New Jersey Legacies helps New Jersey owners of historic homes to safeguard their property for future generations, reduce estate taxes, and potentially realize immediate tax benefits by making a charitable donation of their property.
The program, which is modeled after the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Gifts of Heritage program, generates revenues that help the New Jersey Historic Trust carry out its mission to protect historic places throughout the Garden State.
A historic property donated through New Jersey Legacies is protected by a preservation easement, a permanent legal restriction, which ensures that the historic features of the property remain intact. The property is then sold to an owner who will continue to care for the property. Proceeds from the sales benefit the programs of the New Jersey Historic Trust.
A prospective donor contacts the Trust to discuss whether a property would be eligible for a New Jersey Legacies donation. If Trust staff determines that the property is eligible, a representative of the Trust will tour the property with the owner to discuss prospective terms of the donation. Based on the site visit and those discussions, the Trust's Board of Trustees will decide whether to pursue the donation.
Once all parties have agreed to proceed with the donation of a property through New Jersey Legacies, the first step in the process is to determine the type of donation that will best fit the financial and personal needs of the donor.
Typically, the donor will determine whether to make
- an outright donation,
- a partial interest donation,
- a donation retaining life use,
- or a testamentary donation.
Donors should discuss specific cases with their legal or financial advisors.
After a property has been accepted into the New Jersey Legacies program, the Historic Trust remains in close communication with the donors to discuss and document general wishes concerning the future of the property and its contents.
At the time the Historic Trust takes possession of the property, the New Jersey Historic Trust will develop a preservation plan for the property that may include documentation of the architectural, historic, archeological, and natural characteristics of the property as well as guidelines for future maintenance.
The preservation plan for the property is implemented through the preservation easement, which becomes part of the permanent chain of title of the property. All future owners are bound by the covenants and maintenance requirements contained in the preservation easement.
The Historic Trust will inspect the property annually to ensure that its terms are being upheld. Trust representatives also must review and approve any proposed alterations to the property to ensure that they are in compliance with the terms of the easement.
Working together in cooperation with an approved real estate broker, the property will be marketed to a buyer who understands the easement and is committed to caring for the property.
The balance of funds remaining after the easement endowment, planning, and closing costs will benefit the New Jersey Historic Trust's stewardship programs and special initiatives to encourage historic preservation projects.
In 2000 the Historic Trust received the donation of Lyric Hall, a former church and theater in the community of Rocky Hill in Somerset County. The Trust arranged for the site to be marketed for resale and protected by a preservation easement, which then became part of the permanent chain of title of the property. The easement requires that identified historic features of the property remain intact and that the property be maintained.
The Trust sold the donated property to an architectural firm, which purchased the building with the preservation easement. The firm restored the structure's exterior to its historic appearance and rehabilitated the interior for its offices. The historic integrity was enhanced and preserved, the building has returned to use, and the proceeds from the sale benefited the Trust's preservation programs.
Originally constructed as the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1870, the building seated 270 people, and cost $4000 to construct in a simple vernacular Greek Revival style. The structure featured two-story arched windows, corner pilasters and a pedimented roof with full cornice returns.
By the early twentieth century, the pews were removed, and the property was sold. The name was changed to Lyric Hall or Lyric Theater, and the building hosted plays, concerts, dances, lectures, basketball games, silent movies, community cultural and recreational events, and educational programs. Residents played the organ, piano, and ran the projection booth for the films, cared for the building, and even acted in locally produced plays. At this time, a proscenium arch with decorative plaster was created by local resident Irving Robbins.
By the 1940s the building was significantly altered. A second floor was added, windows were changed, and an apartment added to the back of the theater. Frank and Agnes O'Malley owned the theater in the 1950s and added the upstairs rear apartment. It is believed that a clothing-finishing factory operated in the building for a short time in the 1950s after the theater closed. June Bliss lived in the second-floor apartment from 1971 until her death, during which time the old Lyric Hall was used as a warehouse.
On December 13, 2000 Frederica Rice, the daughter of June Bliss, donated the property to the New Jersey Historic Trust through the New Jersey Legacies Program. The Bliss estate benefited from its appraised $180,000 charitable donation to the Trust.
By January 18, 2002, the Trust sold Lyric Hall to Outerbridge and Morgan, a New Jersey architecture firm. The property, also located in the borough's historic district, is now protected by a perpetual historic preservation easement, which ensures that the exterior will be restored, maintained and that the remaining site will not be developed.
Outerbridge and Morgan rehabilitated the main section of the building, what is referred to as Lyric Hall, for its offices. Almost the entire hall is open, which required a significant amount of structural work to jack the entire building up and make it level. The wooden proscenium arch with decorative plaster rosette and two-story tall windows are fully restored. Additional office space occupies a second-floor loft area at the rear. The firm restored some of the original (ca. 1870) light fixtures, and commissioned reproductions of the lighting and hardware to replace those that are missing
On the exterior, asbestos shingles were removed, and original wood siding and wood trim, restored. A new three-bedroom apartment replaces the ca. 1920 rear addition.