By Paul Goldfinger and Eileen Goldfinger (house and garden editor @Blogfinger)
On March 13, 2010, Marthe (pr. Martha) Derrico was at her winter home in Florida. She received a phone call which would change everything. She learned that her Victorian “bungalow” at 30 Bath Avenue in Ocean Grove had been destroyed in the devastating Manchester Inn fire. Marthe had been coming to Ocean Grove since the 1950′s and she had purchased her home in 1980. It had been featured in the book Victorian Homes of Ocean Grove. The fire also took away many mementoes as well as numerous antiques and objects that she had acquired from her mother and grandmother.
First the debris was removed, and then Marthe went through the planning process for new house construction. This involved heading down a difficult road which included design, HPC approvals, permits, Neptune Township regulations, and discussions with the neighbors.
The project had a unique technical issue: the lot is very narrow—only 18 feet wide. It had been created in the past out of slivers of land derived from hotels on either side. Since you cannot have windows on the sides of a house unless you are 3 ft., 1 inch from the property line, Marthe was faced with the dilemma of choosing either windows to catch the breezes and provide light, or no windows in order to give her maximum width inside.
According to the Beersheba award document, “Thanks to architect Cate Comerford and contractor John Case, an ingenious solution was found: inset the windows but not the walls.” (See photos). The award also mentioned the ‘two perfectly proportioned porches,’ ‘cut shakes, which add ‘texture,’ and a ’low front-facing gable to improve the roof line.’”
“This lovely new cottage is in no way overshadowed by its large neighbors and attests to the fact ‘that less is more.’” Marthe’s Beersheba Award was one of two given in the category of “new construction.”
Inside, the house is really beautiful and cozy. It is similar to the “shotgun houses” in New Orleans and in other parts of southern USA, but not as small. It is narrow, but it doesn’t feel cramped. The 1,800 square feet, the dining room table that opens at each end, and the three bedrooms make it a fine place for grandchildren to visit. Marthe also has a full basement.
The house was finished in June 2011, and Marthe and her husband have resumed their active Ocean Grove life style. She keeps busy volunteering with the Lady’s Auxiliary, playing tennis and “going to everything” happening in town. She especially enjoys sitting on her comfortable second floor porch where she likes to read. Even on very hot days, Marthe doesn’t turn on her central air. She doesn’t like being closed in. She opens all the windows and doors, and we got to experience the “summer wind” blowing right through—priceless!
Marthe doesn’t complain, but construction has been going on around her since 2010 and will probably continue for several more years. So far three houses from the fire have been rebuilt from scratch—two on Bath and one (also a Beersheba winner) on Ocean Pathway. There are two more under construction on the Pathway, and one lot is still bare.
It is noteworthy to observe that this large piece of prime OG real-estate is being redeveloped with private homes and not condos.