Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Elberon Avenue Part 2: Our House (Speaking of Hurricanes)

So we've had a history lesson about Elberon.  That turned out to be a term paper.  On with the story of the house when we lived there.
1165 elberon ave 001
My mom was a big newspaper reader.  Her father had been a typesetter on several NY papers, including the Wall Street Journal and her grandfather had been an engraver on New York papers.  The Sunday Times is still devoured in our house.  Including the classified ads.  One fine Sunday mom saw an ad for a house in Elberon and took us for a ride to the Shore.  It was love at first sight and my folks bought the house.  It was big ... 17 rooms.  We lived in an extended family situation so it was perfect.  My Nana, Aunt Jean, my parents and three kids all living together (mostly in harmony).  And sometimes my grandfather.  We were a dysfunctional family even then.

Our north Jersey friends thought we were nuts.  No one lived year round at the Shore.  There was only one other family on our block year round.  The commute to Newark and East Brunswick was an hour.  Both my parents worked and commuted north every day. Nana retired from the offices of Wallace and Tiernan, makers of Desenex Foot Powder, in Belleview to stay home with us.  My brother was not yet in kindergarten.
lb map 1880s 001
elberon map ru library
This is the first floor:

The first floor had a big hall.  The windows had many small panes in a diamond pattern.  What a chore to paint.
The music room we later filled with an old huge grand piano from the house that was on the opposite  corner of Lincoln and Elberon that was being leveled.  Nana played and tried to have us learn ...that didn't take.  The living room had wonderful windows down to the floor.  Mom painted it a warm red with paint from Sipersteins Paint Store on Broadway.  She had the house exterior painted black.  I have her old wood ladder with all the colors.

These rooms shared a chimney and each had a fireplace.  There were pocket doors between the living and dining rooms and to the next room back which we used as a family room.  The back set was kept closed. The paneled family room had a fireplace and a door to the best porch in the world.  Round and enclosed with lattice, but not screened, it was the place where we lived all summer....every meal taken at the picnic table.
Christmas 1957 showing the paneling, sliding doors and door to the porch.  See that little iron table?  It is on my front porch.
The fireplace had a raised hearth.  Our bunny Hoppy would stretch out on it like a dog.  We still have the andirons.
There was a butler pantry with the original built in cabinets, sink and stove.  It's where we did our "science" experiments.  I remember one Christmas when Dad exploded a pudding onto the ceiling.  Total bedlam!  Next was a big kitchen with original cabinets on the left wall against the back stairs and a breakfast bar counter where Nana always had an after school snack waiting.  Back stairs went up to the front hall landing. Stairs led down to the basement.  The basement was divided into "rooms".  One had Dad's power tools, one we used for our marionette theatre, and we skated all over.  And it had the fated electrical box.

Between the kitchen and laundry room was a walk in pantry.  Every time we went by we walked in.  We grabbed a maraschino cherry from the huge jar my grandfather brought from the wholesale food market in NY.  There were half baths in the hall and laundry.

We got a puppy when we moved to keep Nana company and "protect" the house.  He was a small version of a lab, a plain black dog we named Elby after the town.  His friend Elmer Dog, a slightly large version, would come to the back laundry door and ask if he could come out to play.  Dogs ran loose in those days. There were many black Elby/Elmer dogs around as a consequence. He went to the Elberon Library, with or without us.  Mrs. Goddard let him in, gave him a bowl of water and he slept under the new books display right inside the front door.  My library number was 1132.  This was originally a private subscription library, for the residents of the Elberon section that has now been incorporated into the Long Branch Public Library system.
1960 Kevin and Elby, after our fire on the front lawn at 1023 Ocean.  The  tower in the back was a WWII German sub spotting station.  Very eery.

This is the second floor.
The second floor had a similar big hall with a large bath at the top of the stairs.  It was partly over the porch so it was always freezing in winter.  Going counter clock wise the first bedroom was my sister’s and opened to a small balcony.  Next in the front my parent’s room, behind it on the south side was Nana’s room.  They shared a long porch.  Staying on the south side there was a long hall with built in linen closets along one wall.  Then Aunt Jean’s room (also where mom sewed) and finally at the back corner my room.  A bath was at the end of the hall, a large closet across from my door (the room's closet was small).  And a WC.  Back off the main hall at the foot of the steps to the third floor was my brother Kevin’s room.

This was the third floor.

Upstairs on the third floor starting counter clock wise from stairs in the hall was a bathroom, storage room (it would have been called the luggage room in the era the house was built) and a small bedroom that I used in the summer.  It had a tiny balcony and was compensation for my sister’s room and balcony.  On the south side there was a suite of rooms with sloped ceilings my grandfather used when he was in residence (seldom) consisting of two rooms and a bath.  I expect that would have been the housekeeper’s domain.  (I think it had a bath...we weren't allowed to go in much so my memory is fuzzy on this.)  Facing the back and looking into the top of the sycamore trees that circled the drive was a larger guest room with twin beds.  Finally a smaller room Dad used as his "man cave" though then it was called an office.
Out back was a great carriage house.  Stalls, tack room, space for a carriages, second floor had living quarters...two bedroom, living room plus a hay loft over the stalls.  I had my fantasies about restoring it to live in or stabling a horse.  (Ha ha, no chance of that.)

The driveway came in under a porte cocher by the front door, a boon in wet weather.  Can you picture the carriages pulling in after the Runyon wedding? The drive ran along the north side under the kitchen windows made a big circle with a branch back to the carriage house.  The drive was all pale yellow beach pebbles.  It was lined with tall old sycamores.  We spent many an hour raking up the pebbles and sycamore “shed” of both leaves and bark.  The funniest thing with the trees was Nana trying to ride a bike (the one and only time).  She ran into a tree, giving us quite a scare.

Dad and Kevin 1955. You can see some of the sycamores in the background.  This may be the day we first went to see the house.  We moved down in 1955.
Easter 1958 looking to the front corner and the street.
The side yard was huge and took a lot of mowing by Dad.  The privet hedges in front were cut low with flower beds inside.

The privet between our house and the Curtain’s house to the north were huge it was all Dad could do to keep it pruned back head high. Halloween 1958 and the hedge is high.  Mom made all our costumes, and most of our clothes.
A bamboo grove thrived near the barn.  My brother spent a lot of time on the other side of the hedge with old Mr. Curtain who puttered in the little greenhouse in the back of their yard while his son Jim and his daughters commuted to their Regina vacuum company in north Jersey.

Next door to the south was a huge brown shingled house that had been L.B.Brown's casino.  The fireplace in the main room had at least a 6 ft opening.  The owner was a little scary but turned out to be an OK neighbor.  The land was still planted in formal gardens surrounded by an 8 ' hedge.  He grew prize winning dahlias taller than the hedges.  That part of the property is occupied by two ranch style houses today. He rented out the garage apartment that was right on our property line. That is still there today.  You can see our house with the two chimneys in the center of the post card.

School had just started in September 1960 when Hurricane Donna came up the coast. Over crowding and sending districts put us on split sessions.  Juniors and seniors in the morning, freshmen and sophomores in the afternoon.  My brother and I went to school.  My sister was not in school (second session) and was home with Nana.  She discovered the fire.  My folks went to work.  Mom now worked at Monmouth Junior College, which then used the high school for classes with offices across the street in a white house.  Any one who graduated from Monmouth College thru about 1990 has her signature on their diploma.  Dad was at work in New Brunswick.  Hurricanes did not stop the world, or maybe forecasting is a whole lot better now and we didn't know the danger back then.

I was in chemistry with Mr. Kolibas, already not my fav subject or teacher and it was only the first week of school.  The school secretary came up to say my mom was there from across the street to take me home.  He made fun of me as I left for going home early because of a little rain.  I never got along with him or liked chem any better after that.

In fact the storm had sent a sycamore branch into the wires and started a house fire in the basement.  It had been put out, but my mom wanted me home to help clean up.  We went home and she wisely took the silver and important stuff from the house because it turned out the fire still burned.  It climbed up between the walls to the third floor.  It suddenly broke out of the roof.  It was now the height of the storm, the firemen were still on the scene with the truck bogged down on the front lawn.  The wind blew so strong they could not/would not go up the ladder.  By the time they controlled the fire the top floor was gone.  We watched it from the house across the street.  The whole house was water logged. The smell of smoke permeated everything.  We rescued what we could.  My brother's room and toys took the worst hit on the second floor.  My back room was wet, and I hate to say this, but  my silver charm bracelet was missing.  My clothes were unwearable.
This article is not quite accurate.

From The Red Bank Register, Sept. 13, 1960:

The link above goes to the full 18 page issue that has some great ads, TV schedule, and article on the school enrollment.  Great pictures of the hurricane damage in the area.

Luckily, we were able to go to my "sorta uncle's" house on Ocean Avenue.  The house shook with every wave.  As I looked out the second floor window the entire set of stairs down to the beach rose up over the sea wall and pulled away in pieces.  We never lived in our wonderful house again.  Eventually our friend Marty Schneider's son bought it.  The third floor was cut off and a roof slapped on.

Through Facebook's HometownLongBranchNJ I've found the family who lived there  1964-1987  We've been talking about our shared home.  Here's what Nancy said about the house:

The house was a huge mess when we bought it. My dad sent my mom, sister and me to stay with our grandparent's for most of the summer while he worked on it.  Mrs. Wolf let her animals poop all over the house.  It was in serious disrepair and my mother called it "Witts End". 

We had such good times there. It was a lovely neighborhood and a wonderful place to grow up.  We picked our home in Bound Brook because it has a similar yard and charm.
My bedroom in Elberon was the one with the doors that opened to the side porch.  I shared that porch with my parents.  My sister's bedroom was red and led out to the flat black-top roof that ran parallel to the hallway leading to the back bedroom.  The back bedroom was so cheery and sunny.
Before the house was torn down we too went over and took some things.  We have bamboo all over our yard now and have even brought some to Sea Bright.  I also took some of the bricks from the fireplace.  One of our childhood friends went over after it was taken down and found some old Army men in the dirt and took them home.

Two men bought the house next door (that was also torn down to build that huge monstrosity). They took it back to the glory days and it was beautiful.  They had wonderful parties out on the porch.  When we first moved in, the Curtin family lived in it and then after they died it was sold to a family with 9 kids and then Bob and Jerry moved in.
Now when I drive over there I get really depressed!

Me too!

The property stood empty and was torn down in 1999.  I took these pictures then.  This walks you around the house.
My sister's balcony.
 My mom's.  This had an awning in the old post card picture.  Can you see the General and Mrs Runyon having morning coffee out here?
The window and door at the end of the porch were Nana's.  The two end windows are Aunt Jean's and mine.
 First floor family room windows, second floor mine and Kevin's.
 Basement stairs and window over the butler's pantry sink.
 My bathroom and the small WC window on the second floor.
 Laundry room, small bath (my daughter peeking in) and two kitchen windows three powder room and front hall windows. 
 Half bath and hall windows.
 Carriage house
 Back paddock, wild and over grown.
The house next door was Curtain's house now with new owners and in very good shape.   Totally restored and lovely but that too was knocked down.
Here's the replacement built in 2001:  two story,  6793 sq ft on 1.62 acres estimated value $2,918,935.  The building bottom right is the carriage house/garage from the Casino.  Looks like they've added on.

For what they spent they could have rehab-ed and had some history.  Just monstrous.  They did leave the side hedge between the old Casino property.

Property Details new house on property 


  1. Dear Pat,
    I only wish my parent's were alive so that they could read this. We always wondered what the 3rd floor was like and now we know. Your floor plans and pictures had me walking down memory lane with tears in my eyes - seriously! I also learned how we came upon the house...we were neighbors with Mr. Schneider when we seasonally rented on Plaza Ct in 1963. He and my dad were very friendly. Thank you for the memories Pat! I'd love to point people to your blog - is that OK

  2. Dear Pat:
    Thank you for your research and sharing your memories.
    While, I only visited the house twice, I shall always remember it. It sickens me to think it was destroyed.
    Best regards

  3. Watching those horrific waves at the beach was such a remarkable period of growing up there. I was 12 in 1960 so I remember stopping to watch the waves when I was delivering newspapers on Elberon Ave(lived on SouthLincoln at StrattonPl).


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