South Orange Hopes to Auction Off Historic 'Old Stone House'

Village officials say The Old Stone House in South Orange is too expensive to maintain. Credits: Selin Ildokuz
Village officials plan to put The Old Stone House up for auction. Credits: Selin Ildokuz

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ—The Old Stone House, which has been the property of the village for a half a century, is for sale.

The Old Stone House in South Orange was built in 1680, which makes it the oldest standing building with South Orange and is one of the oldest known datable structures in New Jersey.

If no one were to buy the house, it could deteriorate to the point where no one could save it. If that were to happen the village would have to pay to have the building demolished or substantially rebuild the house, according to Karen Marlowe of the South Orange Historic Preservation Commission.

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“It would need to be bought by someone with a deep love for historic preservation and old houses if the building is sold with deed restrictions, meaning that the structure cannot be torn down,” Marlowe said.

Once the Village determines the best way to advertise the sale, the house will be put up for auction, assuming there are interested buyers, according Janine Bauer, whose term on the Board of Trustees ends this month.

“We are trying to identify places to advertise that would attract the kind of buyer that might be interested in the house,” Bauer said.

Village Trustee Mark Rosner commented, “The 330-year-old house will be going for about $100,000, and there are very few buyers.”

The condition of the property is a concern. The roof of the house is deteriorating and there is water damage to the house as well.

“I think what the village is more concerned about is not the sale price, it’s the ability of the buyer to actually spend the money to fix up the house because it needs to be restored to historic value,” Bauer said.

The Old Stone House is covered under the village’s local landmarks ordinance, so in order to make major modifications to the site, a buyer would have to get the approval of the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Commission.

“The HPC is responsible for determining if the work would be appropriate and if so, for issuing a Certificate of Appropriateness, for any exterior work to be performed,” Marlowe said. “Barring complete demolition of the building, the HPC could approve changes in order to preserve the building. However, that would be up to the HPC to determine as an independent commission of the Village.”

The House is located behind the South Orange Police Station and is landlocked. There is no direct access to South Orange Avenue or to Grove Road. Bauer said that the building must have a street to the house to allow access by the fire department. The Village was looking into feasibility of constructing a road next to the police station from South Orange Avenue.

Because of its designation as a historic site, the house can be restored, or used as office space or as a museum, but it cannot be torn down.

Village officials acknowledge they do not have funding to renovate or even maintain the building. Marlowe said that while there are grants available for this type of work, “they would not cover the cost to repair (the house).”

“Village does not have the money, and I don't sense most residents want to save this at the expense of other projects,” Rosner said.

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts

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