RED BANK: WORDS AND MUSIC IN THE PARK


Five thousand strong, music lovers found a few hours of respite from everyday noise when the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra played an open-air concert in Red Bank’s Marine Park last summer.

This Sunday, the NJSO returns to the park with another free show, where those in attendance will also get a chance to connect to the borough’s history via the written word.

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RED BANK: UNITY RALLY DRAWS A MURPHY

Tammy Murphy reacts as her husband, Governor-elect Phil Murphy, calls her while she’s delivering a speech at Saturday’s Unity Rally in Red Bank. The event drew a full house to Pilgrim Baptist Church, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Ignoring biting cold, dozens of Red Bank-area residents participated in a “unity” march and rally Saturday in honor of two civil rights champions: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and journalist T. Thomas Fortune.

Anchored at Pilgrim Baptist Church, the event featured a cameo appearance by the spouse of Governor-elect Phil Murphy as part of a whirlwind, pre-inaugural tour of New Jersey.

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RED BANK’S FORTUNE PROJECT SPEAKS

TTF houseThe nonprofit that’s working to save the former home of T. Thomas Fortune hosts readings from the words of the pioneering African-American journalist, with events in Middletown, Red Bank, Shrewsbury and elsewhere.

T. Thomas FortuneAs part of Black History Month and the National African-American Read-In, the not-for-profit T. Thomas Fortune House Project will host a series of readings from the works of the pioneering civil rights journalist – and onetime resident of Red Bank – T. Thomas Fortune.

Entitled “The People Speak: the Words of T. Thomas Fortune, ” the series includes public-welcome events at Middletown Township Public Library and Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch, in addition to a student-faculty fundraiser at Red Bank Middle School.

It’s the latest in an ongoing program designed to raise funds and awareness toward the effort to acquire, stabilize and restore the T. Thomas Fortune House, the National Historic Landmark at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard where the editor, publisher, poet, author and early civil rights activist resided from 1901-1908.

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RED BANK: DEMOLITION HITS FIRST POTHOLE

rb fortune house 2 061213The house, at 94 Drs. Parker Boulevard, was once the home of African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune. Below, a detail of the soffit. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb fortune house 1 061213The owners of Red Bank’s T. Thomas Fortune house ran into the first obstacle Thursday in their controversial quest to raze the historic structure.

Borough planning director Donna Smith-Barr found the Vaccarelli family’s application for a demolition permit incomplete, and kicked it back for more information, she tells redbankgreen.

In itself, the decision itself may barely slow the Vaccarelli’s plan for a decrepit structure that once was the home of the pioneering civil rights journalist Timothy Thomas Fortune. But the request could also face the hurdle of a zoning board review, Mayor Pasquale Menna tells redbankgreen. And the leader of a year-old group formed to save the structure said he is prepared to sue to stop the demolition, if necessary.

“The attorneys I have can have it stayed for 18 months,” said Peter Primavera, director of the T. Thomas Fortune Project. “We’re doing the paperwork right now.”

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RED BANK: FORTUNE HOUSE MAY BE RAZED

The house, at 94 Drs. Parker Boulevard, was once the home of African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A day that Red Bank historic preservationists have dreaded for years appears nearer as the owners of the so-called T. Thomas Fortune house have filed a formal request to demolish the historic structure.

Eighty-six-year-old James Vaccarrelli of Shrewsbury, who owned the house with his brother Anthony, filed for a demolition permit from the borough last Friday afternoon, borough planning director Donna Smith-Barr tells redbankgreen.

Anthony Vaccarelli, 93, died at his Red Bank home last month, according to an obituary published by the Asbury Park Press. James tells redbankgreen that the move was anticipated prior to his brother’s death, as efforts to sell the property in recent years have failed because of the deteriorated condition of the house.

“There’s nothing to save,” said Vaccarelli, who was born and raised in the house, at 94 Drs. James Parker Boulevard. “It’s a shame, but vandals got into it many, many times, even though it was boarded up, and they just wrecked it.”

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LITTLE SILVER, M’TOWN: LIBRARY LEGENDS

eileen-moon-021814-500x375LEGENDARY LOCALS OF RED BANK author Eileen Moon visits the Little Silver Library on Monday evening…while Next Stage Ensemble brings a little Shakespeare to the Middletown Township biblio.

There’s the pioneering African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune, whose historic home is currently the subject of an intensive rescue effort. Industrialist Sigmund Eisner, whose legacy includes a public library, a Galleria, and a former chairman of the Disney entertainment empire. Trailblazing attorney Florence Forgotson Adams, the father-and-son Drs. James Parker, the Dorns, the Irwins — and famed illustrator James Avati, the “Rembrandt of the Paperbacks” remembered in a 2011 feature that appeared here on redbankgreen.

They are all among the Legendary Locals of Red Bank profiled by veteran newspaperwoman Eileen Moon in her new book, an entry in the series from Arcadia Publishing that the author will discuss in a free Monday night reading/ signing appearance at Little Silver Public Library. Going up at 7 pm, it’s part of a busy itinerary by the equally legendary reporter and editor, who in a recent feature on redbankgreen described her concept of a Legendary Local thusly: “It takes a strong personality, and a vision, and a risk-taker sometimes, to change what is into some new evolution of that.”

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JOURNO’S RED BANK HOME IN SPOTLIGHT

rb fortune house 3 061213T. Thomas Fortune, below, will get a month of honor in February. Meantime, efforts to save his home on Doctors Parker Boulevard continue. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

T. Thomas FortuneNo sharp elbows were thrown. The words ‘Maple Cove‘ weren’t even mentioned.

In her first working session as a member of Red Bank’s otherwise all-Democrat borough council Wednesday night, Republican Cindy Burnham‘s debut act was to introduce a resolution designating February as T. Thomas Fortune Month in the borough.

The anondyne measure won unanimous approval, and opened up a discussion of where things stand with the house that Fortune lived in a century ago.

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RAISE YOUR VOICES, AT RED BANK LIBRARY

LorraineDiasZipprichActress Lorraine Stone, Two River Theater artistic director John Dias and Councilman Ed Zipprich are among the Red Bank area notables giving voice to historic American figures in “The People Speak LIVE,” presented free at Red Bank Public Library on Thursday night, December 12.

There’s the escaped slave turned abolitionist and social activist Sojourner Truth, brought to vivid life by local actress Lorraine Stone. The pioneer openly gay elected official Harvey Milk, paid tribute by Red Bank Councilman Ed Zipprich. The Nobel laureate playwright Eugene O’Neill, channeled by Two River Theater Company artistic director John Dias — and Red Bank Regional grad John McMahon as T. Thomas Fortune, the trailblazing African American journalist whose historic Red Bank home is the subject of an intensive rescue and preservation effort.

These and other fascinating figures from America’s past and present will be making their voices heard inside the Red Bank Public Library on the evening of Thursday, December 12, when the T. Thomas Fortune House Preservation Project joins Frank Talk MultiMedia Network and RBPL for “The People Speak LIVE,” an event in which “community-minded people from the greater Red Bank area” recreate the words of pivotal people in our nation’s history. Hosted by journalist, businesswoman and cable TV host Candace Kelley, the 6 p.m. presentation is based on the documentary film “The People Speak” — itself adapted from the late Howard Zinn’s book “A People’s History of the United States.”

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ROUND TWO FOR FORTUNE HOUSE

fortune-house1A ‘for sale’ was planted out front of the T. Thomas Fortune House on Drs. James Parker Boulevard last week. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Four years after a historic Red Bank house was spared a possible meeting with the steel maw of a bulldozer, the T. Thomas Fortune house is back on the market at a sharply reduced price.

Though the house and acre of land it sits on have been available to buyers on and off for years, vandalism prompted the owners to plant a ‘for sale’ sign on the lawn last week, reigniting worries of preservationists. They fear the the three-story, Second Empire-style home to post-Civil War black newspaperman and activist T. Thomas Fortune might be razed.

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