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INSIDE RED BANK’S TINIEST HOUSES

 

A rear view of the cottages and, below, a grand video tour.  (Photos by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

By BRIAN DONOHUE

Update: following publication, the Red Bank Public Library uncovered interesting history related to the cottages. See addition at the end of the story. 

They’re the tiniest houses in Red Bank. They’d likely violate modern zoning laws if you tried to build them today. And for three people willing to live small, they’re about as (relatively) cheap as it gets in today’s insane real estate market.

They’re the three 99-year-old cottages at 29, 31 and 33 Drs. James Parker Boulevard, near the back entrance to Count Basie Fields.

Simultaneously, it seems, all three of the  328-square-foot studios are vacant and available for rent. The price for each? $1,750 per month.

 

The “cottages of Red Bank” as the broker’s listing calls them, represent one of the quirkiest and unique offerings in Red Bank’s diverse housing market – a window into a lost era in home construction and what some see as part of its future.

With painting and cleaning crews getting them ready for prospective tenants, redbankgreen was able to get a rare look inside some places we’ve been wondering about for years.

 

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Each unit has a small sleeping/living area, a small kitchen and a bathroom. That’s it. Oh, and a covered porch and a sizable grassy backyard with partial views of the soccer and football games at Count Basie Fields. The green cottage at 31 Drs. James Parker Blvd. last rented in 2017 for $900 a month, according to the listing on Zillow.com – an increase in rent of 94 percent in seven years.

In a stretch even for real estate marketers’ remarkable propensity to create absurdbougie names for properties, the green cottage is dubbed “The Emerald.” The tan one? That’s “The Sands,” baby. 

Those two are the only ones listed for rent on online listing services. 

But workers painting and cleaning the three cottages Monday said all three were currently vacant and seeking tenants. 

The owner is listed on Monmouth County property records as Christopher Rahman, with an address listed as a post office box in Colts Neck. He did not return a message seeking comment. 

Property records indicate the cottages were built in 1925. Under current zoning codes, single family detached homes must have a minimum of 900 square feet of floor space. 

Housing advocates argue restrictive zoning laws contribute to the nationwide housing crisis. Mayor Billy Portman has mentioned the possibility of changing zoning laws to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) including small cottages in the yards of existing single family lots. So far, no ordinance has been introduced. 

Even if ADU’s become a reality some day, “The Cottages of Red Bank” will likely remain an entirely unique feature of the Red Bank landscape. 

Update: thanks to the Red Bank Public Library’s help in tracking down some interesting possible history on the houses:

There may have been more than three of the small houses when they were originally built. While it does not mention the specific address, a July 1925 article in the Red Bank Register described a lawsuit that sparked “The famous Battle of the Seven Little Houses” on what was then called Beech Street.  

The conflict arose when the builder J. TenBroeck Beekman was arrested while building seven small homes for Mrs. Charles K. Thomas of Broad Street. 

The cottages in a 1975 photograph (photo courtesy of the Red Bank Public Library)

The paper reported there had been complaints from local residents who had objected to them as “nothing more than shacks and were unsightly.” Beekman apparently went ahead with construction despite those complaints and a ruling by town commissioners that they violated building codes. Mrs. Thomas appealed the builder’s arrest in court and won the right to build the houses. Beekman then sued the mayor and police chief, seeking $80,000 for wrongful arrest. The two sides settled out of court for $250 and the homes were built. 

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