It took less than 10 minutes for a wrecking machine to pulverize a historic South Jersey house that survived the Revolutionary War.
A video obtained through an Open Public Records Act request filed by Eric Ascalon, a lawyer in Cherry Hill, shows an excavator hired by the N.J. Department of Transportation clawing into the Hugg-Harrison-Glover house in Bellmawr just after dawn on March 3.
Once owned by the captain of a militia that fought British forces in 1777, the house was destroyed by the DOT to make way for the eventual completion of the I-295/ Route 42 re-alignment project.
The six-minute video shows the house being methodically torn to pieces as an unidentified person or persons snicker about how members of the public may react to the structure being gone.
“They were mocking the people who were trying to save the house,” says Ascalon. “There’s this sense that [the government] can do whatever it wants. But that house belonged to the people of New Jersey.”
The 45-year-old father of three says he is interested in making a documentary film about the house and its fate, but is not pursuing legal action on his own or anyone else’s behalf in connection the controversial demolition.
Ascalon notes that the wrecking crew did its work amid a state police presence around the cemetery. Preservationists had been visiting frequently in the days before March 3, fearing that demolition was imminent, and an attorney for the Camden County Historical Society was seeking an injunction to block the move.
“It was so unceremonious, the way this piece of history was knocked down,” Ascalon says. “The demolition is a metaphor for the fragility of democracy. If we don’t respect the institution, then democracy can come down as quickly as the house did.”
The working title of his proposed documentary?