Englewood plans to preserve history of MacKay Park Gatehouse

By Stephanie Noda, Staff Writer

Teaneck Suburbanite, October 11, 2012, p. 6

Gatehouse for Phelps' estateThe city is looking to preserve an important piece of Englewood and Teaneck history by developing a historical preservation plan for the Mackay Park Gatehouse, the last remaining structure of a mansion owned by a well-known Teaneck congressman.

A contract for the preservation plan was awarded to Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects, LLC during a Sept. 11 city council meeting. The city will pay approximately $22,000 to match a grant from the Bergen County Historical Preservation Trust Fund, which will be paying for half of the $44,000 contract.

The gatehouse is the last remaining piece of property from the William Walter Phelps estate from the 1880s, a massive mansion called "The Grange" that stretched throughout the area where Teaneck and Englewood are currently located.

Phelps, a congressman and ambassador to Germany, was an avid arborist who planted hundreds of thousands of trees on his property throughout his life.

According to a 1970 article from the Teaneck Shopper, roads to the local railroad stations in Teaneck and Englewood ran through the property, causing Phelps to have gatehouses built at intersections with public thoroughfares. The Grange eventually burned down in a fire in 1988 (sic).

Documents to nominate the gatehouse for both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Properties will also be developed by Connolly & Hickey, which will allow the city to apply for construction grants to help fix up the gatehouse. The city has spent approximately $100,000 on repairs to the gatehouse in recent years, which included the addition of a new roof and a new boiler, said City Manager Timothy Dacey.

Not only will the restoration of the facility help preserve this final piece of Phelps’ estate, it will also provide improvements for the offices of the Englewood recreation department, which currently uses the gatehouse as its headquarters, said Dacey.

As part of the contract, Connolly & Hickey will research and develop floor plans for the building, conduct an inspection and structural assessment, and provide an analysis of heating, electricity, and plumbing needed to maintain the building, said Dacey. Work on the gatehouse is scheduled to start soon and will take place over a six month period.

Norman Davis, president of the Englewood Historical Society, was glad to see work was being done on the gatehouse, which he felt had been in "dreadful condition."

Davis brought up the conditions of the gatehouse to the city council in March 2010, during the historical society’s 25th Annual Award Dinner. While the historical society presented the city with an award for preserving the gatehouse for many years, Davis also warned the council about the potential deterioration in the building, feeling that the Englewood Recreation Department was working in "substandard conditions."

"I’m very glad the council is spending money to fix it up," said Davis. "Most of the time when people see an old building, they build a new one. We don’t want to do that; [the gatehouse] has historical significance."