Rutgers School of Communication and Information (SC&I) Business/Grant Specialist Elizabeth Ciccone has recently received a mayoral appointment to be on the board of the New Brunswick Historical Association. In this new position, Ciccone will sit on a board of 15 mayoral appointees for a term of three years to advise the mayor on cultural and heritage issues that will have an impact on the city.
“For example, if there's new construction to be done but might destroy some important landmark then we would advise the mayor against allowing the permitting of such construction so that we can save the historical resources of the city,” Ciccone told SC&I.
The job involves protecting the historical resources within New Brunswick. According to Ciccone, these resources can range from slave burial grounds to historic homes.
Ciccone’s journey toward her appointment to the Association began around 28 years ago, after she graduated from Rutgers University and answered a ‘roommate wanted’ advertisement for a home in New Brunswick.
Upon arrival, Ciccone claimed, “the first thing I asked the landlord at that time was, ‘Is this house on the National Register?’”
By ‘National Register’, Ciccone meant the National Register of Historic Places. Growing up with a mother who took her on weekly trips to tour historic homes in the area, Ciccone knew the outstanding characteristics of a historically registered home.
Ciccone lived in the house for 10 years before marrying one of her roommates and buying the home together. She and her husband eventually did list the home on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now titled The William H. Johnson House and she still lives there with her husband. She told SC&I that the home, dating back to 1870, is 80 percent intact from its original condition. The main differences being the addition of indoor plumbing, and electricity, which occurred in the early 20th century.
The process of registering her home got her interested in the history of the City of New Brunswick. That in turn got her involved with the New Brunswick Historical Society which eventually led to her recent appointment to the New Brunswick Historical Association.
“The Society is more of a club for people interested in New Brunswick history. Eventually, I became the Secretary for a time and I am currently the Treasurer,” Ciccone said. “Then because I gained a reputation of being a member of that club, and because I have a historical home in the city, my name was brought to the mayor’s attention as someone who would be effective on the board that advises him.”
One major project Ciccone participated in with the Historical Society was the production of a map and walking tour of the Elmwood Cemetery in New Brunswick.
“A lot of people who have been buried in this local area cemetery are local area notables who are related to the university and other townie things,” Ciccone said. “I was the principle investigator on this project and I worked with a large committee to produce this brochure.”
Ciccone’s role as the Business/Grant Specialist at SC&I has helped her immensely in her development as an expert on historical preservation in New Brunswick. Her ability to understand federal forms and processes allows her to navigate the world of preservation with ease.
“With the Historical Association appointment, I wouldn’t be surprised if I get into the financial side of that as things progress,” Ciccone said. “The people who I worked with in the Historical Society know that it is an area of expertise of mine, so I suspect that it went into the reasoning as to why I was nominated for mayoral appointment to the Association.”
As Ciccone moves into her role with the Historical Association, she hopes to complete projects like she did with the Society, perhaps involving the Livingston Avenue Historic District. She also plans to continue her positions as Treasurer of the Historical Society and Secretary/Treasurer of the Friends of The William H. Johnson House, a charitable organization created for her own home, while sitting on the mayoral board known as the Historical Association.
Along with teaching the importance of historic places, Ciccone’s mother instilled in her a responsibility to fulfill civic duties. Ciccone believes that it is her civic duty to take on these three positions.
“I really am an expert on historic preservation, it turns out. It came naturally over the course of time that I became an expert, but now that I am, what other use can it be put to?” Ciccone said. “Everyone should perform civic duties when they can. I think of all of these things as my civic duties.”