BUILDER COMPLETES HISTORICAL CONVERSION

leroy-houseA nine-month renovation project on LeRoy Place has just wrapped up. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Charlie McCague wasn’t looking for a fight or a hassle from anybody. Even standing well over six-feet tall, he comes across as a benevolent guy, his soft Irish brogue offsetting his intimidating stature.

But a hassle of sorts what he got after he bought a long-vacant Victorian at 28 LeRoy Place in Red Bank last year and presented plans to convert it into office space, McCague admits, hesitantly.  Some neighbors griped about the idea, and the planning board, which had to approved the change in use, wasn’t uniformly in favor of it, either.

The argument was that the home should stay strictly residential and maintain its historical qualities. A conversion, opponents said, would promote “creeping commercialism” into the area, which is partially  zoned for residential and professional office use. Councilwoman Sharon Lee called it “an assault on our historic homes.”

Still, McCague narrowly won approval to make the conversion, and now that work has just wrapped up, the only sign of creeping commercialism appears to be in the back, where a handicapped parking sign is staked in the ground.

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A view of a staircase, office and front balcony where a worker puts a final coat of paint on the recently completed Leroy Place project. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

“We tried to get the original look of 100 years ago,” McCague said, as he gave redbankgreen a tour of the eight-room house.

It’s been a busy — and expensive — nine months since work got started on the home, which he ushered in with a thorough gut job.

“We gutted right down to the exterior wall,” McCague said. “We started from scratch.”

About a half-million dollars later, the historical feel McCague set out for appears to have been accomplished. McCague, through the work of Red Bank contractor John Hayes, restored the old slate and copper roof — that cost $50,000 right there — laid down Santos mahogany flooring and kept the original newel posts for the staircases. The doors, doorhandles and lighting are all Victorian-style, McCague said.

“We made every room stick with that theme,” he said.

That includes the colors, which McCague excitedly pointed out are from Benjamin Moore’s “historical colors” section of its sample book. Each room inside is either gray, gold or blue with bright white trim and doors.

The eight rooms will be rented out, and it looks like there will only be one tenant: the law firm of Sean Byrnes, which just finished moving in last week, from its former digs on Broad Street.

McCague, a man of few words and many grins, gave a jocular response when asked why he wanted to change the use of the home and restore it.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Crazy I guess.”

When he gets serious, though, his answer is not as crazy as you’d expect.

“Now that it’s done, I’m happy with how the whole thing turned out,” he said. “I hope most people in the town think the same thing.”