Historic Fence Rehab Takes Place at the Birthplace

Written by Bruce White

A flurry of activity took place at the Grover Cleveland Birthplace in June when Gateway Fence of Cedar Grove, NJ arrived on site. Their mission was to stabilize and rehab the elegant wooden fence that defines the Birthplace property along Bloomfield Avenue. The historically accurate fence has enhanced the Birthplace over the past three decades but was showing signs of age, so plans went into action to save it for the future. Michael Brown, owner of Gateway Fence generously agreed to donate time and expertise to make the fence shipshape, just in time for the Annual 4th of July Ice Cream Social. After consultation with Sharon Farrell, Caretaker of the Birthplace and with officials from the NJ State Department of Environmental Protection, approval was given for Gateway to perform stabilization work on the fence. On June 18 Mike’s crew of technicians repacked or set into concrete the upright posts making them plumb and reattached the various wooden elements of the fence that had come loose. As a result, the fence is now in stable condition and ready for a fresh coat of stain, which will further safeguard it.

Photographs from the 19th century showed a fence in place along Bloomfield Avenue, but by the late 20th century the fence was gone. In 2001 the GCBMA decided to create a historically accurate reproduction of a fence typical to Caldwell in the 19th century and commissioned Walpole Woodworkers to produce and install one. At that time, Dorothy Budd Bartle, GCBMA President donated the majority of the approx. $38,000 needed to purchase the fence; upon installation the GCBMA donated the fence to the State of NJ. In May 2018, GCBMA Board Member Bruce White reached out to Michael Brown, owner of Gateway Fence of Cedar Grove, NJ to ask for his expertise and advice on how best to save the fence which was visibly deteriorating. Mike offered to assess the fence and make the repairs necessary to stabilize it, doing so as a charitable contribution. During his initial site visit, Mike quickly determined that many of the upright posts were leaning and showed signs of wood rot; he noted that many of the other fence elements showed signs of rot and were starting to fail as well.

The GCBMA is committed to further preserving this very visible element of the Birthplace site, so additional planning is ongoing, in concert with plans to construct a new Visitor Center on site later this year. In the meantime, we can all rest easier knowing that the fence is stable and looking better than it has in years. Thanks again to Michael Brown and Gateway Fence!