Status: Progress Made
1/2013: After several years on the market, 160 Willard Avenue was purchased by new owners in June 2012. The house is presently being restored for use as a private residence.
Spared recently from demolition by the Zoning Board of Bloomfield, this unique Craftsman house, attributed to local architect Dudley Van Antwerp, is crucial to the preservation of its neighborhood. It is located at the intersection of Willard Ave., a residential street of single family homes built in the early 1900’s, and with Franklin St., a busy commercial thoroughfare. This neighborhood, located in what was once the town’s “Estate Section,’ was adulterated by the cutting through of the Garden State Parkway. Berkeley Heights Park and Halcyon Park, once private luxury residential parks, are another nearby remnant of the Estate Section. The house sits on a generous one-acre lot, and buffers the neighborhood from the density of Franklin St. Its loss could lead to the demise of the neighborhood.
Dudley Van Antwerp is an under recognized, talented architect who was active in the vicinity in the early 1900’s. Montclair had seceded from Bloomfield in 1868, becoming primarily a residential area of magnificent homes by the late 19th c. Since the area became populated, there were philosophical differences between the descendants of the original Dutch and English settlers. The vision for Montclair, formerly Bloomfield, was an urban planning survey called the Nolan Report,(1910), which called for a rural English countryside “hamlet” look. The Tudor Style timbered English farmhouse had become the mansion of choice, which perhaps irritated the old Dutch families. Dudley Van Antwerp sought a solution in the contemporary Arts & Crafts movement, which condemned all the ornate revival styles. He looked to vernacular styles for inspiration which evoked a feeling of the countryside and natural building materials to satisfy the demand of clients who didn’t want the English style or Mediterranean.
The design for 160 Willard Ave. creates a home that is remarkably original, yet relates to the town’s early Dutch heritage. It also relates to other houses on Willard Ave.which share Craftsman features. Despite its having been vacant for the past nine years, it still retains a high degree of its original fabric. The simulated thatch roof which covers the house, the sun porch, and the enclosed balcony is the most striking decorative feature, suggesting an old country cottage. Under the wide overhang of the roof, we see exposed rafters. Robust handsome brackets support the balcony and the hood over the side door entrance. The windows throughout the house are tiny panes, including three beautiful leaded glass windows which further convey a medieval feeling. Some original shutters are present. Two tall chimneys suggest a cozy warm interior.
160 Willard Ave. has had a reprieve, thanks to strong community support fighting against the developer, but the threat of demolition remains. There is no historic preservation commission in Bloomfield to provide any protection. Unfortunately, anyone can buy the property and demolish it, despite the fact that the house is a key anchor for the Willard Avenue neighborhood. The owner wants to build three two-family houses on this property. This would be contrary to the single-family zoning and set a precedent for additional infill crowding. A number of homeowners have invested money in improvements, helping to maintain the style and character of the neighborhood, but not if this key building is removed. PNJ urges the owner, Palmieri Associates, LLC to direct their energies to finding a suitable buyer who will preserve this significant landmark property.
2/2009 – Since May 2008, Bloomfield has denied the developer’s request for variances that would permit the desired lot subdivision and subsequent multiple two-family home construction. The property remains for sale.