Woodbury Old City Restoration Committee
The process for the forming of WORC began in the early fall of 1977, when I returned to my alma mater, Dickinson College, Carlisle PA, having graduated in 1962 and not having been back to the campus since graduation. I discovered the town had been revitalized and that a large number of the buildings on the two business district streets in Carlisle had largely been restored to the architectural style at the time they were constructed.
I consulted a professor I knew at the college and asked him about the transformation. He told me his brother. a Carlisle lawyer, had formed an organization of 13 citizens interested in the preservation and restoration of historically significant building and sites and through grants and hard work had accomplished the renovation not only of the business district but the residential streets abutting the district where numerous historic homes had either been preserved, restored or renovated.
Carlisle is a county seat, with a large suburban mall and big box stores in nearby Camp Hill, is the site of a major hospital and except for the college was lined with lawyer and doctor offices and businesses that support those professions. Therefore, the similarity to Woodbury was apparent.
Following Carlisle’s example., I asked 12 other civically minded people to meet me in the Board room of what was then the National Bank and Trust Co of Gloucester County, one of the bank’s executive vice Presidents being one of those who agreed to participate. I invited 12 people in addition to myself because 13 citizens is the number of people Carlisle’s group began with. And so, the Woodbury Old City Restoration Committee began.
Someone at the organization meeting said, ‘This sounds like a lot of work’ and so the shortened name “WORC” was coined. Following Carlisle’s example, the group decided to begin with the restoration of residential streets near the business district to blunt possible opposition from business owners who feared change. WORC began with the restoration of a dilapidated house on East Center Street, the home of an elderly women, and her home was nicely restored, some by contractors but mostly by the brick and mortar work of the original 13 members of WORC and their friends, relatives and associates.
WORC sold restoration as a concept by informing the public that a lot of restoration is just painting, going to yard sales and picking up things you are missing such as posts, lattice work, and shutters. Sometimes it means removing inappropriate things and bringing the property back to its original architectural style. It is often not expensive.
Through the efforts of WORC and the City a historic district was formed, small at first and then larger, WORC was able to enlist the help and inspiration of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Environmental Design and Planning, which studied the district’s buildings and often their historical uses and Penn’s students drew a schematic of what a restored Woodbury would look like. That was the beginning. WORC and its projects have evolved over time.
My reason for forming WORC was to do for Woodbury what the preservation group in Carlisle PA had done, which was to revitalize an historic town by the use of its history and architecture which had evolved over time.