This article has been updated with a link to a press release from the township.
Since Maplewood Township purchased the former Woman’s Club just over a year ago, much has been going on behind the doors of the historic building.
The town has been working hard to spruce up the building — which is being rebranded as ‘The Woodland’ — to turn it into a desirable space for events and parties.
The goal, said Andrew Fishman, Maplewood’s Cultural Arts Coordinator and the project’s point person, is to generate enough revenue to support future renovations and allow the building to be used as an arts and cultural center.
The eventual plan is that “anytime [the building] is not making money, it’s making art,” Fishman said.
Maplewood Township issued a press release about the building on Wednesday morning. To read the release, visit the town’s website.
The Village Green got an exclusive tour of the refurbished building Tuesday morning.
Essential repairs have already been made to shore up infrastructure, including building a handicap-accessibility ramp, renovating handicap-accessible bathrooms and removing asbestos.
With the building looking better than it has in years, the township is starting to market The Woodland as a unique event space. It has already been the site of a wedding, a stop on the Maplewood Art Walk, and the rain site for July 4th activities.
Rent Party recently announced it will be hosting its regular concerts there.
Volunteers and seasonal employees — and Fishman himself — have put in many man hours and lots of elbow grease to de-grime, patch, polish and paint over the last six months. Fishman estimates that $60,000 of work has been done for roughly $3,000.
Though there is still much to do, Fishman admits, the changes are evident to anyone who hasn’t been inside the building in a while.
The mildew smell in the Great Hall (also known as the Ballroom) is gone, and the wood trim and painted ceiling now gleam after years of encrusted grime and dust were removed. The hall’s ventilation fan is working again, making that space far more tolerable in the summer months. In fact, on a steamy day a group of seniors were comfortably enjoying an exercise class.
Meanwhile, the Parlor — the room at the front facing Woodland Road — has been painted and restored to its former glory thanks in large part to Keller Williams Mid-Town Direct Realty, which took on the project as part of its Red Day community service day this spring.
The stately, bright room, complete with beautiful moldings, a large fireplace and new lighting, is currently host to a weekly children’s music class, Music for Aardvarks.
“The parlor will be the most active space for sponsored events and rentals,” said Fishman, whose background is in arts administration and non-profit.
The Great Hall has been walled off from the Parlor, to make them two separate spaces accessed by different doors.
Fishman said the wooded space next to the building — which the township decided against turning into parking — could eventually be landscaped and used for outdoor events.
The kitchen is currently unusable for cooking (but it boasts an enormous galvanized steel vent hood that would probably go for a pretty penny on the antiques circuit). The balcony and third floor are closed off until they can be repaired. And air conditioning in the Great Hall would be a huge boon to event rentals.
The third floor, which has been untouched for many years since it housed the building’s caretaker, is a full apartment with three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. Walking through is like stepping into a time capsule.
Fishman is realistic about the cost of all the repairs. But with funding from a combination of event revenue, grants and other sources, The Woodland could have a very bright future.
“The potential for the town is just huge,” said Fishman. “This is a tremendous asset, it’s an architecturally interesting, unique space. It’s not generic.”