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Identifier: MC 1104

Charles H. Detwiller Architectural Papers


  • 1927 and 1952-1983

Scope and Content Note

The papers of restoration architect Charles H. Detwiller, Jr., MC 1104, span the years 1952 to 1983, with the bulk of them falling between 1976 and 1983. They are filed in two series (sequences) as received: 1) documentation relating to individual historic buildings and historic districts for which Detwiller provided professional services (e.g., Buccleuch Mansion, Crescent Avenue Historic District), about which he was contacted (e.g., Ivy Hall) or in which he had an interest (e.g., Hiram Market); and 2) documentation of major highway extension plans and surveys and their environmental impact on historic buildings (i.e., I-287, which comprises the bulk of this series, and I-78 and Route 55), plus major sewer facility expansions and their impact (e.g., Franklin Borough). Also filed in the second series, as found, are papers concerning one additional historic district for which Detwiller provided consulting services (Old Bridge) and notes from a 1980 historic restoration conference.

The majority of the papers in the first series detail Detwiller's activities inspecting and suggesting appropriate improvements to New Jersey buildings dating from as early as the 18th century. Parallel to these activities Detwiller appraised the likelihood of various buildings qualifying for federal or state "historic landmark" status and attendant benefits (financial aid in restoration, tax reduction). His role in restoration was thus not only to tastefully preserve but also to follow guidelines set forth by the National Park Service (its National Register for Historic Places) and the New Jersey Historic Sites Commission. The remainder of the papers in the first series reflect Detwiller's involvement in preservation campaigns where developers had bought up certain properties (Blenheim Hotel, Hiram Market), researching the history of previous ownerships and restorations on certain buildings (Denville survey) and various other activities relating to buildings or districts.

The second series consists mainly of I-287 extension plans, 1977-1983. This project was seen in its various alternate proposals to affect many houses in early settled parts of northern New Jersey extending from Montville to the New York state border. Detwiller was employed by the architectural and engineering firm of Louis Berger & Associates, Inc., East Orange, to assess the historical value of buildings in and near the path of this highway. He played the same role in the 1978 Route 55 project (under the auspices of the Environmental Assessment Council, New Brunswick) and the 1975 I-78 project (for URS Madigan-Praeger, Inc., of New York City).

The Detwiller papers provide an excellent overview of efforts to preserve New Jersey's heritage through restoration methods and materials that are in keeping with original architecture. The collection also provides a glimpse into the difficulties of nonpartisan appraisal of buildings that lie in the path of proposed construction projects.

The papers consist of correspondence, notes, photographs, Detwiller's reports on individual structures (evaluating age, style, significance, condition, etc.), bid specifications, architectural drawings, construction contracts, bills for services rendered, printed matter (maps, pamphlets, catalogs, periodical issues, government documents, newspaper clippings, photocopies from county histories, blueprints, aerial photographs, etc.), photocopies of deed book entries, contract archaeology reports and a variety of brochures. Also included are a fragment of hand-painted wallpaper, paint chips and more than one rusty nail.


7.6 Cubic Feet (5 cartons, 2 newspaper boxes, 9 map folders)

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No Restrictions.


A preservation architect based in Plainfield, New Jersey, Charles H. Detwiller, Jr., documented and restored numerous historic structures in central and northern New Jersey.

Biographical Sketch

Charles H. Detwiller, Jr., restoration architect, chair of the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects' committee on historic preservation and an officer of the New Jersey Chapter of Architectural Historians, was graduated from Princeton University in 1939. He received further education at the Brooklyn School of Design and Construction, from which he was graduated in 1950. The son of Charles Detwiller, Sr., an architect in Plainfield, New Jersey, Charles Jr. had his office in Plainfield as well. His father, having once walked him around the former family homestead near Allentown, Pennsylvania, to "point out a pretty cornice," succeeded in sparking a passion in him at age 11 for architecture specifically dealing with older buildings.

His first recorded historical restoration project was the Drake House (circa 1747), Plainfield, the interiors of which Detwiller worked on in 1950. The next major project, in 1961, was the Stage House Inn (circa 1837), Scotch Plains, which involved not only restoration but house moving. Other important projects were the Mystic Maritime Museum (circa 1810), Mystic, Connecticut, which entailed new construction in period style, the Badgley House (circa 1710-40), Mountainside, which he measured and prepared a proposal to reconstruct, and the Old Red Mill Museum and Historic Village in Clinton, new construction in period style.

Detwiller also did consulting work with ten different historical societies throughout New Jersey and, in conjunction with a variety of engineering firms, advised on the cultural impact of major highway extensions in northern and central New Jersey (I-287, I-78 and Route 55).

Of Detwiller's children, two (Frederic and Charles III) also became architects.

Arrangement Note

The Charles H. Detwiller, Jr., architectural papers are arranged in two series (filing units), one consisting of individual building and district surveys and the other of highway extension proposals and district surveys. The documents were received by Special Collections and University Archives in these two groupings. Most of the folders in the first series were labeled with the names of either areas or buildings, although not all of the building names correspond to current usage. Some folders (ten or so) retained the owner's names since the buildings themselves had no names as such. A very few folders lacked headings and were supplied them; these headings appear in bracketed form on the folders. The second series, in contrast, contained many unlabeled, vaguely labeled or mislabeled folders. While the unlabeled and mislabeled folders were provided bracketed "Miscellaneous" headings (among the I-287 subseries), the vague headings were transferred as they appeared to the new folders--with the result that many related materials in this series are found scattered between folders without any clear rational.

Most oversize blueprints from the first series were segregated, their corresponding folder headings copied on larger folders, and put in newspaper boxes. An asterisk next to a folder number on the container list indicates that an oversize blueprint has been shifted in this manner.

Maps, blueprints, topographic surveys and aerial photographs from the second series, and some blueprints from the first series, were transferred to a map case drawer due to their very large size. These documents are listed at the end of the container list.

Inventory to the Charles H. Detwiller Architectural Papers MC 1104
Edited Full Draft
Mitchell Greenberg
September 2015
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.