Woodbury, NJ is preparing to demolish a downtown theater, but preservationists want to stage a second act.


Main Street New Jersey, Preservation New Jersey, and the Philadelphia regional office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation are seeking funds to pay a structural engineer to evaluate the G.G. Green building at Broad and Centre streets. Grants of up to $3,000 are available through the trust.


These agencies and others began scrambling after the city cordoned off the block in the wake of the August 23 earthquake, which apparently caused pieces of brick to fall from the three-story façade. Read my column about the situation here.


Built in 1880 by the patent medicine tycoon who helped put Woodbury on the map, the building housed an opera house, later the Rialto movie theater, as well as stores and offices. The theater closed in the 1950s and the last retail tenant – Fashion Bug – left nearly a dozen years ago, leaving the landmark completely vacant.


In 2002, an evaluation by structural engineer Richard Ortega of Media, Pa. found “no obvious structural defects” in the building. But Woodbury officials were alarmed by extensive interior wall cracks discovered following the earthquake.


Margaret Westfield, a Haddon Heights preservation consultant involved for the last decade in various efforts to restore the Green block, said a structural engineer can best determine whether the building is salvageable.


I agree.


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