Lackawanna Records Building Named Endangered Historical Place — All About the 116-Year-Old Building

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Here in Hoboken, we live amongst so much history. The Mile Square is the birthplace of Frank Sinatra, where the first girl played Little League Baseball {Maria Pepe, you’re a Hoboken icon!}, and of course, a hustling and bustling metropolitan area in which, somehow, timeless English Victorian Gothic Revival architecture is still preserved. From the corbeled rowhouses and the cobblestone of Court Street to the vaulted interiors and stained glass of the churches, all of these historical bits and pieces are what make the Mile Square so special. The Lackawanna Records Building is one of those pieces, and now it’s been deemed one of the 10 Most Endangered Historic  Places in NJ.

lackawanna records building new jersey

{Photo credit: @preservation_nj}

Becoming Endangered

The Lackawanna Records Building has been named one of 2020’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in the State of New Jersey by Preservation New Jersey. National Prevention Month was technically May, but Preservation New Jersey is still continuing its efforts to raise awareness and advocate for Lackawanna Records. Built in 1904, Lackawanna Records is older than even the Elks Lodge on 1005 Washington Street and the Erie-Lackawanna Terminal.

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The 10 Most Endangered Historic Places program seeks to highlight 10 landmarks with historical significance throughout New Jersey each year. The organization says looks for buildings that are “irreplaceable historic, architectural, culture, and archeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost.”

The Lackawanna Records Building is the only edifice from Hudson County to make the list. The other endangered buildings include:

  • Cranford Roadhouse, Cranford, Union County
  • Fort Lee Post Office of Fort Lee, Bergen County
  • Futuro Houses of Greenwich, Cumberland County and Willingboro, Burlington County
  • Lauriston Estate of Rumson, Monmouth County
  • Old Stone House of South Orange, Essex County
  • Roosevelt Public School of Roosevelt, Monmouth County
  • Sutfin House of Manalapan, Monmouth County

The three-stories high building on Observer Highway has been abandoned for many years, causing visible, unsafe deterioration. Citing safety as the main issue, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs has made moves to completely demolish the building.

Though demolition plans are currently working their way down the pipeline, the Responsible Development Task Force is attempting to counteract with plans of their own. According to the task force, the building could be restored to its historical glory days and reimagined with new purpose, breathing new “creative adapted reuse” into the deteriorated structure. The next step is for the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors to review alternatives to demolition, which is required by the State Historic Preservation Office since the Lackawanna Records Building is recognized as a historical site.

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About the Building 

But prior to the controversy — should LRB stay, or should she go? — the Lackawanna Records Building was a glorious piece of English Victorian Gothic Revival architecture, designed as part of Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad’s 20th-century rail yard improvement program. According to the NJ Transit Resilience Program, it is the “oldest extant building associated with the Hoboken Terminal and Rail Yard facilities.”

Because of its longevity, the Lackawanna Records Building, therefore, qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places and as a valuable historical resource for the City.

As its name would suggest, Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad {DL+W} designed the building with the intention of using it to store railroad records and documents.

Advocates for maintaining the historical site argue that the building can be restored to its former glory and moving forward, provide a new, actionable purpose in town.

However, in more recent years, the deterioration of the building has become apparent and as such, unsafe. The exterior walls have become susceptible to wide cracks and bowing, while a part of the roof parapet collapsed on July 31st, 2019. Some corner cornice turrets are also partially missing and the caved-in roof has been accumulating debris.

Still, advocates for revitalizing the project instead of tearing it down completely say it can be restored, once more providing for the City of Hoboken rather simply existing for the City of Hoboken.

What Happens Now

But despite which side of the table you may sit on in the Lackawanna Records Building controversy, things are slow-moving. As it stands now, the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors must initiate a review process to analyze what the alternatives to demolition could potentially be.

“In the well-attended virtual meeting of April 16th, all opposed losing the building,” a letter to Governor Murphy, signed by members of the Responsible Development Task Force reads. “The vast majority spoke in favor of the adaptive reuse on its current site. This parallels the strong win for Alternative 4 in an online survey conducted by the City of Hoboken. We suggest that you ask the Board to more deeply review the community inputs and alternatives analysis and that they more deeply consider the long-term benefits of Alternative 4.”

If it happens, revitalizing the Lackawanna Records Building would become a sector of the larger-scale Hoboken Rail Yard Development project.

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Stephanie Osmanski writes honest things about health, the planet, and being a woman. Her words have appeared on Business Insider, Parade, Eat This Not That, Dogster, Scary Mommy, Green Matters, Parents, Seventeen, Life & Style, InTouch Weekly, and more. Her articles have been syndicated on World Economic Forum, MSN, MSN UK, and MSN Canada. In her free time, Stephanie and her registered therapy dog, Koda, volunteer at local hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.