July 5, 2014 at 6:00 AM
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – A Seton Hall University official said the school hopes to restore the first floor of the Graves House on the Marylawn property.
John Signorello, associate vice president of facilities and operations at Seton Hall, testified before the Board of Adjustment on Tuesday regarding the university’s application for the use of the property, which it hopes to purchase. The plans call for the former Catholic high school to house Seton Hall’s graduate medical education program and the mansion to be used as office space.
“One of the attractive things about this application is that there’s a chance to save one of the most important houses in South Orange,” board Vice Chairman William Dahn said. “I would be very unhappy … if that house was demolished because that house wasn’t taken care of properly.”
“We all have a common interest” in preserving the house, Signorello said. “I think in terms of the interior of the home … the main level … is the area we want to bring back – the ballroom, the entry foyer.”
Signorello said that staff has not been able to make a structural assessment of the home due to a rodent infestation, which prevented access. “(It’s) something of size, I would say,” he said. “We found chairs in the house torn apart and an animal carcass in the house.”
He said that the university’s first moves would be to make repairs to the roof and windows, eliminate the rodent problem, restore utilities, install a security system, and maintain the sump pump and dehumidifier in the basement.
“Most of the interior of house has been gutted,” he said. “The house has no electric service, no gas service (and) no furnace or heating system.”
Board member Robert Adler asked, “You don’t know today whether the building is salvageable?”
“I can’t make that determination,” Signorello replied.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, former Trustee Janine Bauer asked, “If that assessment shows that it can be made structurally sound, will Seton Hall accept a condition … to maintain (the house)?”
“That is something we would consider,” Signorello said.