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HALL RESTORATION GETS A BIG BOOST

bicentennial-hallA cash infusion means Bicentennial Hall should be ready for a 2012 opening. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Restoration work on Fair Haven’s Bicentennial Hall, a nationally recognized historic landmark, got an $80,000 boost Monday.

A donation by the borough’s historical society elevates the project from piecemeal to shovel-ready, town officials said.

“It has been advancing in fits and spurts over the years, and now we have a plan in place,” said Mayor Mike Halfacre.

The donation means the building will open to the public in time for Fair Haven’s bicentennial celebration next year.

Built on Fisk Street in 1882 as a chapel by the town’s African-American population – and named for a Civil War General Clinton Bowen Fisk, who had settled in Rumson – the building was donated to the borough in 1974 by Fisk Chapel A.M.E., according to the congregation’s website. It was moved to its present location on Cedar Avenue in 1975.

But the chapel fell into disrepair in recent years and became unavailable for use by the public. Over the last four or five years, volunteers and borough employees, under a tight budget, have gradually been stabilizing the structure to get it back into working shape, Halfacre said.

Long before that, though, the historical society began socking away money from annual fundraisers targeted for the building’s repair.

At Monday night’s council meeting, members of the society presented an oversized check at a grip-and-grin ceremony.

“We’ve heard about it for years,” Halfacre said of the money. “We’ve finally got it.”

The total cost of the project is somewhere around $120,000, but Halfacre said there’s leftover borough money from capital projects and grants to make up the difference.

The plan is to hold the town government’s annual reorganization meeting at the hall on New Year’s Day, 2012, the first day of the town’s 200th anniversary year.

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