OLD RUMSON CARRIAGE HOUSE TO BE RAZED

img_0126The last vestige of the Auldwood Estate in Rumson is set to be demolished. (Photo courtesy of Roberta Van Anda; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For years, the Auldwood Estate — once the sprawling home to 19th-century baking powder giant Joseph Hoagland — has been chipped away at, pieces of Rumson’s history lost at each step.

One of the last vestiges of the landmark, the estate’s carriage house, is soon to be knocked down.

The house, on Edgewood Road, had it’s sewer connections removed Monday, and a demolition permit is “in the works,” said Lynda Doyle, Rumson’s building department assistant.

Watching a piece of history reduced to rubble isn’t sitting well with some locals.

“I can’t imagine these people can knock it down so quickly,” said Roberta Van Anda, who sits on Rumson’s Historic Preservation Commission.

The commission can’t do anything to save it, either, she said. For one thing, it’s private property. Two, the commission doesn’t have that much weight in town anyway  — it’s a newly formed commission, and is still working on its list of historic places.

“We have no teeth,” Van Anda said. “There is nothing this organization can do.”

There is remote hope that, somehow, it can be saved.

Mayor John Ekdahl, who has received a batch of emails from residents in the last few days opposed to the demolition, said he’s going to contact the commission’s chairman, James Fitzmaurice, to see if he can persuade the new owners to rethink the razing.

But it would seem to be a losing venture, he said; of the three bidders on the property, two wanted to restore the carriage house. The current owners don’t have those plans, apparently, he said.

“Knowing him (Fitzmaurice) he’s already made contact with that person, or will be very soon,” Ekdahl said.

The property, formerly owned by John and Katrin Heidelmeir, was acquired last month  by Stuart and Pamela Tait, according to Monmouth County records. No price for the transaction on the 2-acre property has yet been recorded and the Taits could not be reached for comment.

Hope looks slim, though. Historic as the property is, when it comes down to it, it’s just another property.

Van Anda, who has written articles on the estate’s history, said the carriage house is the last artifact of a rich piece of Rumson’s past.

Hoagland, who Van Anda called “a larger than life character,” purchased the 175-acre property that spanned from Bellevue to Buena Vista avenues, in 1892. He then built out the property with a Tudor Revival mansion and three farms, which included carriage houses. A New York Times story from 1894 (nyt-auldwood1) heralded the house as “one of the handsomest, as well as one of the most complete residences on the Jersey coast, and will be a rival to Hollywood among the sites in the vicinity.”

Over time, the buildings were torn down, and the carriage house on Edgewood is the last remaining.

The carriage house, Van Anda says, was briefly a home to New Zealand boxing star Tom Heeney, who was preparing for a title fight against the famous American boxer Gene Tunney in 1928. She said the training tools he used are still there at the carriage house today.

It’s a shame, says Mary Lou Strong, a local historian and preservationist, to know the last bits of the estate will be torn down.

“If there is no concern and no will in the township or whoever’s in charge, then it’s sad what happens,” she said.

There is concern, and there is will, Ekdahl said. But really, there is nothing outside of persuasion that can be done, Ekdahl said.

“We don’t have an ordinance that prohibits anybody from razing a house,” he said.