Considering its dire implications, the news earlier this month that a Red Bank house had been had been designated one of New Jersey’s 10 most endangered historic sites was oddly encouraging to a near-octagenarian with a weatherbeaten voice and fu manchu straight out of the ’60s.
Oddly, that is, because inclusion on the list put together by Preservation New Jersey provides no guarantees that the house will be saved. It offers no legal leverage against a present or future owner who might decide to knock the house down. There’s no money in it, either.
In sum, the appellation is as toothless as a newborn.
Yet George Bowden was ecstatic. He’d known that the house, once the home of pioneering African-American newspaperman T. (Timothy) Thomas Fortune, might land on the list, but asked that that not be publicized until it was official, after which “we can blow it sky high,” he told redbankgreen with characteristic enthusiasm.
Once it was announced, Bowden started making plans to leverage the endorsement of historians across the state. He began planning outreach to community groups, leaders of African-American congregations he’s even reached out to Oprah. Whatever it takes to get the word out.
“You can try to prevent it through the press, or local support,” he says, “but there’s no legal groundwork for preventing demolition.”
“He’s like the Energizer bunny,” says Ed Zipprich, a candidate for council this year who serves on the borough’s Historical Preservation Commission that Bowden heads.