Feb. 11, 2019 – The structure has been purchased by an individual who intends to restore it.
The Thomas Brown House is a two-story frame Georgian dwelling, built around 1787 for (and perhaps partially by) cabinetmaker Thomas Brown and his wife Rebecca. A key resource in the Greenwich Historic District, the Brown house abounds with fine detailing inside and out. It is particularly noted for its front door pediment featuring a transom with four glass oculi that have earned it the nickname “Bull’s Eye House.”
The Brown house was a village icon into the twentieth century. New owners, who planned to restore it, took possession in 2006. Unfortunately, they soon gave up, and, after the property’s value dropped below the size of the mortgage during the Great Recession, foreclosure proceedings began. In early 2015, the house stood in limbo. It is slowly deteriorating, and although the owners are gone, the bank denies responsibility. No short-sale price has been agreed to and the foreclosure is incomplete.
Houses in this situation – abandoned by owners and lenders – are being called “zombie houses.” There are more of these houses in New Jersey than all but one other state in the nation: nearly 18,000 by one recent real estate industry estimate. Most are not historic properties such as the Brown House, but they all affect their neighborhoods negatively by lowering property values and adding to the burden on local code enforcers and emergency service providers.
To prevent the Brown House from falling into ruin, the bank that holds its mortgage must complete the foreclosure and set a price at which a buyer willing to restore this building vital to the streetscape of Greenwich can be found. PNJ hopes they will act responsibly and swiftly. More generally, we urge the New Jersey legislature to follow the lead of New York State, which is considering a bill that creates a number of tools for attacking the problem of “zombie houses.”
Preservation New Jersey