Businessman to Restore Historic Home's Shine
18th Century Colonial will be used as summer retreat and office space.
Many of the historic structures atop Schooley’s Mountain have lined the area since the 1700s, offered as resort hotels and boasting spring water with supposed healing powers.
The area was a draw for wealthy businesspersons from New York and eastern New Jersey who looked to escape to the country’s idyllic setting.
The Jefferson Colonial home at 18 Pleasant Grove Road, resting on slightly more than three acres of manicured land, saw many iterations of the tourist time, serving as a hotel, boarding house and ultimately as a single-family residence.
Earlier this year, the home was bought by Craig Heard of Succasunna for $450,000–less than half the original asking price of $1 million requested by the previous owner, Ann Kittelberger.
Heard, president of Gateway Outdoor Advertising, a national company that designs exterior advertising displays such as billboards and vehicle wraps, is a self-proclaimed lover of historic homes, and has always wanted to own one.
“My wife and I have always wanted a historic home,” Heard said as he walked through the various rooms of the five-bedroom residence. “This house went on the market more than two years ago and we put in an offer back then. But we couldn’t reach a deal. Over time, the price went down and we were able to make the purchase.”
The home–also known as “Idle Hour”–was used as a summer retreat by one of its owners from the 1900s, William J. Davis, before the Harrison, New Jersey lawyer moved there permanently.
Heard has similar designs for the home, but is going to expand its list of uses, converting the first floor of the main building into an office for his company.
One of the bedrooms upstairs will be used fulltime by Heard’s son-in-law, who is working on restoring the home. Heard plans to bring immediate and extended family to the campus for summers and weekend getaways.
Shining a Historic Gem
The home, along with its two-story barn house, began to dilapidate over the years as a result of Kittelberger’s inability to keep up with the centuries-old structure.
To serve as living quarters for new residents and a professional office space, much restoration is needed.
Before Heard could lay a finger on any of the home’s structure, he needed to work with the Washington Township zoning board and Historic Preservation Society.
The new homeowner went over details with both bodies and came to terms on what could and couldn’t be done.
“There is so much here, so much history and little glimpses into what went on here–I don’t want to change any of that,” Heard said. “I want to keep as much of the history as possible.”
Heard is taking the restoration so seriously that he’s contracted just family members to do the work.
“There’s a sensitivity involved,” he said. “There’s too much history to be accounted for, and I don’t want to lose any of it.”
Heard has been collecting each piece of memorabilia possible as he spends more and more time on the property. From old locks to photos of what may have been former owners, anything he finds is a keepsake. If someone working on the home finds something, they give it directly to Heard, who is trying to piece together more of the history behind the home’s inhabitants.
The restoration includes sprucing up the bedrooms and downstairs area, which will be divided into offices. The basement, at some point, may be converted into a “man cave or wine cellar,” Heard said. But that’s not at the forefront of the project.
Each floor of the house offers something unique, a different view into simpler times. The living quarters weave and wind through the home, while large principal rooms on the main floor offer in-wall nooks for storage and fireplaces with eye-level mantles.
Any new furniture or accoutrements in the home and office will be brought in with history in mind. “It will either be antique furniture or have the look and feel of the 1800s,” Heard said.
Located in the Schooley’s Mountain Historic District, which is recognized by county, state and federal governments, the home’s front door sits just a few feet off Pleasant Grove Road, tucked behind a stone wall and gate entryway to the property.
Heard expects the complete restoration of the home and barn house to take about two and-a-half years, with a price tag of somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000, he said.
For now, though, the businessman is going to enjoy the adventure of restoring his first historic home, and taking in all the charm and beauty the structure has to offer.