Home » Hopewell Old School Baptist Church receives State grant – celebration planned for August 2

Hopewell Old School Baptist Church receives State grant – celebration planned for August 2

by Community Contributor

A community celebration is planned for Wednesday, August 2, 2023, at 10am when State officials present a $150,000 grant award to the Hopewell Old School Baptist Meetinghouse. The Meetinghouse is a 501(c)(3) foundation, dedicated to the preservation of the highly significant historical building and grounds for educational and future community uses. This major grant award is funded from the FY23 State Fiscal Recovery Fund under the American Rescue Plan.  Members of the Hopewell State delegation, including Senator Shirley Turner, Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli, and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson will be on hand for the presentation, along with Mayor Paul Anzano and members of the Hopewell Borough Council. Numerous other local dignitaries are expected to attend.

While no longer a church, the building stands as a reminder of Hopewell’s heritage and the community it was built to serve. In the early 1700’s, the Baptist settlers organized the Hopewell Baptist Meeting and the growing congregation emerged, with homes and businesses built to become known as the Hopewell Meeting House. The village was later re-named as Columbia, and finally, Hopewell, in 1891. Hopewell’s most famous son and Founding Father, John Hart, who was elected in 1776 to represent colonial New Jersey in the Continental Congress and was one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, donated the land upon which the Baptist Meeting House was built. The prominent resident and gentleman farmer was later unanimously chosen as the first Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly. He maintained a homestead plantation on what is known today as Hart Avenue, from 1757 until his death in 1779.  Hart is buried on the Meetinghouse grounds, and his grave is visited often by US history and Revolutionary War enthusiasts.

“We are so grateful for the funding assistance,” said the Church’s Board President Kris Provenzano. “We have been working hard to detail a path forward and have been working to raise necessary funds to bring our plans into fruition. We look forward to welcoming the community back to the building as was originally intended – a meetinghouse for our community. We are committed to this preservation effort and this grant is a tremendous help,” she added. 

“Hopewell Borough was born in this building from the early settlers that lived here,” said Mayor Paul Anzano. “We are proud of our history and we strive in many ways to protect it through our land use initiatives. The preservation and renovation of the Meetinghouse is critically important to the character of our community.”  Anzano said that he looks forward to the community embracing the project through volunteer efforts and future programs that can be offered at the site.

A Board of Trustees governs the operation and maintenance of the facility today. The Board has reorganized in recent years, with a mission to return the facility to the community for a variety of uses.  Many residents have never seen the interior as it has rarely been open in recent due to a lack of volunteers and a need to renovate the space to accommodate visitors. As examples, the building does not currently have restroom facilities or air conditioning, and it cannot easily welcome those requiring access under the American with Disabilities Act. In order to further these improvements, the Trustees have established a grants committee that will pursue capital revenue sources. They are currently working on the nomination process for historic designation on the Federal and State Registers, and a preservation plan that is consistent with Department of Interior Standards will be developed to complement those funding applications. The assistance provided by the State in the FY23 State Fiscal Recovery Fund will enable maintenance of the facility to continue while the larger projects are being developed, and it will fund necessary expenses to pursue those opportunities. In addition to Provenzano, other Trustees are: Julie Osborn, Marsha Lowe, George Wislar, Rae Grasso, Mark Bovenizer, and John Buck.  They are currently seeking additional volunteers for Board initiatives and program planning.

The funding celebration will be held onsite on August 2, at 10am.  The Hopewell Old School Baptist Meetinghouse is located at 46 West Broad Street, Hopewell, NJ.  For more information about the event or about the Meetinghouse, please contact Board President Kris Provenzano at 609-610-6889.

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