Local NJ Law Firm Files Federal Lawsuit Against Dept. of Transportation for Demolition of Revolutionary War Home
The law firm of McDowell Posternock Apell & Detrick has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Camden County Historical Society in federal District Court against the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and New Jersey Department of Transportation in response to the March 3, 2017 demolition of one the state’s greatest historical assets – the Hugg-Harrison House in Bellmawr. The 18th Century home played an important role in the Revolutionary War, and in the early settlement and development of Camden County. The lawsuit alleges that all defendants violated the National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”) by failing to act in good faith, a requirement under the NHPA.
The lawsuit also alleges that the New Jersey defendants fraudulently concealed evidence by demolishing the house just one day after the Historical Society filed an emergency application with the Superior Court to save it. Among other things, the lawsuit points to the contrast between the first and final drafts of the Base Survey, the process’s most critical document – the first draft found the Harrison House eligible for the National Register of Historic Places before the final draft suddenly reversed course and found it ineligible.
Attorney Matthew R. Litt of the law firm of McDowell Posternock Apell & Detrick, the southern New Jersey firm representing the Historical Society, explained at the press conference announcing the Complaint: “The National Historic Preservation Act is a brilliant piece of legislation which balances construction and development with the need to preserve our country’s precious historic assets.” Litt continued: “But the NHPA only works when the governmental agencies act in good faith. When they refuse to do so, a group like the Camden County Historical Society has two choices: they can stand up for their rights, or they can do nothing. The Historical Society should be applauded for refusing to do nothing.” A documentary about the events underlying the lawsuit entitled: American Rubble is presently in production.