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 

Monday, August 29, 2011


I don't know...you go away for a couple of weeks days and everything happens.  We went happily off to Corolla for a two week vacation at the beach and there was an earthquake and a hurricane.  I must admit, I didn't feel the earth move in NC, but some folks did.  Probably because I was lugging stuff up from the beach at the time and jumping from foot to foot in the hot sand.  My sister called and said only pictures were moved at our house.  I'll say!  Nearly every picture on all three floors was askew.  Sorry for the off lighting, I was just so anxious to get them back on an even keel.
And after righting them we had to take in all the outside stuff to make way for Irene.  No damage so it all went back in place Sunday.

Sunday Flowers

Coleus and lilies for the Sunday breakfast table a couple of weeks ago.  Hurricane Irene blew through Saturday and soaked the garden.  No major damage, we were lucky. Except for being evacuated from Corolla NC after only five days of a two week vacation.  Bummer.

Visit Today's Flowers # 158 for more interesting flowers from around the world.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weird Flower

What is this?  The vendor at the farmers market called it a "hay ball".

It is hollow and hairy.  To see more of the flower world visit with our friends at Today's Flowers # 157.
And I'm off to the beach.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Elberon Avenue Part 1: A History Lesson

The Elberon section of Long Branch NJ is a community developed by Lewis Blanchard Brown (1813-1900) on the south end of Long Branch in the 1870's.  He was born in Rahway but lived in Elberon from 1870 until he died.  He was a Harvard graduate, as was his son of the same name.  The earliest census info puts him working in the clothing business and living in NYC with  wife Emma, four children, and three servants.  The next census info lists his occupation as merchant. They lived in West Farms, Westchester NY with an additional son and seven servants. By 1870 he had made the jump to real estate, employing his 22 year old son as an agent along with six servants.  This is when he bought land to develop in Long Branch and named the area for himself!  Aged 66 in 1880 finds him living full time in Elberon.  The year of his death he lives with five servants ... two Irish (Laundry and maid) and three Negro (cook, waitress and coachman).  L B Brown pictured below.

It was the golden era. Brown built the Elberon Hotel and the surrounding "cottages" on the ocean front.  This is the hotel in 1876.

Just up the street he built a Casino, or Gentleman's Club, at the corner of Elberon and Lincoln Avenues.
This house was razed in 1959. The grounds were subdivided for ranch houses. The carriage house/garage is still there as a residence.

The next house on Elberon Avenue was ours.  You can see the south side with the two chimneys through the trees. Notice the awning over the second floor porch.

The original owner was Theo. Runyon.  Of Huguenot decent, Runyon was born in Somerville NJ in 1822,  He was a graduate of Yale were he was an early member of Skull and Key.  He practiced law in Newark NJ,  invested in railroads,  was the first president of Manufactures' National Bank, Mayor of Newark, and Chancellor of NJ for 14 years.  Plus being active in his church where he was the board of an orphanage.  Obviously this guy was connected.  He was named ambassador to Germany in 1893 and died on the job  in Berlin in 1896.
He was a Brigadier General in the Civil War, commanding the Fourth Reg. of reserves during the Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas depending on your N/S leanings).  The division consisted of  three month volunteers.  The 1st and 2nd NJ  were stationed in Vienna doing reconnaissance when General McDowell ordered the division to protect  the approaches to the city of Washington on July 21, 1861. The 1st NJ saw brief action while on patrol at Cloudes Mill, (zoom into the left along Holmes Run) which is just down the hill from our Alexandria house.  The brawny NJ laborers built Ft Ward between May and June and  the fort at the foot of Long Bridge (now 14th St bridge) to protect federal buildings.  This fort was named Fort Runyon for him.  I drive by Ft Ward several times a day.
He married in the first double wedding in the Central Methodist Church, Newark on January 20, 1864 to Clementine Bruen of  New York. The Bruen Mansion surrounded by spacious gardens, orchards and fields (not at the prettiest in January) was the site of the double reception for Miss Julia Bruen and Mortimer S. Ward and General Theo Runyon and Miss Clementine Bruen.. 

The  "cottage" at the shore must have been built after this.  Mollie (1865), Fredrick (1867),  Julia (1969), Leonard (1874) and Nellie(1879) surely  loved it as much as I did.  The neighbors and visitors included the wealthy and famous:  Gen. Gran, actress Lily Langtry and Diamond Jim Brady.   The rail tracks taking President James Garfield form the train station to his beach front cottage a block away from Runyon's home passed by the corner of Elberon and Lincoln.

Here are the words of Garfield's chief physician.
Dr. Bliss continues his story:
"Mrs. Garfield sat by the side of her husband during the first part of the trip, cheering and reassuring him as no one else could, and visited him afterward, frequently, from her own car. On arriving at the track recently laid to the Francklyn Cottage, we were surrounded by a large  concourse of people, who braved the heat of the day in the anxiety lest the journey might have resulted disastrously. The engine had not weight and power sufficient to push us up the steep grade. Instantly hundreds of strong arms caught the cars, and silently, but resistlessly,(sic) rolled the three heavy coaches up to the level. Arriving at the cottage, the President was placed upon a stretcher, and borne under the canopy previously arranged, to the room wherein the remainder of a noble life was spent."
"The Death Of President Garfield, 1881" EyeWitness to History, . eyewitnesstohistory.com(1999)

Can you imagine the crowds working on that rail spur thru the night? Surely the General had a hand in organizing the effort.  Runyon was an organizer and speaker at the services in Newark marking the passing of Garfield.

Here's a happier picture:  The wedding of Mollie to  Harry C. Haskins, son of a a retired merchant from Milwaukee, Wis., down the street in the chapel (still in use in the summer) built by Mrs Moses Taylor with a reception at home.

As described in the Sept 20, 1889 NY Times:
 A special train brought many friends of the couple from New York....A number of more intimate friends arrived yesterday and were entertained by Gen. and Mrs. Runyon at their cottage on Elberon-avenue (sic)...The bride wore an Empire gown of heavy white satin en train and decollete, trimmed with rare old lace.  The long tulle veil was hastened to her hair by a star shaped diamond pin, the room .f the groom.  Her only other ornament was a diamond necklace, the gift of her parents."

The wedding party consisted of friends, Runyon siblings and Bruen cousins.  Among the guests at the reception given at the  cottage were judges, senators, the military, and members of high society.  Oops...this ended badly.  He travels a lot to Europe, but after 1889 Mollie has no passport.  She shows up as divorced in 1920.  He's in a hotel, with no occupation listed.  She's living with her Mother, sister Julia and brother Fredrick who is farming in Basking Ridge.   Harry died in Palm Beach in 1929 at 69. 

In 1893 Runyon became envoy and then was named ambassador to Berlin.  Fredrick, Julia, Leonard and Helen all got passports in 1897 so I guess they all went to Berlin to see the Emperor.  Mary and Harry had passports in 1893 as well.

This is the Washington Post account of his death.
The Washington Post, Tuesday, January 28, 1896, pg. 3


It Will Be in Private, and a Memorial Service Will Be Held Thursday.

Berlin, Jan. 27.-Mrs. Theodore Runyon is prostrated with grief, and as she would be unable to bear the strain of the elaborate funeral ceremony for which arrangements were being made the programme has been changed and the funeral service over the remains of the late United States Ambassador will take place at the house at 3 oclock on Tuesday. Only the family and the staff of the United States Embassy will be present. On Thursday at noon there will be memorial services in St. Georges Chapel, upon which occasion Emperor William will be present.

Mrs. Runyon has received a dispatch from the Empress of Germany, saying that Her Majesty was deeply moved and shocked at hearing of your sudden loss. The dispatch added: The Emperor unites with me in expressing the warmest sympathy for you and your family and our own sincere regrets.

The newspapers this evening pay tribute to the worth and ability of the late Ambassador, and the whole diplomatic corps, hundreds of public officials, and practically all the members of the American colony called at the Embassy to express their sympathy with Mr. Runyons family in the loss they have sustained.

Mr. Runyon was out walking yesterday, dined with his family, and retired at 10:30 p. m. He awoke about midnight, complained of a pain in the heart, and expired in the arms of his wife before the arrival of the doctor.

His estate was divided between his wife and five children. Quite a guy, I have not found any imformation  about other owners, but the Runyons certainly are interesting. Doncha' love what you can find on the web?  I'll be back with the house as we knew it.