28-leroyNew owner Charlie McCague says he spent $50,000 to restore the slate-and-copper roof of the structure and will preserve the clapboard exterior and interior layout.

After a vote that sharply divided the borough planning board, one of Red Bank’s most distinctive old mansions is going commercial.

The century-old Victorian at 28 LeRoy Place is to become an accountant’s office after a vote on the conversion split the board 5-4 Monday night.

Those in favor cited the fact that the structure is in a professional office zone and argued it would serve as a buffer between nearby homes and the “abomination” of the former Sun Bank at the corner of LeRoy and Broad Street.

Those opposed said they were concerned about “creeping commercialism” and a “domino effect” leading to other homes on Leroy being turned into offices on the strength of an approval.

“No,” said Councilwoman Sharon Lee, when called on to vote. “It constitutes an assault on our historic homes.”

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Peeling paint and rotting wood at the Red Bank train station have preservationists worried about “demolition by neglect.” (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank’s Historic Preservation Commission has gone on the offensive against New Jersey Transit, owner of the borough train station, for what it calls apparently “intentional” lack of maintenance.

The agency’s failure to replace a failing asphalt shingle roof or do basic painting on the circa 1875 structure constitutes “demolition by neglect,” leaving the building in “such a deteriorated state that Transit will insist they have no other option other than to demolish the structure,” the commission says in a letter presented to the borough council Monday night.

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fh-williams-backThe Charles Williams House, dating to the mid-19th century, will be the site of an estate sale on Saturday.

Fair Haven officials expect to hold a final debate and vote next Monday on whether to float a bond to buy and raze one of the oldest homes in town to create a riverfront park.

Meantime, on Saturday, the owners of the house built by free black man Charles Williams in 1855 are planning to sell its contents at what promises to be an unusual yard sale, redbankgreen has learned.

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Residents of DeNormandie Avenue have raised traffic and parking concerns about the proposed conversion of the riverfront residence to a park.

In response to concerns raised by neighbors, Fair Haven officials last night put off voting on a plan to fund the $1.2 million purchase of a one-acre parcel on the Navesink River, according to a report in today’s Asbury Park Press.

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fh-williamshouseWith its million-dollar view of the Navesink, the Charles Williams house would be razed sooner or later, locals appear to agree. Below, a weathered medallion on the doorframe marks the structure as a Century House.
(Click to enlarge)

It’s a homestead that links Fair Haven not only to its roots as a riverfront village, but to the bedrock of its identity as a place where African Americans made their homes even in the days of slavery.

The Charles Williams house, built overlooking the Navesink River in 1855, has remained in the same family without interruption, pre-Emancipation right through the death of its most recent occupant, who lived there for 90 years.

Her name was Winifred Julia Decatur Robards, and she died one year ago this week at the age of 92, adding to the rapid erosion of the borough’s small black community.

But years before her death, she and her two sons saw the end of the line coming, and planned to put the house up for sale. And now, it appears the Williams house will indeed fall to a bulldozer at the behest of its next owner: the borough of Fair Haven itself.

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