3/2010: After a three-year struggle, the nonprofit Concerned Citizens of Allendale (CCA) has acquired the historic Fell House. The long-term goal of CCA is to restore and maintain the house and 2.8-acre property, return it to its former grandeur and operate the home and grounds as an educational, historical and cultural resource.
The Fell House is a 22-room mansion sited prominently atop a 2.8-acre lot near the center of Allendale. The original 18th Century portion of the house was built in the 1750’s. A second wing was added around 1832 and a third in 1912 when the house attained its current high-style Colonial Revival characteristics, of which it represents a significant example, specifically for Bergen County. The New Jersey Historic Preservation Office has issued a Certificate of Eligibility for the State and National Registers for this building’s architectural, historic and environmental features.
The Fell house is a landmark pre-Revolutionary War site in Allendale, the home is now known commonly as the Fell House, after John Fell, the original owner, who in the mid-18th century, built the home, which he called “Petersfield” after his son. Fell was a successful New York merchant who retired to Bergen County in the 1760’s; a ship’s mast from one of John Fell’s merchant vessels is an interior feature in one of the original rooms in the Fell House. Fell served New Jersey as a judge before the advent of the Revolution when he became an influential Bergen County patriot who was seized in 1777 and imprisoned in New York City for approximately eight months. Fell served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress (1778-1780) and ratified the Constitution at the Convention in 1787.
Outbuildings on the property include a barn, garage, cabana, shed and root cellar. Also extant, attesting to the property’s rich, multi-decade history is a19th century Gothic Revival barn, worthy of preservation in its own right. The property hosts old-growth trees and the remnants of award-winning gardens that were created by the Taylor family, owners through the mid-1950s.
The site is located adjacent to Allendale’s Celery Farm, a 109-acre nature preserve which contains wetlands of Exceptional Resource Value and is home to threatened and endangered species. Through a concerted effort, Concerned Citizens of Allendale has been able to attain New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection designation of a significant portion of the Fell House land as wetlands of Exceptional Resource Value.
The site is currently privately owned by an individual who resides in the house and who has a contract for sale with a developer. The developer has sought advice from the NJ DEP about how many townhouses could be constructed, if the house is demolished, without infringing on the Exceptional Resource Value wetlands. Recently, the Allendale planning board denied the developer’s application, ruling that the 2.8-acre lot is actually part of a neighboring condominium association whose members have to approve any development. Should this developer decide not to appeal this decision, it is understood that the owner is also talking to a second developer.
The threat of demolition of the house and a number of old growth trees is quite real. The Concerned Citizens of Allendale, a nonprofit, has raised a significant portion of the asking price, and has secured various funding sources, but remain short of the full asking price for the property. Loss of the Fell House, a significant Colonial-era building, would be detrimental to Allendale, and the potential for such is a blatant reminder of the threat that sprawl poses to all our state’s historic treasures. PNJ encourages the involved parties to collaborate to avoid this tragic potential loss.
Save the Fell House Committee