayers’ pockets.

Keeping historical sites intact is not free. These sites, be it buildings, structures or objects of any kind, need to be maintained and taken care of, or else they deteriorate. Taxpayers are levied with the burden of maintaining these sites or, if lucky enough, there are enough charitable donations to just get by. So it may come down to which part of history is worth saving. If we must remember history as a tool for moving forward, how do we so when we destroy evidence of it being there at all?

These issues are being considered in Oakland, where the Van Allen House is in need of new roofing and maintenance, but no funds have been forthcoming. The house was built around 1740 as the home of farmer Hendrik Van Allen.. During the Revolutionary War, it served as the headquarters for George Washington on July 14, 1777. Currently, it is maintained as a museum displaying Dutch colonial life. However, a non-binding referendum found that most taxpayers in Oakland are opposed to supporting upkeep of the Van Allen Property.

Historical sites are important to display what life was once like and gives us clues to our past and a sense of identification with that past. If we are so eager to destroy history, where does it end?

We can build replicas perhaps, but the same problems will return in maintaining the replicas. It all comes down to how much you love history and preserving what can never be replaced. If you love money and living in the now, then preserving history may not seem important to you. However, if you can see the importance of preserving history, then you may find a greater satisfaction of remembrence of bygone days that can never be replaced and stands as a remembrance of what once was.

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