Background:

Progress? Pre-Revolution Colonial in NJ Demolished for Abandoned Condos

lost_for_condos1

In 2005, in West Cape May, NJ, a developer demolished the historic Moffitt House, a circa 1770, pre-Revolution Colonial — despite outrage and preservationists’ active plans to save the house by moving it.  A report by Jack Fichter of the Cape May County Herald notes that the demolition of the former B&B proceeded with “most of its original wood floors, mantles and doors in place,” which were just “crushed and hauled away.”  Ugh.  (Photo above by Gary Novak).

lost_for_condos2The result?  The “developer” half-built the condos & then abandoned them as the market went sour.  Now they stand empty, molding, and without kitchens or bathrooms, or garage doors (see right) — waiting to be demolished, themselves.  The developer now owes $1.6 million total for his purchase, demolition, and half-construction, and he’s working with the bank to try to “short-sale” the property (the lending bank says it needs at least $1.3 million).  So it was complete failure and a rare historic property in Cape May was lost for absolutely nothing.

It sounds like the only positive to come out of this disaster was that it prompted West Cape May to create an Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) and the local History Committee to thoroughly survey the local historic resources.  However, it was all too late to successfully save the Moffitt House.  (Full article with additional photos here).

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12 Comments

  1. by Kelly D, on 01.12.12 @ 2:50 PM

     

    You know what? Serves the developer right! Glad something came out of it with the HPC, more communities need to do that.

  2. by Michael, on 01.12.12 @ 5:52 PM

     

    My thoughts exactly, Kelly! It may be mean-spirited to revel in someone’s failure (especially in this situation, since everybody loses), but I can never understand the arrogance of people who think short-term profit potential is more important than a one-of-a-kind historical resource (not to mention sustainable development aspect of all that wasted material).

  3. by Sarah @ housecrazy, on 01.14.12 @ 11:40 PM

     

    That is just a crying shame. It actually makes me very mad! And I can’t believe there was no one who wanted to salvage the doors, mantels, etc. What a tragedy!

  4. by Michael, on 01.15.12 @ 10:06 AM

     

    @Sarah…..Especially when they could have sold that antique material for a nice profit! Even if you’re not a preservationist, it makes financial sense to salvage. I don’t get it.

  5. by George Baker, on 01.16.12 @ 5:16 PM

     

    The unfinished condos should be demolished with Donald Bailey in them so he can be crushed and hauled away.

  6. by Lisa Hassler, on 01.27.12 @ 7:37 PM

     

    How sad. It always amazes me when a developer cares so little for preservation that they demolish a treasure like that. I agree with you Michael – even from an economic standpoint it makes no sense not to try to salvage the building or at least the interior trim, floors, mantles and doors.

    We just lost a historic home in my neighborhood to a developer’s need to build from scratch rather than work with the existing structure. A demolition delay (which we don’t have) can sometimes be helpful to save these buildings.

  7. by Michael, on 01.28.12 @ 4:49 PM

     

    It’s almost impossible for me to understand that stuff. It’s like some people have the genes to understand why old buildings are important, while others just completely fail to “get it” — or to care about it.

  8. by George, on 02.05.12 @ 11:36 PM

     

    I hate to see these old homes destroyed. Where I live there are many grand old mid to late 19th century and very early 20th century farm homes being destroyed. Seems like the younger generations want to smell that new wood and couldn’t care less about their heritage! So in come the dozers and then up go the ticky tacky all seem the same new house. As for myself, I am currently restoring an 1833 pioneer log cabin on my farm. When done, you step onto my property and it will be like being transported back almost 180 years.

  9. by Michael, on 02.08.12 @ 6:51 PM

     

    Hi George,

    It’s interesting you mention young generations not caring about their heritage, because I was just discussing this with someone recently. I don’t think it’s necessarily a generational thing (I’m only 34, and have been into history & preservation since I was a kid). And some of the worst destruction of historical resources that I’ve witnessed were caused by “middle age” people (say, 35-55). But I do wonder how the “next” generation (that is coming of age now) will feel about historic resources. They are growing up in such a different world than even my own generation. I still remember TV antennas, corded dial phones, and typing on a type writer. The current generation has been raised in a wireless world in which much is “intangible” — existing in a digital realm. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens, but I think *every* generation has a certain segment that realizes the importance of protecting historic buildings & artifacts. I’d love to see your 1833 pioneer log cabin!
    -Michael

  10. by George, on 02.14.12 @ 11:28 PM

     

    Hi Michael, For a young man your age, you certainly are aware of the importance of historic restoration and preservation. It is good to know someone in the younger generation cares. I too have cared about this since I was a kid. I always loved going to Lincoln’s New Salem as a kid and always hoped to one day own my own log cabin. Now when I go to New Salem, it is to get ideas on the interior furnishings. I also go dressed in period reproduction clothing of the 1830’S. It makes me feel more in tune with the surroundings. My cabin sits on a corner of my farm. It’s outside measurements are 17 ft. X 19 ft., it has a very narrow staircase leading to a loft. It has never had a fire place, always a cast iron stove. My idea is that the family that built the cabin brought it with them on the covered wagon from Kentucky. Would like to show you a picture of the cabin but I am not that up on computers and have no idea how to send a picture. George

  11. by cora, on 06.13.12 @ 7:47 PM

     

    Absolutely abhorrent. I recently visited the Tenement Museum in NYC and was fascinated and so glad someone had worked so hard to preserve this incredible look into this early American lifestyle.
    I believe the Historic Societies need to go beyond their reach and call out to people every where to save these structures.Spend money to get out the word!
    I live in West Palm Beach FL and a little girl raised over $300 to save an ice cream cone sculpture on a local Carvel stand after a hurricane.
    TRY HARDER! We are out here who care but we must know.

  12. by kevin hoffman, on 08.09.13 @ 9:13 PM

     

    Sounds like Karma got him,real badd Karma

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