RUMSON: BLITHEWALD RAZED

76 buena vista 081815rumson fire 042015 2Five months after a devastating fire, the Rumson mansion known as Blithewald was demolished Monday.

The 132-year-old home, on Buena Vista Avenue, was undergoing extensive redecoration for use as a designer showcase for the monthlong VNA Stately Homes by the Sea when it burned down in April. Investigators ruled the cause of the blaze accidental. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

RUMSON: BLITHEWALD GARDEN IN PHOTOS

rumson blithewald 1 rumson blithewald 3The April 20 fire at the Rumson mansion known as Blithewald, which was undergoing extensive redecoration for use as a designer showcase in the monthlong VNA Stately Homes by the Sea fundraiser, occurred the same morning that landscapers had put the finishing touches on a yard design called the Secret Garden.

Red Bank-based Siciliano Landscape, which oversaw the project with a landscaper from Marlboro, has posted a gallery of before-and-after photos of the garden, along with a link for those wishing to donate to the VNA. The now-canceled home tour was to be the nonprofit organization’s largest fundraising event of the year. (Photos courtesy of Siciliano Landscape. Click to enlarge)

RUMSON: FIRE RULED AN ACCIDENT

rumson fire 042015 3Monday’s fire at the Rumson mansion known as Blithewald appears to have been accidental, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office.

Spokesman Charlie Webster told redbankgreen on Thursday that investigators believe the fire began in a wall between a guest room and an en-suite bathroom on the second floor. But they were unable to determine if a live electrical circuit or equipment was the cause, he said.

At the time of the fire, Blithewald, on Buena Vista Avenue, was undergoing extensive redecoration for use as a designer showcase for the monthlong VNA Stately Homes by the Sea fundraiser fundraiser, which was to have begun Saturday but has now been cancelled. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

RUMSON: FIREFIGHTER’S VIEW OF BLAZE

Here’s a Sea Bright firefighter’s view, courtesy of a helmet-mounted camera, of Monday’s fire at the Rumson mansion known as Blithewald.

A message on the Sea Bright Fire Rescue Facebook page says this about the footage:

“We feel that releasing this film will not only give the public insight on what we do but will allow our brothers and sisters of the service an opportunity to better both themselves and ourselves in the future. The members made multiple attempts to try and gain control of the fire with an interior attack but were subsequently driven back. Please excuse some of the language as the guys were in the heat of the moment.”

 

RUMSON: ‘TOUGH SPOTS’ MADE FIRE DAUNTING

RUMSON FIRE 042115 2Blithewald as seen Tuesday morning. An area of the roof between two dormers showed heavy damaged, as seen below. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

RUMSON FIRE 042115 1The fire that caused extensive to a 132-year-old Rumson mansion Monday proved a challenge to volunteer firefighters, some of whom were on the scene nearly seven hours, Chief Kevin McCarthy tells redbankgreen.

“It’s a big, older house, so there’s lots of tough spots to get into,” said McCarthy. “It took a while to get it all mopped up.”

There was no official word on a possible cause of the blaze. McCarthy referred questions to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, where a spokesman said information was not immediately available Tuesday morning.

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RUMSON: FIRE RIPS SHOWCASE MANSION

rumson fire 042015 2rumson fire 042015 1Fire caused extensive damage Monday afternoon to a Rumson home slated as the showcase for the monthlong VNA Stately Homes by the Sea fundraiser.

No one was injured in the four-alarm blaze at 76 Buena Vista Avenue, an 1880s-era mansion known as Blithewald. As of 3:30 p.m., three hours after the fire was reported, smoke could still be seen rising through the roof, which had gaping holes in it. There was no immediate official word on a possible cause.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said a heartbroken VNA volunteer who asked not to be named, standing outside the Blithewald gate.

The fire is the second tragedy in recent years to strike the VNA event. In 2013, a van shuttling tour participants hit a dumptruck in Rumson, causing at least one serious injury. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

RUMSON MANSION RAZED

59 w river 101514 159 w river 011315A century-old Rumson mansion has become the latest old structure in town to fall to the wrecking ball. Kelly Builders of Oceanport won borough planning board approval in October to demolish the structure, at the southwest corner of Third Street, and erect three single-family homes on the half-acre site. The brick pillars and fence along West River Road will be retained, according to planning board testimony.

According to Monmouth County property records, the house was built in 1904, and Kelly Builders bought it last year for $1.1 million. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

 

 

RED BANK: NEW OFFICE FEELS LIKE OLD HOME

199 broad 112914 2With landscaping and exterior detail work still in progress, John Smallwood, below, moved his financial advisory firm into 199 Broad Street last week. (Photo above by Trish Russoniello; below by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

john smallwood 112614More than a year later, John Smallwood still shakes his head in disbelief when he thinks about the appraiser who advised him to tear down the century-old Red Bank mansion he was about to buy and rehabilitate for use as office space.

For one thing, the comment betrayed astonishing ignorance of zoning law, Smallwood said: with just 60 feet of frontage on Broad Street, a new structure would have to be sliver-thin to accommodate setbacks and access to the parking out back.

More than that, though, was the appraiser’s failure to appreciate both the real and intangible value of the structure, at 199 Broad.

“I was really offended” by the suggestion, Smallwood told redbankgreen. “He just didn’t get what we have here.”

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RUMSON: JUST ANOTHER TEARDOWN?

8 navesink ave 0901148 navesinkA riverfront mansion in Rumson may put a new spin on the concept of real estate teardowns. The 12,000-square-foot house at 8 Navesink Avenue, with eight bedrooms and 12 bathrooms, was razed recently. The property was the subject of a live auction in July, 2013, when it failed to attract a single offer at the minimum bid of $2.6 million. Four months later, however, it sold for $5.6 million to Dennis and Marshall Lynch, according to Monmouth County records. The Lynches won planning board approval in April to build a new residence on the 1.9-acre site. (Photo above by Michael McMahon. Click to enlarge)

 

RUMSON: SIDE-BY-SIDE MANSIONS FOR SALE

dawkins-estate3George Hall’s 18,000-square-foot house, as seen from the Navesink in 2008. Below, the Gooch estate next door. (Photo above by John T. Ward; below from Monmouth MLS.Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

76 w river rumsonLess than three years after dropping $12 million for one of Rumson’s grandest homes, hedge fund tycoon and Kentucky Derby horseman George Hall has put the place up for sale.

Hall’s 18,000-square-foot West River Road residence, formerly owned by Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins, hit the market last week for $17.2 million.

Well-heeled shoppers for a Navesink River crib might also want to check out Mickey Gooch’s place next door, with an asking price of $16.5 million.

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RUMSON MANSION AUCTION A BUST

A jazz duet played on, even after bidders left the auction, which lasted just four minutes. Below, an aerial view from the auction website. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

They can’t give this baby away, it seems.

A mansion on the Navesink River in Rumson that was once listed for sale at $10.5 million drew a high bid of just $2.6 million at auction Wednesday afternoon, prompting the seller to reject the offer and leaving real estate professionals dumbfounded.

“I don’t know if you could buy the land for that,” the auctioneer told the small cluster of potential bidders who’d gathered under a white tent for the event.

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SHREWSBURY MANSION DATED TO THE 1840s

A backhoe begins demolition on the fire-ravaged house, above. Below. furniture salvaged by firefighters. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

In a matter of hours, a raging fire ended some 170 years of Shrewsbury history.

A Sycamore Avenue mansion that its owner said dates back to the 1840s was damaged beyond repair in a fast-moving blaze Monday afternoon. By 9 p.m., even as flames continued to burn in the attic, heavy equipment had begun tearing down the wood-frame structure, ripping open canary yellow clapboard and exposing walls with burned artwork hanging on them.

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SHREWSBURY HOUSE FIRE TAKES HEAVY TOLL

A view of the fire from the home’s back yard. Below, Shrewsbury firefighters prepare to attack the blaze from above. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

More than two hours after after it was first called in, a fire in a Shrewsbury mansion was still underway late Monday afternoon.

At 3:38 p.m., firefighters reported “heavy fire above the front door.”

By then, the blaze had inflicted major damage on the house, a canary yellow mansion set back from the roadway just east of Samara Drive.

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FIRE RIPS SHREWSBURY MANSION

Firefighters from multiple towns were on the scene of a stubborn, wind-fueled fire that broke out in a Shrewsbury mansion early Monday afternoon.

There were reports of “a large amount of ammunition” going off in the house, though the homeowner told firefighters there was no ammunition in the house.

Firefighters were also struggling with inadequate water pressure from hydrants.

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BON JOVI BURGLAR GETS FIVE YEARS

By JOHN T. WARD

An Ocean County man who last month admitting burglarizing the Navesink mansion of Jon Bon Jovi  was sentenced to five years in state prison Friday, the Monmouth County Prosecutor announced.

Nick Tracy, 22, of Beachwood, pleaded guilty in state Superior Court in Freehold on September 5 to a monthlong break-in spree that netted him $300,000 worth of jewelry and other valuables from the home of the pop rocker and other well-heeled residents of the Middletown neighborhood.

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BON JOVI BURGLAR PLEADS GUILTY

Bon Jovi’s mansion on the Middletown side of the Navesink was one of the homes entered in the 2011 burglary spree, authorities said.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

An Ocean County man faces up to five years in state prison following his guilty plea to breaking into a number of Middletown homes, including the riverfront mansion belonging to pop star Jon Bon Jovi, the Monmouth County Prosecutor announced Wednesday.

Nick Tracy, 22, right, pleaded guilty to swiping more than $300,000 worth of jewelry and other valuables in a series of break-ins over the course of one month in the spring of 2011, according to an announcement by the prosecutor’s office.

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RUMSON MAN NABBED FOR BURGLARY

David Wilt with police outside his Rumson residence, below, during his arrest Monday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Police arrested a 20-year-old Rumson man outside his mother’s mansion Monday afternoon and charged him with burglarizing a Fair Haven home less than an hour earlier.

redbankgreen was on the scene at Evergreen Drive when authorities took David Wilt into custody on Evergreen Drive at about 4 p.m., shortly after authorities in both towns went on alert for a black pickup truck on a report of a break-in.

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LIBRARY TO FETE LIFE OF SIGMUND EISNER

Local-history librarian Elizabeth McDermott, below, with a custom-branded Eisner lightbulb in the second-floor New Jersey Room of the Red Bank Public Library, once the home of industrialist Sigmund Eisner. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

On April 15, 1937, the Red Bank Public Library – for decades an itinerant but growing collection of books and archival material – finally found a permanent home, relocating from a downtown storefront to a mansion at 84 West Front Street.

Three months earlier, the heirs of Sigmund Eisner – mass-manufacturer of uniforms for the Army, the Boy Scouts and other organizations  – had donated their late father’s mansion overlooking the Navesink River to the library.

The shared hope of H. Raymond, Monroe and J. Lester Eisner was that the house would provide a warm and dry place for reading, but also that it would function “as a bit of a museum, too,” says local-history librarian Elizabeth McDermott.

Next month, the library will celebrate its 75th anniversary in the house with museum-like displays that highlight Eisner and his transformative impact on Red Bank as an industrialist and philanthropist.

The event, says McDermott, “is completely about” Eisner.

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BON JOVI OPENS CRIB TO TV CREW, AND YOU

Bon Jovi’s mansion on the Navesink River, as seen in 2008. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Person to Person,’ a TV program of bygone days that featured live interviews with – and often, tours of the homes of –  Marilyn Monroe, John F. and Jackie Kennedy, Marlon Brando and other big names of half a century ago, returns to the airwaves next week with a drop-in at the Middletown home of pop rocker Jon Bon Jovi, CBS News announced Thursday.

The comeback episode, to air Wednesday night, also includes tours of homes owned by two other “legends of today:” actor George Clooney and investment sage Warren Buffett.

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VIDEO: LITTLE SILVER FIRE

Firefighters from more than a half-dozen towns converged on Little Silver early Saturday afternoon and spent more than four hours fighting a runaway blaze that tore through a 120-year-old house on Carriage House Lane.

Candles in the kitchen touched off the fire when they came into contact with window curtains, officials said. The house, which its owners had recently remodeled, was destroyed.

Here’s redbankgreen‘s video of the firefighting efforts.

FIRE FLARE-UPS KEEP VOLUNTEERS BUSY

ls-fire-day-2-121111-21ls-fire-day-2-121111-11Recurring flare-ups of a fire that destroyed a 120-year-old mansion in Little Silver Saturday afternoon had volunteer firefighters back on the scene that night and again Sunday morning. An aerial hose from Red Bank was on the scene around 11 a.m. Sunday to give the sprawling structure yet another soaking after fire and smoke were seen beneath the collapsed roof. (Click to enlarge)