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Fredon house bought for power line project
New Jersey Herald File Photo

Power lines flow down a nearby hill and over the home, which is the oldest frame house in Fredon.

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FREDON -- After 250 years of being someone's home, and nearly a century of being under high voltage transmission lines, the Roy home will lose its last residents sometime next month.

"This was a unique situation," said Karen Johnson, a spokeswoman for Public Service Electric & Gas, which purchased the home on state Route 94 earlier this month. "Our purchase of the house represented the best solution."

What made the home unique, besides being the first frame house in Fredon, was the power lines which passed directly over the structure. It was a situation that could not continue if PSE&G gets permission to build a new, 500-kilovolt transmission line along the same right-of-way.

The home's owner, Phyllis Kamp-Russnak, declined comment about the issue when contacted Tuesday evening. "It's been a stressful time," she said. "Maybe I'll feel like talking next month."

While the utility company owns the house -- closing occurred Dec. 3 -- officials said they are allowing Kamp-Russnak and her family to remain there until arrangements are complete for her to move into her new residence in Stillwater sometime after the holidays.

It was in 1929 that the original right-of-ways were secured by the power company and the existing 230-kilovolt transmission line was built. While rights-of-way cross many properties, this house, named for the Roy family, one of the original settlers of the area which was to become Fredon, was directly under the power lines.

There is no explanation as to why the wires originally were strung over the house. However, in that particular area, the wires are much higher above the ground than normal since the two supporting towers are at a higher elevation.

When the 46-mile route through southern Sussex County was chosen by PSE&G for the 500-kilovolt line, company officials admitted the house would be a special concern and promised to work out a suitable agreement with Kamp-Russnak.

"We have not made any determination as to the future of the home and will consider all feasible options, provided they are consistent with our operational and safety requirements," Johnson said.

Those safety requirements would not allow the house to continue as a residence, but other types of uses could be accommodated, she said.

Johnson also said the company respects the house's history and doesn't want to see it torn down. Because of the fragile nature of some of the original masonry and the way the house was built into the knoll on which it sits, the structure can't be moved.

"I'd love for it to be something," said Ginny Richardson, co-chair of the Keepers of Coursen Corners, the town's official historical society. "But what is that something?"

She said this house predates the Coursen House, which is north of and on the opposite side of Route 94. That property is owned by the township and operated part-time as a museum.

"My first thought would be as an art museum," Richardson said. "I know that we, as the historical society, can't do anything with it, but maybe Sussex County Arts and Heritage (Council) can get involved."

Created: 12/16/2008 | Updated: 12/16/2008


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