Historic Victorian Listed For Sale

By on August 14, 2014

70 Personette in its heyday. (Photo copyright Bob Williams; used by permission.)

70 Fairview in its heyday. (Photo copyright Robert Williams; used by permission.)

The house at 70 Fairview Avenue sits so far back from the street that most Veronans–even those who travel Fairview Avenue daily–might not realize that it exists. Those who have seen it might not know that, once upon a time, it was a grand home with a key place in Verona history. But you might want to pay attention now because the giant Victorian at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Personette Street has been listed for sale.

There’s a sign on the corner for a listing by Hawley Real Estate, a Bloomfield-based broker. But the listing does not appear on Hawley’s Web site or in any New Jersey real estate database, which suggests that a quiet sale might be in progress. According to New Jersey property tax records, the home has been owned since 1999 by a Chris D’Ippolito and is currently assessed at $607,100. There is no phone listing for D’Ippolito in Verona and the listing broker, Maria Zarro, has not returned a call for comment.

Just like Kip’s Castle on Verona’s eastern ridge, the house at 70 Fairview was built by a prominent 19th century industrialist. According to the history of Verona written by Robert Williams, the house was built in the 1890s for Henry Ahlborn, a German immigrant who had founded a bronze powder manufacturing business. Ahlborn moved his operations from Brooklyn to the banks of the Peckman River in Verona in 1876, to a site just opposite our current day sewage treatment plant. Bronze powder was key supply for the printing business, and, according to Williams, Ahlborn’s factory was the only one of its kind in the western hemisphere until 1903. According to a history of the Ahlborn/Backus family, one of Henry’s daughters, Henrietta Ahlborn, died in Verona in 1982 at the age of 95.

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When Ahlborn built the house, his property stretched from Fairview all the way up to the ridge of what is now the Hilltop Reservation. The property is far smaller now, but at just under one acre it remains one of the largest lots in private hands in Verona.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. The house could be restored by its new owner. The Hiram Cook house, an 1884 structure overlooking Verona Park (its original owner donated the land for Verona Park) was rescued and rehabilitated by realtor Lenny Shriber in 2012 after being for sale for nearly two years. The Ahlborn mansion is not landmarked and Verona’s Landmarks Preservation Commission does not have the authority to forcibly landmark a property.

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The property could be redeveloped as a modern-day mansion. A home that will have 8,818 square feet of space on the first floor will soon be rising on a 3.7-acre lot on Belleclaire Place, which is on the other side of Verona. The previous home on that lot burned to the ground in 1976.

Or 70 Fairview could hold more than one new house. The property is currently zoned R100, which is low-density single family residential, which mandates a minimum lot size of 12,000 square feet. At 168 by 241 feet, the current lot at 70 Fairview is over 40,000 square feet.

Henry Ahlborn had 70 Fairview Avenue built after his success as an owner of American Bronze & Powder Co., which stood along the Peckman River.

Henry Ahlborn had 70 Fairview Avenue built after his success as an owner of American Bronze Powder, which stood along the Peckman River.

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