Summit Historic Preservation Commission fights to preserve historic assets

At a recent Summit Historical Preservation Commission meeting at City Hall were, from left, standing, Meredith Gaylord, Summit resident and member; Bonnie Morrison, Summit resident and member; Bob Pawlowski, council liaison; Jennifer Balson Alvarez, vice chairperson of the Summit Planning Board; and Mike Digeronimo, architect and member; and, sitting, Caroline King, chairperson; and James Burgmeyer, architect and member.

SUMMIT, NJ — The city of Summit is known for its unique architectural heritage, distinguishing it from newer suburban towns. Summit’s Common Council believes that its historic buildings, structures and streetscapes, dating back to the mid-18th century, are an intrinsic part of the value of the community and are deserving of respect and preservation. The buildings and sites are diverse in style, well-maintained and still largely intact, giving Summit an image of an old town with character.

Summit’s Historic Preservation Commission meets regularly to discuss challenges they face in their mission to preserve historic assets at City Hall, 512 Springfield Ave.

Caroline King, chairperson of the HPC, said, “This year’s focus is on preserving historical buildings. We’re losing a lot of trees. A three-year sapling is not an 80-year-old tree.”

Expressing concerns regarding wrecking an old house, King mentioned waste and asbestos and an overall environmental impact. She said she feels adaptive preservation — rehabilitating and preserving an old building — is a better solution.

“It’s history,” she said, regarding the old buildings that make Summit attractive and give it character. The HPC and the Environmental Commission are working together on preservation.

A recent HPC meeting had the following in attendance: Bonnie Morrison, Summit resident and member; James Burgmeyer, architect and member; Bob Pawlowski, council liaison; Jennifer Balson Alvarez, vice chairperson of the Summit Planning Board; Mike Digeronimo, architect and member; and Meredith Gaylord, Summit resident and member.

Items for discussion included plans for making the property at 259 Summit Ave. bigger; variances for steep slope setback of an active accessory structure for the property on 7 Essex Road; and a variance to install a 6-foot-tall driveway gate, 6-foot-tall open style fence along the front and side yard, a 4-foot-tall fence along the front yard and a 7-foot-tall pen-style deer fence along the portion of the yard on the 108 Woodland Ave. property.

King mentioned that, in the last five years, 21 historical homes were demolished, including 119 Hobard Ave., which was recognized on The Walking Tour.

And there was the house at 5 Robinhood Road, which was built in 1929 and received an award from Architectural Forum magazine. “Completely demolished,” King said.

“Even the best of the best,” added Alvarez, in reference to the beautifully constructed Normandy cottage.

“There are stronger ordinances in neighboring towns,” King said. “It’s really sad we’re losing more buildings. It’s tragic.”

To learn more about the Summit Historic Preservation Commission, visit

Photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta