Pine Hall Brick Rumbled Full Range clay pavers and Pennsylvania bluestone are used to complement a century old manse in New Jersey, in keeping with its church, the surrounding neighbors, as well as the entire town. Photo: Joe Palimeno.

There’s a lot to be said for using natural materials in construction, especially those that were used more than 100 years ago or those that were used as recently as last month.

And sometimes, it’s even more telling when that century-long difference in time is evident on the very same project.

Case in point: the manse – or pastor’s residence – at the Memorial Presbyterian Church in the borough of Wenonah in Gloucester County, New Jersey. Both the manse and the church were built of Port Deposit granite with Indiana limestone in 1904.

Photo: Joe Palimeno.

More recently, the manse, which is now a private residence, had a new front walkway installed, made out of Rumbled Full Range Pine Hall Brick clay pavers and Pennsylvania bluestone.

Joe Palimeno, owner and landscape designer at Ledden Palimeno, said that his discussions with the homeowner led to them choosing the clay pavers.

“We did an entire landscape design for them and during that process, we talked to them about what it was that they were trying to do,” said Palimeno. “They’ve seen other work that we have done in that area on the same street. I felt like it would be a perfect match to have that color of the brick and just that softness of the brick when you look at the stone on the house. I just thought it would be the perfect fit.”

Palimeno said that it’s not unusual for clients to see the work in the neighborhood or on his website and then ask for a similar look for their homes, especially those that are older construction.

“Our typical customer is an old existing residence that is now going to be renovated or its landscape is going to be completely redone,” said Palimeno. “It seems that our sweet spot is more the renovation of existing older structures and particular architecture like that stone brick, so it calls for that same kind material. You’re not going to force a concrete paver in front of that house. Some will but I am not going to do it. And I think that has set us apart from a lot of other design-build firms that would possibly go in that direction… We love that Pine Hall full range rumbled brick. I put it everywhere.”

Photo: Joe Palimeno.

Location matters

The local choice of materials picks up and continues the story of how Wenonah itself came to be.

Wenonah, like Haverford, Pennsylvania, became popular when the Pennsylvania Railroad laid tracks in the 1850s. Prominent Philadelphia families wanted a summer home to get away from the city and would use the train to get back and forth. For its part, Wenonah was a stop very near to Cape May, New Jersey, which is America’s oldest beach resort.

The travelers prompted Wenonah to grow, as many businessmen moved from Philadelphia to Gloucester County, to take advantage of the natural resources and open land. Many were involved in various types of businesses, including tanneries and with an abundance of high-quality sand, glass manufacturing.

In fact, the Memorial Baptist Church and manse were funded by Thomas W. Synnott, who had himself made a fortune in the glass industry as president of the Whitney Glass Works in nearby Glassboro.

Photo: Doug Rose.

Photo: Joe Palimeno.

The construction, which was a memorial to Synnott’s mother, was designed by local architect Newton Pursell. Both buildings had design influences from the Late Gothic Revival period.

Synott himself, who was known for the many roles he would play, from Christian, to banker, to businessman and to politician, built his home, Hollybush, in 1884, across the street from the church. Both the driveway to his home and a carriage drop-off area at the church feature clay pavers from more than 100 years ago.

That use of natural materials that last forever is part of present-day Wenonah, as is its natural buffer of green space, hiking trails and wild lands; its active volunteer groups; its Tree City USA designation; its Farmers Market; and its Wenonah Arts Collective that features live music every other week at the Memorial Presbyterian Church.

These days, local residents, young and old, some with strollers, some running and some walking dogs, make their way on spring Saturday afternoons around the one square mile town with a park at its center.

The town’s design is reminiscent of old Southern towns like Savannah, with streets named after trees running north and south and after presidents running east and west.

They walk on the public sidewalks in the center of town. They are, naturally, mostly bluestone and mostly more than 100 years old.

It all bodes well for businesses like Ledden Palimeno. Historic homes abound, like the former manse, and Palimeno has clay pavers and bluestone at the ready.