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No Vote Decision
Council declines historic status
-- Property owners object designation
by Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer
The council has declines to designate three Teaneck houses as historical sites.
The houses - at 580 Standish Road, 755 Pomander Walk and 658 Larch Ave. - had been recommended for historic designation by the Teaneck Historical Commission. All three are included in Bergen County Survey of Historic Sites, as well as in the 1995 booklet, "A guide to Historic Landmarks of Teaneck, New Jersey."
But owners of the three properties objected to the historic designation, which would require them to obtain approval from the HPC before changing any part of the exterior of the houses. The owners feared that such a restriction would lower property values and make their houses more difficult to sell.
No vote was taken at the Feb. 9 meeting, and none was necessary, according to township attorney Willian Rupp: Unless the council decides to designate a property as historic, it is not so designated, Rupp said.
Councilman Elie Y. Katz said that he opposed designating a home as historical in the face of opposition of the property owner.
"When a property owner requests designation it is an honor to the home. But when property owner contests it and feels it would be a burden I cannot support designation," Katz said.
Councilman Adam Gussen noted that none of the properties was of significant historical importance. The Larch Avenue house, he said is "probably the outstanding most unattractive home in Teaneck."
"It is an architectural quirk, an oddity," Gussen added. "To say that a house is old and interesting is not enough to burden the owner with historical designation."
In an interview, HPC Chairman Eugene Coleman said that these are the first recommendation that a council has failed to approve in his eight years on the commission.
Rather than an oddity, the Larch Avenue house represents the International Style or Art Moderne, a popular 20th century architectural style, said Coleman, a professional architect.
"The house has a serious design and is still a beautiful product," he said.
Built in 1941 by Walter Jones, a mechanical engineer, the house is considered by many architectural historians to be one of the best examples of Art Moderne architecture in the country, Coleman said. A swimming pool located atop the garage was used during World War II to test PT boats manufactured by Jones's Edgewater company.
The Pomander Walk house, Coleman said, is representative of the Arts and Crafts style, a late 19th century and early 20th century design movement that influenced several industries, including architecture, printing, furniture and clothing.
"It arose as a protest against the Industrial Revolution where everything was becoming streamlined," Coleman explained. "In architecture, the movement went back to heavy wood frames, exposed structures and simplistic designs, yet with a lot of detailing but without the florid Victorian style."
But Claudia Tindall, owner of the house, said she was relieved by the council's decision. Tindall said she bought the house in 1991 because of its beaurty and has taken good care of it.
The house, today, is asymmetrical with a north wing. Tindall said that the previous owner added the wing where a garage was located.
The Standish Road house is a perfect example of the International style, Coleman said. It was featured in architecture journals at the time of its construction in 1938, Coleman said.
Coleman acknowledged that the three houses were chosen mainly for their architectural rather than historical importance. He said that the commission did not believe that the historic designation would create economic hardship to the owners. The commission has been generous in allowing property owners to change exteriors, as long as the changes are tastefuly done, he said.
"These houses may not have monumental historical significance, but they are a way to for us to look back and see how the town developed," he said.
In years past, Coleman said that the commission had considered creating a Standish Road and Winthrop Road historic district but drew back in the face of opposition from homeowners.
Believing a similar protest might occur, the commission never sought historic designation for the Warner Historic District at Cedar Lane near River Road and extending north to inlcude parts of Sunset and Beverly roads and Catalpa Avenue. Designed in the 1930s by Teaneck architect Fred Warner, the district was one of the first planned developments in the U. S.
However, the commission received the council's approval for a sign identifying the district, which went up three years ago in front of 715 Cedar Lane.
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