Restoring the Sexton’s House

The Sexton’s House is an important feature on the property of First Reformed Church. Built in 1885, it was always meant to house the sextons of our church. For this unique reason, it was included, together with our Education Building and the church itself, on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

The house was built in the style of Queen Anne. According to Architect Margaret Westfield’s 2007 Preservation Plan, this style includes in our case “asymmetry, the use of integrated porches, the use of different materials on the exterior (clapboard and shingles) to create texture, the decorative string course and bargeboards, the sash door at the front entrance with the unusual panel pattern and the large pane of glass surrounded by small panes, and the use of multi-light double-hung sash windows.

Margaret found the house also unusual because it was “constructed with thin structural wall members stiffened by paning of handmade brick.” According to her, some of this brick may have originated from the old court house which was demolished in order to make space for the Education building.

Thanks to a variety of community groups, as well as efforts from our midst, the house begins to show some of its old charm. In recent weeks, we had Rutgers students, volunteers from Johnson & Johnson, participants of the NJ Intensive Supervision Program, and Paul Nulton working on the house. Bruce and Ellen Hamilton, Lolly Schenck, and I helped from our congregation.

The paint colors were part of a choice that Architect Margaret Westfield had provided. Adherence to historic precedents helps our compliance with the easement from the NJ Historic Trust that came as one of the conditions of our capital grant from the Trust in 2009.

We are blessed not just because we have a beautiful little house that provides living space for our Sexton Robert Longo, but also the maintenance of the house brings numerous groups from the community together. Building maintenance – who would have thought of it as a crossroads for the community?

About Rev. Dr. Hartmut Kramer-Mills

Hartmut Kramer-Mills, a native of Jena, Germany, began his theological education at Heidelberg University. After the Middle Exam in 1986 he received a scholarship from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches for McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He graduated from McCormick with a Master of Divinity in 1988. He graduated from Marburg University in Germany with the Ecclesiastical Exam in 1990, and received a Dr. theol. from Greifswald University, Germany, in 1997. From 1990 to 1991 he was vicar at St. Wenzel in Naumburg, Germany. He was ordained minister of word and sacrament in 1993 through the Protestant Church of the Church Province of Saxony. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant pastor in Stoessen, Goerschen, and Rathewitz, Germany. At the same time he was lecturer for Church History at Erfurt College in Germany. From 1999 to 2000 he served the Spotswood Reformed Church in New Jersey as interim pastor. Since 2000 he and his wife serve the First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as co-pastors.
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