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April  12

Are You a Good Ranch or a Bad Ranch?

Ranch_house Oh Glen Ridge, we love you, but when you decide to declare a 1956 ranch house historic -- just months after relegating another to the trash heap -- you're just begging to be mocked.

"It looks thoughtfully designed. It is not a tract ranch house," said one preservation commission member, Kathryn Schackner. "Well, I'll chime in," said another, John Way. "It's almost the best that I know of the ranch houses."

And look at that historic landscaping rock in front!

Montclair Homes of Clifton wants to tear down the ranch, undoubtedly to make way for some kind of uber-"Colonial." It produced its own share of  the inanity, including this statement by architect William Brown.

"I can't tell you the last time I did a ranch house," the architect said. "It is not marketable from a standpoint of resale. I mean, you don't see any builders building ranch homes. Nobody in the Northeast wants a ranch home."

Nobody in the whole Northeast! Wow!

Montclair historic preservation consultant and Watercooler overlord Mary Krugman even joined in the fray as a hired hand for Montclair Homes, filing papers arguing that the house at 451 Ridgewood Ave. [purchased in January for $855,000] was "non-contributing" member of the historic district.

Can we be non-contributing too? Does that mean that we don't have to pay property taxes? We have aluminum siding!

April 12, 2005 in Controversy, Scooped by Phil Read, Again | Permalink


If I'm not mistaken (which I very well could be), isn't the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Glen Ridge a ranch style? I have a feeling that even if it is, it would still be included as "historic."

Posted by: gr | Apr 12, 2005 12:00:19 PM

This stuff really gets to me. You know that the developer will now sue - and has a good case because the board let two other ranches get demolished - and the taxpayers will end up footing the legal bills. I say the historic board can pool their own money and buy the ranch back from the developer. Leave my tax money alone!

Posted by: grcanary | Apr 12, 2005 12:21:12 PM

Can anything built in the lifetime of those still living really be "historic"? Unless, you know, it's actually part of history, like houses built by Wright?

What exactly does "historic" mean now, anyway?

Posted by: MiloG | Apr 12, 2005 12:28:00 PM

"Historic Landmark" designation is a process whereby an activist monority of the citizenery comprised of anti-development and anti-growth citizens can exert control over construction in the township while bypassing zonning controls, boards and to some degree due process.

One caveat, the "anti" part of the this particular minority of the citizenry is only "anti" after they have secured all the growth and developemt they need.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 12, 2005 12:36:59 PM

p.s. most of the actual structures designed by Wright will be lucky to last long enought to truly pass into the annals of history. Most of them are to shoddily built to make it.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 12, 2005 12:40:38 PM

ROC is correct on the last post...

I visited the GR Frank LLoyd house on a house tour a few years ago, and my impression was ...flimsy.

I do think some consistency is important when considering remodel projects though.

I like the fact that you can make significant changes inside or in back where it doesnt really show, but the front of the house (I'm talking the old victorians & colonials) remain in period style.

Posted by: Pam | Apr 12, 2005 1:19:22 PM

What ROC describes above sounds very familiar...

"a process whereby an activist monority of the citizenery comprised of [religious] and [pro-life] citizens can exert control over [the government] in the [country] while bypassing [the law], [the courts] and to some degree due process.

We do pick and choose, don't we?

Posted by: State Street Pete | Apr 12, 2005 1:37:13 PM

Well, State, one is actually happening and the other is fantasy. Unless there is some successful re-illegalization of abortion of which I am unfamiliar.

But your odd comparison allows me to be, in 2 ways, "pro-growth".

I am moderately pro-choice: lets have lots of restrictions but not eliminate; and in terms of aborting ugly edifices: lets have lots of restrictions but not pervert what Historical Landmarking is really about.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 12, 2005 1:49:16 PM

Ugly, as is beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Apr 12, 2005 1:54:29 PM

ROC, you've already forgotten the spectacle of the Congress and President passing a law at the behest of the religious right for Terri Schiavo?

Posted by: walleroo | Apr 12, 2005 2:10:08 PM

This makes no sense on the face of it. Who can tell us what petty local politics is really behind silliness?

By the way, I was opposed to letting Plofker build houoses on the Malrboro Inn, but this seems truly an abuse of historic designations.

Posted by: walleroo | Apr 12, 2005 2:12:27 PM

Sorry Walleroo, It was enough work to tie abortion to faulty historical landmarking for the benefit of State Street Pete.

Now I am to fold in end of life issues, living wills and feeding tubes into the same already tortured (as in starved and dehydrated) comparison?

Too tired.

I was willing to go along and cut a little slack for Pete's sake (being as he is a Barista newbie) but you should know better!

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 12, 2005 2:18:36 PM

All right, all right. You're right, I should know better than to wade into the path of somebody else's mudball.

Posted by: walleroo | Apr 12, 2005 2:29:31 PM

to my eye--the house is not attractive and kinda always looked out of place on Ridgewood.

Posted by: S. | Apr 12, 2005 6:39:03 PM

Dear gr,
Would you kindly point out the location of this Frank Lloyd Wright ranch? Is it one of his "Usonian" style ranches? I had heard that there was one of Frank's designs in Glen Ridge but never saw it and would like to. I would think that any representation of this architect's work would be included in the historic register.

Posted by: JTF | Apr 12, 2005 8:50:04 PM

FLR house is @ 63 Chestnut Hill Pl. I belive the owner is (or was) on the HPC.


Posted by: sgr | Apr 12, 2005 9:34:53 PM

If I had the money it is one of the only houses in Glen Ridge that I would actually like to live in, along with the FLW house and one that is on Ridley Court. Not everyone in GR is a cookie cutter center hall colonial wannabe. After our last oil bill this season I wish I had a house where the heat did not rise up the stairs to make the entire first floor a freeze zone. I guess these big houses go with the big SUVs and the big egos of many.

Posted by: julia | Apr 13, 2005 7:56:01 AM

The Frank Lloyd Wright House in GR has radiant heat and is currently being upgraded. Gotta love those warm floors!

Posted by: Bob | Apr 13, 2005 12:00:59 PM

( I had the money it is one of the only houses in Glen Ridge that I would actually like to live in, along with the FLW house and one that is on Ridley Court. Not everyone in GR is a cookie cutter center hall colonial wannabe. After our last oil bill this season I wish I had a house where the heat did not rise up the stairs to make the entire first floor a freeze zone. I guess these big houses go with the big SUVs and the big egos of many.)

ahem... some of us in GR live in cookier cutter victorians, NOT colonials... and some of us only drive MIDSIZE SUVs

have you ever actually gone INSIDE the FLW house? if you are over 5 feet tall its a claustrophic experience... ceilings are barely 8 feet.
but hey, you'd be warm... no doubt.

Posted by: Pam | Apr 13, 2005 2:19:40 PM

Well I like the house in the picture but not for the reason you think. Or more precisely I like the previous owner of the house.

I had oft noted which flags he flew on those poles and if I am not mistaken there was a correlation with daily world events and the choice of flag.

So to whomever it is, I say, good luck with your move, your statements came through loud and clear and will be missed.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 13, 2005 2:34:27 PM

I finally agree with you, ROC!
I also love the appropriate flag changing. Let's allow the HPC to designate this house and require flag duty!

Posted by: GRme | Apr 14, 2005 2:44:39 PM

This is a great discussion, but, at least in Glen Ridge, the point is not entirely the merit of the particular structure but the context in which it appears. There is no historic significance to most of the colonials or victorians or tudors that fill our historic district. What preserves the character of our community is the character of the district. Whether ranch houses are an anomaly to this particular neighborhood should be considered in preserving the district.

Posted by: JER | Apr 15, 2005 9:42:37 AM

Interesting that the new house will follow the footprint of the old house.

Of course, the footprint of a ranch house can be pretty big, but does anyone doubt that if this were in Montclair the developer would request, and be granted, a variance to build it out to the edge of the property line? It's especially noteworthy considering this is a pretty big lot, and one could argue that a (slightly) bigger footprint could easily be accomodated.

Say what you will about Glen Ridge, but they seem to have the McMansion issue under control. Nice gaslamps. No telephone poles. And PSE&G keeps their power steady and won't cut down their trees. Top test scores too. And they wonder why we make fun...

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