Borough Hall's Latest Incarnation Is As Homey Base To Businesses

Posted: January 07, 1990

Pitman's old borough hall, the brick and stucco building on the corner of Broadway and Holly Avenue, has a new lease on life.

For close to six months, professionals and small businesses have occupied the historic three-story structure, which for more than 50 years housed the town's bureaucracy.

One year ago, the borough sold the building to William Hanna, owner of Eastern Sites Inc. of Wenonah. His transformation of the former borough hall into offices is only the latest incarnation of the building, which in the course of its 100-year history has been a men's club lodge, a fire hall and the town's first public library.

Today the building is home to a psychologist, a speech pathologist, a social worker, an insurance office and several other businesses.

Under Hanna's guidance, the building, for which he paid $200,000 last January, has been transformed from a cluttered warren of government workers to a homey base for professional offices.

The borough has moved its municipal and police offices into a former Woolworth's on Broadway.

Hanna said his company had spent about $75,000 renovating the building. Of that, he said, $15,000 came from Pitman Small Cities Loans - money from the state's Community Affairs Department administered by the county Office of Business and Economic Development.

He started work on the brick building July 17, the same day the borough operations moved out. He said subcontractors put in 16-hour days, seven days a week, painting, cleaning walls, laying carpet, installing new air conditioners, improving the wiring and adding doors.

Within eight days, an insurance firm took over the bulk of the first floor. Two weeks later, a company that specializes in and sells lists of potential customers' addresses to direct-mail firms began occupying the rest of the ground floor space that once housed Pitman's tax assessor, grants coordinator, its emergency manager, and its parks and recreation officials. By the beginning of September, the remainder of Hanna's present tenants moved in. The building is now about three-quarters full, he said.

Hanna said that he had worked to preserve the building's original facade, including its gingerbread trim, and that he would like to one day get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is already on New Jersey's list, as is the whole historic district, including most of Broadway.

"It does have a lot of significance to the town," Hanna said.

That significance was part of what made the building attractive to William Culbertson, a psychologist who specializes in work with children and

adolescents.

"I like old buildings. I like historic buildings," said Culbertson, who had worked out of an office in an old firehouse on Simpson Avenue in Pitman.

Culbertson took over two small meeting rooms on the building's second floor. He turned them into a waiting room, his office, and offices for a social worker and a speech pathologist. What was once sparsely furnished and institutionally carpeted is now elegantly decorated in mauve and gray.

The speech pathologist, Joy Silver of Silver Speech Associates, has an office in Haddonfield and had also worked out of her Erial home.

"I wanted to move into a more professional setting," said Silver, who still maintains her Haddonfield practice. "I like the small-town environment I have in Haddonfield, and I felt Pitman was similar."

Culbertson's wife, Nancy, who owns Data Management Systems on the building's first floor, said: "Bill Hanna is almost ahead of his time. He was very perceptive."

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