New Jersey

NJ Underground Railroad Museum reopens after 3 years

LAWNSIDE, NJ (CBS) – A museum in South Jersey is open again after three years of closure due to the pandemic. The building was once a refuge for former Underground Railroad slaves.

In a neighborhood just off the New Jersey Turnpike is the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum. On Saturday, visitors were thrilled to be back to tour the house, look at period furniture and learn about the history.

“I looked on the website and today was the first day open in three years,” said Sylvia Ascarelli. “I was like, ‘yes.'”

Built in 1845, it was once the home of abolitionist Peter Mott, a black reverend who opened as a haven for slaves fleeing north to freedom.

Linda Shockley is president of the Lawnside Historical Society, owner of the museum.

“I grew up in Lawnside and went to public schools,” Shockley said. “Some of our teachers were descendants of people who had escaped from the Underground Railroad.”

Shockley says that while the museum was closed, the historical society completed about $100,000 in much-needed upgrades, including adding a new roof, new gutters and repairing the chimney.

“We have been working on restoring the house,” Shockley said. “New paint, new shingles, air conditioning, heating systems.”

The Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum reopened to visitors today after being closed for 3 years due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the @Lawnside Historical Society completed $100,000 worth of upgrades including roof replacement and chimney repair.

— Madeleine Wright (@MWrightReports) March 18, 2023

Although most of the work has been completed, there are still some finishing touches to be done, such as replacing a damaged door and adding a new coat of paint near the windows.

“It was wonderful to learn not only about the Underground Railroad and what Peter Mott did, but also how the citizens of Lawnside, with an upcoming development, have renovated it,” said Clive Jennifer. “It was absolutely fascinating.”

Saturday was a soft opening.

The historical society is planning a grand opening in October when all repairs are complete.

Madeleine Wright


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