NEWS RELEASE
Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders
94 Market Street. Salem, N.J. 08079

CONTACT: Rita Shade Simpson,
Clerk of the Board/Administrator

September 12, 2002

COUNTY SEEKS GRANT TO MAKE JOHNSON HALL A WELCOME CENTER

SALEM -- Freeholder Director Dave Sparks announced today that the County has applied to the state for a $1.5 million tourism grant to renovate the Johnson Hall in the Historic District here for use as a Salem County Visitor and Tourism Center.

"For some time, I have had talks with the Salem County Historical Society about potential ways to bring Johnson Hall to life, so that its history can be shared and appreciated," said Freeholder Director Sparks. "It would be far too costly for the county to undertake a renovation to meet the needs of modern office requirements. However, Johnson Hall would fittingly serve as a Salem County Visitor and Tourism Center."

A grant for $1.5 million was submitted this week by the Salem County Department of Economic Development to the NJ Commerce & Economic Growth Commission.

The 2 story brick building on Market Street, built in 1806-1809, is owned by the County of Salem and is eligible for inclusion on the National Register. It is located both within the Market Street National Historic District and the Salem Main Street District. Several County Offices were housed in the Johnson Building until earlier this year, when it was vacated.

We envision working with the Salem County Historical Society to create an exciting display of permanent and rotating exhibits that showcase Salem County's history," said Freeholder Director Dave Sparks. "The Salem County Visitor and Tourism Center will also serve as a hub for information promoting Salem County's tourism opportunities and also tie in to the NJ Coastal Heritage Trail welcome center at Fort Mott State Park."

Sparks said the Salem County Visitor and Tourism Center also would house public restroom facilities that can be used for special events in the Historic District.

"The Salem County Visitor and Tourism Center will become the centerpiece in the County's cultural tourism program," said Patricia Knobloch, Director of Salem County Economic Development. "The grant would allow complete restoration of Johnson Hall."

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