When the in Rumson was demolished in May to make way for two new houses, it sent many area residents reeling.
Though the razing of the old stone house and building of a new subdivision by Yellow Brook Property Co., LLC, was sanctioned by the Rumson Planning Board in January, people still balked when they saw it had been bulldozed.
Longtime Fair Havenite and friend to the Anderson family, Ben Hamilton, spread the word on his Facebook page, which became quickly flooded with comments decrying the loss of the home as a symbol of what makes the area unique.
The house, technically not a historic structure, still embodied area character and charm to many, a feature many who wrote to Patch said they saw quickly dwindling in Rumson and Fair Haven with the onslaught of new development in recent years.
"Even though this may be happening for reasons we do not know, it is still sad to see the old Fair Haven and Rumson pass away," said Doug Newman, who grew up in Fair Haven.
Similar sentiment was echoed by many who wrote to Patch about the demolition and similar situations of replacing older homes with newer, bigger ones in the Rumson-Fair Haven area.
"I live in Fair Haven, and I am a Realtor in Rumson at Resources RE," said Patrick Tapke. "I drive by that home everyday and always say to myself, what a beautiful historic home up on the hill ... I wish more people would restore rather than tear down. I love older homes — such character."
Suzanne McCabe, who lives across the street from the old Anderson property, offered a link to two videos she produced of "Rumson after the tear-downs — and before (click on the highlighted section)," she said. "As others have said, Rumson would benefit from a Landmarks Commission and a public conversation about how to preserve homes with great historic and aesthetic value."
Built in 1938, the Anderson home, according to real estate records, sold for $1.4 million in March of last year. It sat on 2.81 acres, spanned 3,000 square feet, had five bedrooms, two fireplaces and a slate roof. There was also a playhouse on the premises that was a miniature version of the house, fireplace and all. (To see the listing, click here.)
Barbara Anderson wrote to Patch about her own feelings on her longtime home's tear-down:
"It was not a large house, just a lovely place that raised two families who loved it dearly. It was built by James and Grace Parkes in 1938. We bought it in 1968 and lived there for 42 years. We always felt like it sheltered and protected us as it stayed strong when the winds blew and never even shook.
"It seemed to smile from it's windows on the hill when we came home and welcomed all who entered. I will always cherish the memories of the laughter and joy of our children and grandchildren inside its walls. The playhouse stands as a reminder of what has been lost. It did not deserve such a cruel fate."
While many, such as Newman, McCabe and Hamilton, cried historic destruction when the house was torn down, Rumson Historic Commission Chairman James Fitzmaurice said the Anderson home didn't make the cut. The qualifications to be met for marking a structure historic, protecting it under state preservation laws and qualifying it for preservation funding are very strict, he said, and many times too prohibitive to the average property owner.
The Anderson home, as it was, did not pass historic preservation muster. It was a private home that was sold to a new owner; and, sad as it may have been to see it go, there was nothing historically extraordinary enough about it to halt the bulldozers and call in the state preservation authorities.
And, Fitzmaurice said, there is no historic preservation ordinance in place in Rumson for several reasons: one being that telling people what to do with their own property is a preservation road that the Rumson governing body has not wanted to take.
Why? Because the historic preservation guidelines are so strict, he said, that once in place, any historic preservation ordinance would probably cause a lot of angst with property owners not willing and/or able to abide.
That is why, as an advisory entity, “our efforts are geared toward persuading the governing body to take protective zoning measures on a case by case basis, not enforce,” Fitzmaurice said. “Zoning is a legitimate way to control what gets built, but telling people what color to paint their house shingles is very prohibitive for many people. That’s why I don’t see it happening in Rumson.”
Fair Haven, several years ago, ended up shooting down a historic preservation ordinance for many of the same reasons: people felt it would be too intrusive on private property rights. Red Bank, however, has such an ordinance in effect.
Area builder Roger Mumford also wrote a comment on Patch saying that, from a builder's perspective, restoring the Anderson home was not a feasible option.
But, while those who hated to see the house go by way of bulldozer have conceded that it was, indeed, sold, and property owners have rights, they wondered why it needed to be replaced with two larger homes — why development cannot be curbed in the area.
That, Fitzmaurice said, is in the hands of any town's zoning and/or planning board.
Where there was one home on the property before, now there will be two, each larger than the Anderson home. "Existing lot 51 [the former Anderson property at 94 Ridge Road, Rumson] will be subdivided into two (2) single-family building lots, each of which will contain a new two-story, single-family dwelling," the Rumson Planning Board resolution approving the subdivision said. "Proposed new lot 51.01 will consist of 65,438 square feet (1.502 acres) ... and new lot 51.02 will consist of 65,680 square feet (1.508 acres) ..."
Roughly two months after the Anderson home was knocked down, the first home is nearly complete.
Patch will be exploring the development versus restoration dilemma in the Rumson-Fair Haven area and will talk more with developers and historic preservationists in the area in the weeks to come.