Restoration project underway

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:50

    Lafayette-Now that the Lafayette Municipal Offices are settled in their new location on Morris Farm Road, the building that was their home for more than 30 years has become a restoration project for the Lafayette Preservation Foundation. Saturday, perfect weather and a chance to score a great buy brought out many bargain hunters to the Town Yard Sale and Flea Market sponsored by the Lafayette Preservation Foundation as one of a series of events to raise funds to pay for the restoration of the historic building. The house, which was built in 1830 by the owner of the Lafayette Mill, was one of the largest and most beautiful homes in the center of town.  Joan Smith, Director of the Foundation, has researched the building and advises that it also is probably the oldest in the center of town, although some outlying farmhouses may be older. Several large, wealthy families lived in the building, including the town doctor and miller. Daniel Haines, who served two terms (1843-45, 1848-1851) as Governor of New Jersey, is said to have made a speech on the steps of this building.  Supporting this theory is the fact that the nearby Lafayette House was the site of many county political conventions.  The vestibule contains a display case that was constructed in memory of John C. Snook, Jr., a former mayor of the town and Smith's grandfather. Among other mementos and rare keepsakes are a bust of Marquis de Lafayette, the town's namesake, and soil from the ground surrounding his gravesite, which was presented to Mayor Snook by the people of France. Lafayette was the first town in the Union to be named after the Revolutionary War general. The building and acreage was purchased by Lafayette Township in 1968 and converted with the help of many volunteers into the Municipal Building.  Later, the pond and fields were added, also through the work of dedicated volunteers. The Lafayette Preservation Foundation is planning to restore the building to its circa 1900 condition. Smith, a sixth generation resident of Lafayette, said, "We need lots of help raising money.   In its heyday, this building was the centerpiece of the Lafayette community.  We hope to be able to return it to its former glory." When completed, the first floor will be a museum, and the Foundation will seek approval for the house to be named to the national register of historical buildings. Restoration work will begin soon on the three-story house. Removal of the aluminum siding, scheduled to begin soon, is expected to reveal wooden shakes beneath, and three layers of roofing will be replaced with a slate roof.  It is believed that the original roof was slate because Lafayette was well known for its slate quarries.  The next fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 4, when the foundation will sponsor a Holiday Craft Bazaar and Christmas Tree and Wreath Auction at the Lafayette School.  Residents and businesses have agreed to donate decorated trees and wreaths to be sold in a silent auction