It took years of planning and a small lapse in support when the economy tanked—but now the township is ready to unveil its new historical monument at the municipal complex.
The monument, which details the history of the township, will be dedicated at a ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the municipal complex.
“Residents are excited about it, and it came out wonderfully,” said Bridgewater Township Mayor Patricia Flannery. “It has been years of planning.”
According to Flannery, the decision to build a historical monument was part of the original plans for the on Commons Way.
“The architects said there should be some art attached to the facility,” she said. “I put together a committee of people from the township.”
After discussions over whether the monument should be for veterans, Flannery said, the committee, headed by resident Veronica Finlay, decided on a historic representation of the township.
The next step, Flannery said, was to determine where to put the monument.
“We had an original sketch with a half wall near the front of the building, but we explored different sites,” she said. “Different members of the committee had different perspectives.”
Flannery said they settled on the section near the parking lot, and set about looking for artists, advertising for people to show off what they could do.
With the artist set, and the location determined Flannery said, the committee was ready to do the research. The money to pay for the piece, she said, was included in the cost of the municipal complex itself, which was put into the township’s annual budget.
“The committee put together the features of the monument, looking at historic documents from the library, the Van Veghten House and other places,” she said. “They compiled writings and pictures, and spoke to citizens who have been involved in history in Bridgewater.”
“We had dozens of meetings and the artist made drawings, which we changed at least 20 times,” she added.
Flannery said the committee was very particular about the aspects of the monument, and made sure everything was accurate. It begins with the Lenape Indians, and goes up through the present day.
“We had an image of an airplane, and someone noticed wings printed that were not what they had back then,” she said. “And they had to have the right kinds of horses on certain farms.”
“There was a real attention to detail,” she added.
The project was coming together, Flannery said, when the township, state and country were hard hit by the faltering economy. She said there was a concern that the community would regret instead of embrace a piece of art paid for by taxpayers at the municipal complex.
“There was a consensus that we needed to remodel the municipal facilities because the old buildings were crummy,” she said. “The community endorsed the new facility.”
“But the art was not as widely endorsed,” she added.
So in an effort to eliminate the need for the residents to pay for the monument, Flannery said, they opted to start a fundraiser to raise the money. The goal, she said, was to raise $100,000 to pay for the whole monument.
But the township raised a little more.
“Through gifts from residents and businesses, we raised $120,000 in about a year,” Flannery said. “People wanted to be part of the project, and they cared about the history and art.”
Flannery said there were about 120 contributors in total, including Brother International, Ethicon, TD Bank and the Zeldan family, of Bridgewater. These, she said, were the biggest contributors of either $7,500 or $10,000.
The extra funds, Flannery said, allowed the township to spring for some additional items, including descriptive plaques of the different panels, extra landscaping, pavers and lights.
The monument itself, Flannery said, is a stone wall with granite for the actual artistry, as opposed to the concrete wall that had been planned before the fundraiser. The granite was done offsite and delivered to the complex, so the panels could be put up as soon as the stone wall was completed.
Flannery said this monument is part of the plan to make the new municipal complex more of a community center for the town. The dedication will include a children’s art show, something she hopes will be a regular occurrence there.
“We want it as a center for the community,” she said.
And the plaza will also serve as an educational tool.
“Third grade is when they learn about New Jersey,” Flannery said. “Maybe they can use the monument as a class trip stop with a trip to Kid’s Street or the animal shelter.”
“The scouts usually study government too, and they come visit me and take a tour of the departments,” she added.
And aside from the children’s art show, the dedication will feature music and Taste of Bridgewater, with different businesses offering samples of their foods.
Flannery said this will be a good addition to the new municipal complex.
“It has been a long process,” she said. “This will be great for when anyone comes out to the site.”