Historic Victorian Demolished

By on June 21, 2016

Ahlborn1One of Verona’s last links to its industrial past was demolished today.

The mansion that had stood at the corner of Fairview and Personette avenues for more than a century was a focal point of Verona before it even became a town. It was built in 1890 for Henry Ahlborn, a German immigrant who had founded a bronze powder manufacturing business that became known across America and the world. Bronze powder was once a key item for the printing business, and Ahlborn’s factory was the only one of its kind in the western hemisphere until 1903. Ahlborn had moved his company from Brooklyn to the banks of the Peckman River in Verona in 1876.

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 has remained one of the largest lots in private hands in Verona. The Ahlborns lived there in grand style: Verona native Bob Goman recalled in 2014 that the family called his father’s moving company to the house every spring and fall to rearrange the furniture for the seasons.

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The last of Ahlborn’s children died in Verona in 1982 at the age of 95. The house was purchased in 1999 by artist Chris D’Ippolito who worked on restoring it until her death in 2011. Then it began a slow spiral towards its demise. Facing an Essex County Sheriff’s Office foreclosure sale, it was listed for sale in August 2014 and sold in December of that year to Verona resident Marek Forysiak for $550,000. He did not own it for long. Forysiak listed the Ahlborn mansion in May 2015 for $749,000, with this description: “Large Victorian home in need of total renovation on a 168 x 241 lot. Subdivision possibilities.”Ahlborn2

According to public records, the property was purchased last December by Michael and Jennifer Matarazzo for $588,500. Shortly thereafter, a sign for a historic home restoration company was posted on the property.

It is not yet known what will become of the site. The property is currently zoned low-density single family residential, which mandates a minimum lot size of 12,000 square feet. At 168 by 241 feet, the 70 Fairview property is over 40,000 square feet. Kelly Lawrence of the Verona Township Buildings Department said today that no new construction permits have been filed. The Matarazzos did not respond to an email sent by this reporter last month when a dumpster and silt barriers appeared on the property.

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

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

 

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The Ahlborn mansion was not landmarked and Verona’s Landmarks Preservation Commission does not have the authority to forcibly landmark a property. Its demolition follows that of a Civil War era home in the Brookdale area in April 2015. The home had been built by Capt. Hiram Cook, the person who later donated the land for what is now Verona Park. Another Cook house, an 1884 structure overlooking Verona Park, was rescued and rehabilitated by the late realtor Lenny Shriber in 2012.

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    5 Comments

    1. Joseph DeVivo

      June 22, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      Virginia,interesting and informative article regarding the history of this home. I believe a plaque or a picture should be placed somewhere for reference. Do we have a Verona Historical Museum? However, this place was an eye sore and years of neglect produced a deteriorating property. As a Verona resident, I am grateful and excited that the new owners are staying in our town and investing in this property. The Matarazzo family are wonderful people. The fact that they would like to continue to raise their family in our town should be appreciated rather than attacked. This home has been for sale on numerous occasions for numerous concerned people to purchase. Historical societies, amateur historians, or people who have nothing better to do then to criticize.
      Best of luck and years of happiness in your new home!

      Respectfully,
      Joseph DeVivo

    2. Virginia Citrano

      June 22, 2016 at 9:32 pm

      Joe,

      Thanks for the perspective. While Verona has a collection of historic photos at the Verona Public Library, we do not have a museum. As for historical plaques, there are only two in town now that I can think of: One near VHS to note that it was the site of the Newark Boys Home at the turn of the century, and the other on Grove at the site of the former home of Henry B. Whitehorne. But perhaps this can be raised with the Town Council in the future.

    3. Keith Bucher

      June 24, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Very informative article that is rich in history. Unfortunately, the home that was demolished was not only an eyesore, but a real hazzard. Knocking it down was the only option. The Matarazzo’s are taking on a huge responsibility in rebuilding a safe and enjoyable home for their family. They should be praised for their efforts. I believe you are doing a huge disservice to the new owners by putting their personal business into the public eye. Going out of your way listing owners and prices is not covering a story. It was not purchased with public funds or tax payer money. Instead, shouldn’t our responsible investigative reporting be focus on other issues like a possible $.23 nj gas tax supported by the CEO of one of the largest construction companies in NJ or Christie’s new property tax relief proposal that could save thousands to nj property owners.

    4. Virginia Citrano

      June 24, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Keith,
      Thanks for your perspective. Since MyVeronaNJ.com started in 2009, we have reported on the listing prices of all homes put on the market in Verona. Final closing prices are a matter of public record, as are many other details about real estate. The substantial difference in the asking price and the closing price in the most recent transaction for 70 Fairview seemed worthy of note.
      New construction, like the Durrell townhouses and the Belleclaire, Mountainview and Rawding Court homes, has the potential to add to the tax base in Verona, which can benefit all taxpayers here.
      As for the rest, we’ve been looking into the the governor’s property tax relief proposal since it was unveiled the other day. It would, if passed, save the average homeowner about $2,400 annually and add $6,015 per student in state aid. Given that Governor Christie has failed to send Verona the state aid we have been mandated to receive under the state’s own aid formula since he took office, it would certainly be welcome. But, Trenton being Trenton, it is unlikely to pass. The Transportation Trust Fund also desperately needs to be replenished but the proposal now in front of the legislature also seems unlikely to pass.

    5. Peter Bandel

      October 17, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      My Great Grandfather’s house. He also built the mansion that used to stand at 58 Fairview. He built that one for his daughters, two of whom (my grandmother and aunt)lived there into the 70’s.That home was razed after they died, thanks to some questionable actions by the executors. I still remember fondly all the wonderful times I had growing up there, and can only say that I hope my relatives who rushed to destroy the home enjoyed the money they got.

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