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Swede Run Barn in Danger of Demolition

Local groups rally to save the landmark.

It has been the subject of painters and photographers from around the region, a charming reminder of simpler times in a rapidly changing landscape.

The Swede Run barn, also known as the Benner barn, has been declared unsafe by the Moorestown Township engineer and must be repaired or demolished, officials say.

The little building, visible from Westfield Road as you pass the Moorestown Hunt development, sits on a 120-acre parcel called Swede Run Fields, purchased by the township in 2002 with open space funds.

The Alaimo Group reported to the Township Council in July that the 150-year-old structure was dangerous. It estimated that repairs would cost $160,000.

Council members decided that the price tag was too high, so they instructed acting Township Manager Tom Merchel to see if any community groups were interested in taking on the project.

Two groups have expressed an interest: the Eagle Scouts and the Historical Society of Moorestown, according to Tom Ford, director of Community Development.

Mayor John Button said an outside group could probably do the job less expensively than the township could.

 “None of us want to see it go,” said Button. “But the expense for what that building is, a small empty structure in very poor condition, at this time it just doesn’t make sense. I’m hopeful that we’ll find a different kind of solution, but if not, we’re going to have to take it down.”

But no one wants to go in that direction, said Ford.

“A lot of people enjoy it. It’s a nice thing to have in town,” Ford said. “The important thing is to get it stabilized so it doesn’t deteriorate further. Complete restoration could take place at any time after that.”

The Historical Society has already begun asking for donations to save the barn.

“This beloved local landmark is one of the few remaining vestiges of Moorestown’s rich farming heritage,” said Historical Society President Lisa Hammell.

Donations by check should be made out to The Historical Society of Moorestown with “barn restoration” on the memo line, she said. Donations should be mailed to Julie Maravich, 660 Chester Ave., Moorestown, NJ 08057.

Dave Schill August 07, 2011 at 11:45 AM
I'm helping Julie develop a plan to restore the Benner barn through volunteer help, much the same way the recent playground was totally rebuilt by the citizens of Moorestown. We're hoping the construction experts in town as well as the citizenry will step up and lend their support so we don't loose yet another historic structure. CAN DO! Dave Schill
Arch Fisher August 07, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Amen Dave... count Chris and I in!
Ginger Hayes August 07, 2011 at 01:21 PM
I'm in! It's behind me and an important part of our town. I have a beautiful photo of it taken in the fall blown up and hanging in my powder room. I would love to help fix it up!
Wanda Feliciano Gilhool August 07, 2011 at 01:30 PM
So thankful to know about this endeavor! I will give financial support as well as any other support needed!!!! Keep us posted!
Political utr August 07, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Hey Dave.. Are you thinking of running for town council on 2012 with potential candidate Mark?
Moorestown First August 07, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Look gang, we have this fund available to us.. "open space, farmland preservation, historic preservation". I think we could get together and use these funds! This structure itself is historic, this was on a farm and a farmhouse, and is nestled on one of the largest and oldest open space pieces in town. In the next meetings perhaps the town should evaluate what money is available to us.
Bob August 07, 2011 at 02:27 PM
We all make a donation- called taxes. Use the open space money to preserve this structure that helps define our community. This is not complicated and because it is s small structure will not cost a fortune to restore if it handled sensibly.
KJL August 07, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Here is an interesting fact to consider.....If the Open Space Fund is used to repair the dams at Strawbrige Lake ($150k) and the farmhouse at Swedes Run ($100k) and a portion of the annual debt service for KIDS Initiative ($180k/year), the Open Spae Fund will still grow to $2.8M by the end of 2016 which is an increase of 70% over the 2011 Year End Fund amount.....and there woul dbe NO TAX INCREASE to do any of this.
Moorestown First August 07, 2011 at 04:27 PM
So is mr Schill with MSOS? Would he want to use the "open space, Famland, historic preservation" fund for this? Is he with Mark to not use the funds or does he feel it is appropriate to use the monies from that fund?
Ginger Hayes August 07, 2011 at 04:53 PM
OS money seems like a perfect idea. Another example of how a large sum of money can cover many projects without raising taxes and without any real impact on it's ability to preserve future farm-open space purchases. How can anyone argue that?
Jonathan Eron August 07, 2011 at 05:56 PM
This would be an appropriate use of open space funds. This is an historic structure located on a sight purchased with Open Space funds. I wonder why our council, which is so eager to expend open space funds on non-open space projects, is reluctant to use the funds for the purposes they were intended? Dave, you can sign me up to help, even if my construction and repair skill are below par.
KJL August 07, 2011 at 06:55 PM
So constructing athletic facilties at Swede's Run using Open Space money is also an appropriate use of the Open Space Fund?
Moorestown First August 07, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Hey Jon I see your political moves there.' are you going to bring up that wild pocket park idea again?
Julie Maravich August 07, 2011 at 08:59 PM
Thank you Emma for this terrific article! I hope that we have already been able to make an impact on town council and I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's meeting. Come see Tom Finley's painting that he will be bringing! It's clear that Moorestonians have an emotional connection to this charming building. Keep spreading the word!
Moorestown First August 07, 2011 at 09:09 PM
This building will be funded one way or another. I think the word " demolish" will help wake people up into understanding how serious this is.
Front Desk August 08, 2011 at 01:00 AM
Here's a twist..we use the open space funds to refurbish and add on to the farmhouse. Then, turn the barn into a bar and call that "fine dining" and then "pave over paradise" and place big parking lot to Westfield road using more open space funds. Hey, we could get so many people upset.. Those in the majority against liquor, those for open space, those who think the os fund is being raided yet again, whoa but what about the spot zoning for only the mall? Why not a bar and fine dining in the middle of the largest open space in town? This is an amazing year, what drama is next?
KJL August 08, 2011 at 10:59 AM
Jon - I am curious about your answer to the question I posed yesterday. Are you in favor of a natural grass athletic faciity at Swede's Run or on another Open Space parcel or are you simply anti-athletics like MSOS?
Mark Hines August 08, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Kevin - MSOS is not anti-athletics. There are plenty of families with children who play sports supporting MSOS, and actually a number of MSOS supporters are coaches of youth sports. Please stop that misinformation now.
Ginger Hayes August 08, 2011 at 12:15 PM
Mark, I'm sure you will find that as the facts...the true numbers circulate most of those parents will ultimately wish they hadn't signed the petition and willnotvote for it. You have led people to Believe it is one or the other and THAT IS NOT TRUE. Not only is it proper and legal there is money for both many projects as Kevin has factually pointed out SEVERAL times.
KJL August 08, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Misinformation? What misinformation? Is there another legal use of Open Space Funds that your petition is trying to prevent besides athletics? MSOS supporters are all over this website, mostly under fictitious names, poudnign ahtletics as elitist, private clubs. Talk about misinformation! And what about the Open Space Master Plan? Is the Master Plan aslo misinformation? Let's talk about misinformation....you refuse to respond to any of my posts about the economics of the Open Space Fund and the 70%-100% growth of the Open Space Fund even after the fields are fixed. Your refusal to acknowledge any of the funding facts are more misleading than most of the comments on these posts. Mark, I am in favor of using Open Space Funds to stabilize the farmhouse at Swede's Run, repair the dams at Strawbridge Lake to get them up to tthe DEP's Dam Safety standards, and invest in the Township's recreation facilities as proposed by KIDS, all of which can be done while increasing the Open Space Fund by 70% over the next five years and wihtout raising taxes. How about you? Are you in favor of these things? Or are you in favor of raising taxes to invest in the Township's assets?
Gregory Molesan February 29, 2012 at 12:29 AM
How long did that building stand without that ugly fence around it? The fence takes all the natural beauty away form it. If you are going to put this natural old building behind an ugly black fence get rid of it.

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