SANDY HOOK – The following is the presentation Susan Sandlass Gardiner made before the Fort Hancock 21st Century Committee at its meeting Jan. 6 held virtually and inviting comments from the public. The descendant of the original owners of the building at the entrance to Sandy Hook’s Gateway National Recreation Area, Gardiner, who now lives in Maryland, continues to be tireless in her efforts to have the property and the house which is part of recreational and local history for more than a century, part of the restoration efforts at Sandy Hook. Gardiner presented her arguments with photos as well.
I am Susan Sandlass Gardiner, author of Sandy Hook’s LOST Highland Beach Resort published by Arcadia & The History Press in October 2020. Thank you to each committee member here today working towards saving the cultural resources on the Sandy Hook peninsula. 1. We all want to save as many houses as possible in the Landmark. This also includes SH 600 as a Landmark building in the NHL verified on this first slide. The house is currently on the NHL List of Contributing Structures documented in the National Archives application on page 134. At this time, SH 600 still appears in the 1987 amendment. It was added to the NHL application at the same time as several other buildings evaluated by NJ historians who signed off on this amendment where it has remained. SH 600’s historical importance on Sandy Hook is presently being exhibited in the museum at the NJ State Parks Navesink Light Station Historic Landmark. In 2010, the application to receive individual historic status was a suggestion by NPS Chief of Cultural Resources, Kathy Foppes, to give additional protection to the house in the future and was not intended as a reason to qualify it for a leasing agreement. At the time, she also stated that SH 600 is on the NHL application as a contributing structure which gives it group historical significance for leasing
During the build-up to the Highlands bridge project, SH 600 was also documented by cultural resource historians that researched its historical merit. The NJ Department of Transportation began their investigation in 2003 and completed it in 2010. This Illustrated History was completed by RBA Engineers, Architects & Planners documenting the historical value of the Highland Beach Resort and SH 600 in the State of New Jersey. As a result of the building’s rich transportation history in New Jersey, the Department of Transportation chose to build around the house and save it. Ownership of these three lots is still retained by the State of NJ according to the Sandy Hook Deeds. Both N.J. State Sen. Gopal and U.S. Rep. Pallone are on record to support preservation of the house as an Airbnb living history experience at Sandy Hook
Since the houses on Officers Row qualify with group status to enter the leasing program, so should SH 600 which holds the same group status in the National Archives as a contributing structure. It was removed from Sandy Hook’s List of Contributing Structures after the last Park Ranger and his family moved out in June 2012 when NPS chose not to bring it up to rental code status.
Remaining on the Sandy Hook peninsula is vital to this home’s historical significance. A current lessee at Sandy Hook has expressed an interest in leasing and renovating SH 600. This structure is in imminent danger of a roof collapse in the coming year without the intervention of the interested entrepreneur to begin an evaluation, roof repair and renovation in 2022.
We respectfully ask NPS representatives to: 1. ACCEPT the NJ Department of Transportation’s research validating SH 600’s historical importance in the State of New Jersey. 2. RECOGNIZE the SH 600’s status shown on the contributing structures list in the National Archives as part of the NHL group designation. And, 3. ADD SH 600 to the RFP list and remove it from the Ruins Bin to allow the interested entrepreneur to evaluate and renovate the building in 2022.