Just Listed at the Other Jersey Shore: Storybook Victorian in Penns Grove
Right by the Delaware sits this late-1890s gem that has been not only restored but turned into a fantasy palace worthy of a Disney princess.
“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you…”
“Jane Homebuyer, you just won the big Powerball jackpot. What are you going to do next?”
”We’re going to Penns Grove!”
You might be forgiven when you come up to the gate of this dramatically restored Victorian on the Delaware River in Penns Grove for thinking that you made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up at Disney World.
Instead, you’ve arrived at a handsome 1889 Victorian that just got turned into a showcase fantasy castle thanks to meticulous restoration, attention to detail and dramatic lighting.
Lots of dramatic lighting, as the photos you see here should demonstrate.
If you also get the feeling that you just drove onto a stage set, credit noted local restaurant designer Raymond Haldeman for producing the effect.
In his more-than-40-year career, Haldeman has demonstrated that he understands that going out to dine, dance or party is one part substance and one part entertainment, and the bars, nightclubs and restaurants he has designed in both Greater Philadelphia and Miami serve as stage sets for patrons to indulge their own fantasies and become the stars of their own shows.
Haldeman got his start as a society caterer and restaurateur in Philadelphia before heading off to South Beach in search of variety and adventure. After designing and operating several night clubs there, a death in the family brought him back home, and once back home, he shifted gears again.
This time, instead of running places where people enjoy themselves, he decided he would design them. “Nightclubs were over because the Internet killed the nightclub business,” Haldeman says. “I eventually figured out what I wanted to do and what I could do, and I parlayed my 40 years of experience into a career as a restaurant designer, and it took off.”
Chances are you’ve eaten in one of the restaurants he has designed from Center City to the Jersey Shore to the New York area and Long Island. His in-town commissions include The Goat in Rittenhouse Square and The Fairview in Fairmount. In the ’burbs, they include Tonino’s in Malvern and A Taste of India in Doylestown. Some of you may even recall eating at his eponymous Center City restaurant or at Maliwan in Pennsport, both of which he also designed and both of which are now gone.
This Penns Grove Victorian house for sale began as a diversion to take his mind off a personal tragedy. “I didn’t want to do something at the Shore, because I didn’t need all the action,” he says. “So I turned my attention to the Delaware River.”
Penns Grove sits just upstream from the Delaware Memorial Bridge in Salem County. “At one time, it was the caviar capital of the world,” says Haldeman. “The sturgeon swam up the river, and Penns Grove supplied more caviar to Russia than the Russians themselves did.
“It was also a summer resort. The ferries would bring summer visitors from Philadelphia and Wilmington.
“The ship captains of the boats that took the caviar to Russia built big houses along the shore. When this photo was taken in 1910, the owner had built cabins around the house and rented them out.”
The house passed through several different hands after its original owner died, ultimately becoming abandoned sometime in the early 2000s after the lawyers who owned it then stopped renting it out. Haldeman found out about it through a local realtor and came out to Penns Grove to take a look.
“Everybody thought it was a teardown, but when I went inside and saw how solid it was, I bought it. It was a rainy, windy, cold day when I went out to inspect the property, but inside, it was dry as a bone and solid as a rock.”
Haldeman applied his design talents to this place in spades, turning it into a year-round resort for our time. Even though the Delaware River hasn’t yet widened to the point where it’s a bay at Penns Grove, it’s plenty wide here, and this house’s riverside location will give you the same relaxing feeling you get at an actual Jersey Shore house.
Plus you get to wave at the big ships headed to and from the ocean as you relax by the embankment or on the veranda — this house is oriented so that its front porch is at the back, facing the river.
As noted above, lighting plays a big role in giving this house its Wow! factor, in keeping with Haldeman’s design philosophy: “Efficient function and Wow! factor.”
As far as “efficient function” is concerned, this is a house, not a restaurant, so worrying about traffic flow and social distancing weren’t major concerns here. Besides, Haldeman respected this house’s bones too much to want to muck with the layout. The myriad rooms, gables and dormers are part of this house’s charm.
But through his lighting and fixture choices, he did get this old house to speak in a more contemporary idiom.
Modern fixtures in several of the rooms and pastel backlighting in the kitchen give this house a young, sophisticated flair.
But while he kept the color palette neutral on the inside, the better for you to add your own colorful touches to it, he painted the outside a lovely aquamarine and lit it so that it shines at night.
Columns along the Delaware seawall add a classical touch to the grounds as well.
If you have some of the entertainer in you, this house was made for you: there’s room aplenty for dining and conversation inside on the main floor, and between the wraparound veranda and the one-acre-plus lot with its 133-foot-long seawall, there’s also room aplenty for socially distant entertaining as well. Plus this place has room for guests: attached to the house is a two-bed, one-bath apartment with its own kitchen. You can use it as a guest suite, book it as an Airbnb, or rent it out to a tenant.
If you’re looking for a place with all the relaxing qualities of a Jersey Shore house, this Penns Grove Victorian house for sale has them, and you don’t have to fight Shore traffic to get to it: it’s just off Exit 4 of I-295. Something else it also lacks: a hefty Jersey Shore price tag.
THE FINE PRINT
BEDS: 6 (4 in main house, 2 in accessory apartment)
BATHS: 3 (2 in main house, 1 in accessory apartment)
SQUARE FEET: Main house, 3,074; 4,000+ with accessory apartment
SALE PRICE: $739,000
OTHER STUFF: All of this house’s systems are brand new, and it comes with a 3-car detached garage.
80 Delaware Ave., Penns Grove, N.J. 08069 [Robert Moussally | American Dream Realty of South Jersey]