red bank fortune houseThe recently restored T. Thomas Fortune House in Red Bank has earned a new distinction: it’s been named a National Historic Site in Journalism by the Society of Professional Journalists.

The house, at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard, was the home to one of the most influential African-American journalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it was known as Maple Hall (and the street was called Beech Street).

Fortune, known for his bold writing promoting civil rights, bought the house in 1901 and owned it for a decade. It was later acquired by the Vaccarelli family, who lived in the house and ran a commercial bakery on the property.

Because of its connection to Fortune, the house was entered into theĀ National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Still, it was vacant and crumbling by 2006, attracting the attention of local preservationists.

After a wholesale makeover by builder Roger Mumford, the long-vacant and crumbling structure opened in May as the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center.

In a prepared statement, Miriam Ascarelli, president of SPJ’s New Jersey chapter, said the organization hopes the designation “will help the people at the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation with their invaluable work of resurrecting the legacy of an important black journalist who, sadly, has been largely forgotten.

“This is one of those under-reported stories that needs to be told,” Ascarelli said.

The house is the second site in New Jersey chosen for the designation: the first, in 2018, was the Union Hotel in Flemington, where journalists from around the world convened in January 1935 to cover the Lindbergh baby kidnap-murder trial at the Hunterdon County Courthouse across the street.

(Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)