TRENTON, N.J. - Mercer County has again been recognized as a true champion of historic preservation. County Executive Brian M. Hughes announced today that The National Trust for Historic Preservation has selected the Louis I. Kahn Bath House and Day Camp to receive the prestigious 2011 National Preservation Honor Awards. The award is for the preservation and restoration of the Bath House and Day Camp and the advocacy efforts associated with the project. The award is being collected tonight, Oct. 20, 2011 by Donna Lewis, Mercer County Planning Director; and Architect Michael Mills at an award ceremony at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo New York.
“Mercer County is rich with historic treasures. Historic preservation and hands-on history opportunities have always been important to me,” Hughes said. “Through collaboration and a genuine appreciation of this unique site, we were able to preserve and restore the work of one of the most famous architects in the world, and I am extremely proud of this recognition,” Hughes said.
Hughes has become one of New Jersey’s most staunch advocates for historic preservation. He recently led the effort to preserve, along with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Petty’s Run Archeological Dig Site in Trenton.
This is the second major award this year for the Kahn Bath House project. In May at a statewide historic preservation awards event, the restoration of The Louis Kahn Bath House and Day Camp Pavilion in Ewing received honors given by The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Historic Preservation Office and NJ Historic Sites Council. The theme was “Celebrating America’s Treasures.” The Bath House project award recognized the efforts of Mercer County and all entities involved in preserving this valuable resource.
The Bath House was listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in 1984 and was widely recognized for decades as an internationally important work by the architect Louis I. Kahn. The Kahn Bath House and Day Camp is on the grounds of the Ewing Senior and Community Center The complex was the property of the Trenton Jewish Community Center until 2006, when it was conveyed to Mercer County. It was then conveyed, with preservation easements, to Ewing Township. The County and Township collaborated on the restoration to return the project to its original use. After several years of planning for the preservation of the buildings and landscape, restoration of the Bath House and Day Camp and construction of a new snack bar and plaza began in early 2010. Ewing began operating the summer day camp in 2008.
Prior to the county acquisition, the campus was once on Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered” list. This year, the restoration was recognized by the NJ State Historic Preservation Office with a 2011 Historic Preservation Award.
Over the past several years, visitors from around the world have toured the site.
The Bath House and Pavilions served as the entrance and changing area for an outdoor swimming pool. The project consists of four concrete block structures containing changing rooms that surround an open atrium, each topped by a large wood-framed pyramidal roof. Kahn designed them as part of a larger plan, which was never executed.
The Bath House is widely regarded as a turning point in Kahn’s career. Kahn himself said that the project unleashed “a generative force which is recognizable in every building which I have done since.”
Mills and Schnoering Architects are currently under contract with Mercer County to design, prepare construction documents, and provide construction administration for new landscaping which comprises a new parking lot and community green sympathetic to Kahn’s original design for the campus.
With the restoration, and the significant and long-term advocacy that accompanied it, the buildings are understood and beloved by a whole new audience. Preservation of the JCC property and the Kahn buildings within became a sustainable, cost-effective, and community building endeavor.
MUSE Award American Association of Museums – 2010 MUSE Award, Honorable Mention in the Online Presence category – presented in May 2010 at the MUSE Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles, CA.