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NJ Underground Railroad Museum reopens after 3-year shutdown

Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum reopens after three-year shut down
Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum reopens after three-year shut down 01:55

LAWNSIDE, N.J. (CBS) – A South Jersey museum is back open after three years of being shut down due to the pandemic. The building was once a refuge for formerly enslaved people on the Underground Railroad.

In a neighborhood just off the New Jersey Turnpike sits the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum. On Saturday, visitors were excited to be back taking a tour of the home, looking at period furniture and learning about history.

"I looked on the website and today was the first day that was open in three years," Sylvia Ascarelli said. "I was like, 'yes.'"

Built in 1845, it was once the home of abolitionist Peter Mott, a Black reverend who opened his doors as a safe house for enslaved people escaping north to freedom.


Linda Shockley is president of the Lawnside Historical Society, which owns the museum.

"I grew up in Lawnside and I went to go inside public schools," Shockley said. "Some of our teachers were descendants of people who had escaped from the Underground Railroad."

Shockley says while the museum was closed, the historical society did about $100,000 worth of much-needed upgrades, including adding a new roof, new gutters, and repairing the chimney.

"We worked on restoring the house," Shockley said. "New paint, new clapboard, air conditioning, heating systems."

While most of the work is complete, there are still some finishing touches that need to be done, like replacing a door that is damaged and adding a new coat of paint near the windows.

"It was wonderful to learn not just about the Underground Railroad and what Peter Mott did, but also about how the citizens of Lawnside, with a development coming, refurbished it," Clive Jenner said. "It was absolutely fascinating."

Saturday was a soft opening.

The historical society is planning a grand opening sometime in October when all repairs are complete.

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