Ewing Township, N.J., – In the early morning hours of Sept. 30, 2022, a five-alarm fire broke out on Lower Ferry Road in Ewing Township. Several hours later, when the fire had been contained and extinguished, it was clear that the Ewing Senior and Community Center (ESCC) had suffered tremendous damage – and this important community resource was rendered unsafe and closed indefinitely.
Once known as the Trenton Jewish Community Center and Day Camp, the ESCC property is a notable resource on both the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. Originally constructed in 1955, the property also includes a historic bath house that sits on the same parcel of land.
“At the same time as the fire, DIGroup Architecture was completing the design for the relocation of the Township’s Construction Office. It was only natural for me to ask how we could help,” said DIG President Vincent Myers. “DIG thrives on community-based revitalization projects and this one hit particularly close to home for me – literally. My family has called Ewing Township home for nearly 20 years, and I know how impactful the ESCC is within our community.”
When it came time to award the bid, DIG was named Architect of Record – an acknowledgement of the firm’s performance on the construction office project; its recognition by the American Institute of Architects-New Jersey Chapter as 2022 Firm of the Year; and Myers’ strong connection to the community and personal volunteer efforts to redesign the basketball courts at Moody Park in the township.
Community Center Rebuild Leads to Restoration of Historic Bath House
Shortly after earning the bid to rebuild the ESCC, DIG was also asked to assist in the restoration of the historic bath house, an award that would immediately connect the firm to the architectural community and architectural historians on an international level.
“It was a proposition we could never refuse,” said Myers. “The bath house was designed by famed architect Louis I. Kahn and sits immediately adjacent to the ESCC, so it only made sense that we support the restoration efforts there, as well.” While not impacted by the fire, the bath house was in desperate need of repairs and an overall visual refresh to bring it back to its original grandeur.
Kahn, an Estonian-born architect based in Philadelphia, was hired to design the entire complex in the mid-1950s when the idea of a multi-use community center was a unique concept. Ironically, while the bath house was constructed, his completed plans for the community center were abandoned.
To educate themselves and prepare for the design of the new ESCC and restoration of the bath house, Myers – along with DIG’s Jeffrey Venezia, CEO, and Scott Hoffman, associate – took a tour at the University of Pennsylvania where Kahn’s original drawings of the bath house are located.
“We spent pretty much half a day marveling at the drawings,” said Myers. “We dove deep into its history for inspiration so we can deliver a design that respects and honors its architectural roots while delivering a cohesiveness to the entire property that echoes Kahn’s vision.”
When completed, the ESCC will comprise approximately 70,000 square feet of space, doubling the building’s original 35,000 square feet. A community meeting was also held recently, where Mayor Bert Steinmann along with Myers conducted a public presentation and Q&A on the rebuilding effort.
“Our goal with this important project is to create something that’s as iconic as the original bath house, while using forms and elements that connect both the ESCC and the bath house to one another – all while retaining the integrity of its history and ensuring it will remain a meaningful and sustainable pillar of the community,” said Myers.