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Posts Tagged ‘The fate of the Hotel Whitfield is determined’

Whitfield Hotel. April, 2015. Blogfinger file photo ©

Whitfield Hotel. April, 2015. Blogfinger file photo ©  (George Whitfield was a famous 18th century Methodist preacher). It is at the intersection of Surf Ave., Beach Ave., Bath Ave., and Lonely St.

From T.S.:

Does anyone have an update on the future of the Whitfield?  It seems all discussion and news has stalled.

Thank you.

Editor’s Note:   Here is a link to  our last article on this subject from last April:       BF on Whitfield

Here is a link to our 2013 background piece on this property.   Whitfield discussion on BF

The last we heard was that there is a long lead time to find housing for tenants prior to demolition.

ELVIS PRESLEY

“Well, since my baby left me
Well, I found a new place to dwell
Well, it’s down at the end of Lonely Street
At Heartbreak Hotel
Where I’ll be, I’ll be so lonely, baby
Well, I’m so lonely
I’ll be so lonely, I could die”

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The Whitfield Hotel, Surf Avenue front entrance. All photos by Paul Goldfinger ©

The Whitfield Hotel, Surf Avenue front entrance. All photos by Paul Goldfinger ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

What happens when a property in Ocean Grove gets “tired beyond it’s useful life?” And how about when a property that has housed citizens of Ocean Grove for over 134 years has “outlived its economic usefulness and no longer has any historic or architectural significance?”  And what about when it “contributes nothing to the historic district; has no style; is a nightmare to maintain; is broken down with sagging  buckling floors and water damage; and when it has significant structural problems?”

Well, all that and more was said last night at a special Historic Preservation Commission demolition hearing regarding  18-20 Surf Avenue, aka the Whitfield Hotel, located at Surf Ave., Beach Ave.,Bath Ave., and Lonely Street.

The old 54 room hotel was diagnosed by experts as being “a very large box with no style.” Grovers in the audience could be heard murmuring, “Tear it down.'”

Yet, sitting there and thinking of the building as a home rather than a house, made it seem so sad.  But clearly, it is time  to sound the death knell. No one would ever buy that building and sink the amount of money into it that would be needed to preserve it for the future.

If the Whitfield were a patient, it would be a candidate for euthanasia, and that is exactly what was in the air last night at the HPC meeting held in the municipal building. Quite a few Grovers were present at the meeting.

The Ocean Grove architect who testified for the owners was Stephen Carlidge, AIA.   He and historian Wayne T. Bell were in complete agreement about the insignificance  of that property, and, for the most part, the HPC members seemed satisfied that the building is a useless mess.

It was acknowledged that the building is currently safe to use, but its near-future prognosis suggests a bad ending unless a major remodeling were done.

The history of the Whitfield is fascinating. There were only two pieces of actual evidence regarding that history.  A Sanborn map of 1889 was reviewed and revealed three wood frame buildings on that 4 lot property.  There were two small units—maybe even two tents.  The other building was  perhaps a two story single family Victorian house.  All three structures were certainly residential. There are no old photographs.

Sanborn maps were used to assess real estate until the advent of aerial photography.

Sanborn maps were used to assess real estate until the advent of aerial photography. This one from 1889 was used to evaluate the Hotel Whitfield property.

The next piece of evidence was a postcard from around 1930 when the big box looked as it does today.  A history of Ocean Grove in 1939 listed all the hotels in town.  The Whitfield was on that  list.  It offered an “American Plan” for dining, and the proprietor was Charles M. Herman.

Bath Avenue rear view.

Bath Avenue rear view. Historic brackets can be seen near the roof line.

The best explanation of the building’s history is that the three units gradually got larger and eventually “morphed” into one structure, sometime between 1910-1920.

Kevin Chambers, the former President of the Historical Society of Ocean Grove made a surprise appearance at the microphone.  He said that he and his colleagues had been watching that property years ago as it became degraded by owners who took out original features such as windows, put in aluminum siding and left no sign of the original architecture. Only a small number of decorative brackets remain. Mr. Chambers said that the building was stripped so much that it “is no longer a contributing structure to the community. ” He recommended demolition as being the best decision for the town.

Kevin Chambers testifies ©

Kevin Chambers testifies ©

Mr. Ted Bell said that if we were to grade large historic buildings in Ocean Grove, the Aurora would get the highest rating.  That building on Surf Avenue is “one of the best examples of Victorian architecture in New Jersey, and perhaps in America. But the Whitfield would get a zero.”

Janice Green, a resident of Surf Avenue, pleaded with the Commission to approve the demolition.

Mr. Carlidge said that the demo would help the “economic base” of the neighborhood and would allow “something more appropriate on the site.”  He then went over the 14 criteria needed to satisfy the demolition ordinance, and this proposal satisfied all 14.

The social aspects of the situation regarding the current occupants were not discussed. That is really not the concern of the HPC,  nor are the future plans for the property—at least not at this time.

The only mention of the future was to say that the building must be maintained with all systems working until such time as a demolition were to occur . The fate of the building seems clear now, although an official ruling about the demo cannot be declared until at least 90 days go by  (i.e. on Dec 10, 2013)  The reason for the 90 days is to give some preservationists the chance to show up and save the Whitfield. Any odds on that happening?

It seems clear as to what the fate of the Whitfield will be, and that will be a correct decision, but it is sort of sad—isn’t it?

KRISTIN CHENOWETH  from “Promises, Promises.’

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