A similar story. Click HERE to check out the sad story of Douglass House, built in 1720, now also facing demolition.



West Cape Starts
History Task Force


WEST CAPE MAY — Borough commission may have taken the first step to create an historic preservation commission (HPC) by starting a community history task force but an upcoming election of all three commission seats could delay or derail its crea-tion.

At a March 31 commission work session, Commissioner Pamela Kaithern offered a plan for a community history task force com-prised of five members, one person designated by each commis-sioner, and two members recommended by the borough’s History Committee.

The task force will have the job of investigating the positive and negative aspects of accepting an official historic district for West Cape May.

Additionally, they will investigate the types of historic pres-ervation commissions available to municipalities and report di-rectly to the borough commissioners.

Kaithern said many in West Cape were concerned that standards are not in place to help support historic buildings. She and Mayor Robert Jackson (who is not seeking reelection) agree the issue must move forward before key structures are lost forever.

The recent demolition of the historic Moffitt House, circa 1770, has alarmed residents to the need historic preservation in the borough.

Kaithern said she did not want to wait until after the election to start the task force, which would delay any action for two months. She said the new governing body could move forward quickly with information provided by the history task force.

“I don’t think we can ask them to put together an HPC this min-ute,” she said. “I think we have to put some logical sequence to it. Get the information together and we review it as a commu-nity.”

While Kaithern said her ticket of Dick Rigby and Peter Burke support an historic preservation commission, if other candidates are elected, the outcome of a commission vote would be unknown, she said.

Currently she and Jackson both support an HPC. Their two votes could pass an ordinance to start a commission.

Jackson told the Herald he gave History Committee Chairperson Marie Iaconangelo a packet of sample HPC enabling ordinances re-searched by Preservationist Gwen Goodwin.

“What I want them to do is quickly look over the ordinances to see if there is an HPC we could quickly put in place but also tweak at a later date,” said Jackson.

He said he favored a less restrictive type of HPC that could be strengthened in the future if the need arises.

Goodwin called for a special meeting of borough commission to introduce an ordinance to create an HPC with passage before a new administration takes office.

“It is sure to pass now. We have two commissioners willing to preserve West Cape May’s history,” she said. “Action needs to be taken before the election, it’s an injustice to the community.

Goodwin, who found a party to move the Moffitt House prior to its demolition, is taking names on a petition asking commission-ers to create an HPC at the Web site: savemoffit-thouse.netfirms.com.

Borough commission was expected to pass an ordinance last night creating a R-5 zone requiring a minimum lot size of 35,000 square-feet for properties without municipal sewer service. The ordinance brings West Cape May’s zoning in agreement with the State 208 Plan for sewer service.

Kaithern said an area on Sixth Avenue being considered for de-velopment in the R-5 zone, still has the potential to hold 160 homes.

Commissioners asked Borough Solicitor David Stefankiewicz to clarify language in the ordinance to remove two commercial lots from the R-5 zone.

Long-time resident Clem Reeves said farming on his five-acre property was not viable.

“Farming per se around here is out of business, I’ve tried eve-rything,” he said. “There is nothing I can do to break even.”

“What am I going to put out there?” Reeves asked. “A cat farm?”

Moffitt House Demolished

March 18, 2005

We unfortunately have to report that Moffitt House has been demolished, as of March 18, 2005. We will maintain the material below, documenting the efforts to find a taker and save this monument that has endured from before the United States had won its independence from the British. Actually, we did find a taker for the house and knowing that Mr. Bailey, the owner had reneged on his offer, choosing instead to demolish this house even though he would have to pay for its demolishment, rather than have it removed from his property for free. Below the following article, which will appear in the Cape May Herald, we reprint the contents of our old web page, documenting our efforts to Save Moffitt House.

Click on any photograph to see enlargement.

Jaws of Demolition

Claim Historic

Moffitt House

by Jack Fichter

WEST CAPE MAY - The historic Moffitt House at 715 Broadway, built six years before the birth of America in 1776, was demolished by its owner March 15 despite preparations made to move the house to a nearby property. Traffic slowed and onlookers gathered on the sidewalk watching in disbeli ef as a large backhoe with a claw from Garden State Dredging chewed up the house like a hungry dinosaur.

Two weeks ago, Preservationist Gwen Goodwin contacted Moffitt House owner Donald Bailey of LTB Properties L.L.C. of Wallingford Pa, requesting time to allow her to find someone interested in moving the house to another lot.

Goodwin said Bailey gave her two-weeks to find an interested party to take the house, which she accomplished in nine days. She said Bailey later reneged on the agreement after everything was in place to move the house four blocks to a new site.

"I think this is a malicious demolition," said Goodwin. "It's heartbreaking."

Joy Bennett Engelbert, who owns a lot at 145 York Avenue, next to her historic home in West Cape May, contacted Goodwin and immediately began making plans to move the house after reading a story in the Herald.

Englebert said she received bids from house movers, a tree service, utility companies and from a contractor to build a new foundation on her property for the Moffitt House.

"We had everything set to go," said Englebert. "We could have had this house on this lot in three more weeks."

All went awry when Bailey refused to return phone calls from Goodwin and Englebert.

"I left him a message letting him know there were people very interested in moving the house, with the financial means to do it, with property already available," said Goodwin.

She called it a win-win situation for all parties since Bailey would have preserved an historic home and not have to pay the cost of demolition. In a phone call last week, Bailey hung up on Goodwin after saying he did not want to talk about it, she said.

Goodwin enlisted the help of attorney Louis Dwyer, know for his work with planning and zoning boards, to assist in completing an agreement to move the Moffitt House. Bailey also did not return calls from Dwyer, according to Englebert.

Bailey did not return calls to the Herald.

Englebert is the granddaughter of former West Cape May Mayor Frank Lee Bennett and has traced her heritage to the Whilldin Family, Mayflower descendants and former owners of the Moffitt House.

"It's very sad to see this happen, that someone could come in and do this, without wanting to preserve it," she said.

"We are just devastated," said Englebert's daughter Heather Wertly. "We had everything in place by last Monday. All he (Bailey) would have had to do is return my mother's lawyers' phone calls."

Wertly said she and her mother were very excited about restoring the Moffitt House including refinishing the floors. She said she had even researched paint colors from 1776 for the restoration process.

Wertly said contractors were willing to put moving the Moffitt House ahead of other projects.

Engineers from Comcast, Conectiv and Verizon were ready to remove overhead wires to allow the house to be trucked four blocks to an empty lot.

West Cape May Construction Official Mary Rothwell said a demolition permit for the Moffitt House was issued March 9. The borough has no regulations against tearing down historic properties. (See related story)

"Here we are looki ng at a building that was in existence when Jefferson and Adams and our founding fathers were arguing for the Declaration of Independence and it was torn down in a half hour," said Gary Novak, chairman of West Cape May's Environmental Commission and a mem ber of the borough's Planning Board.

West Cape May History Committee Chairperson Marie Iacanangello called the demolition of the Moffitt House "a wake up call to the community." She said West Cape Commission needed to revive landmark status from the National Park Service, which was conveyed to portions of the borough when Cape May City received its landmark status years ago.

"The people who bought it (Moffitt House) want to make money and get out," she said. "They don't care about our town."

Goodwin said she was angered that Bailey did not honor his word after she had informed him step by step of preparations to move the house but instead made the decision to demolish the house. She said she had two additional parties interes ted in moving the house

Goodwin said one couple was willing to spend over $300,000 to purchase a lot for the Moffitt House.

"This property may have been one of the oldest properties on Broadway," said Goodwin. "He took the best we had and smashed it this morning."

Borough Commissioner Pamela Kaithern said no historic elements of the house were salvaged before demolition such as doors, fireplace mantles and oak floors.

"Everything is destroyed like it has no significance," she said.

"It makes me sick," commented Ursula Friedrich, owner of Bridgetown Antiques, a West Cape May business a block away from the Moffitt House.

Help Save Moffitt House!
Contact Gwen Goodwin at 609-972-1961 or email
GWE2000@aol.com . Also, you can tell local officials that this structure, so rich in remembrance, needs the town to help rescue it. West Cape May Mayor Bob Jackson, Commissioner Pamela Kaithern and Commissioner Kevin Lare are waiting to hear from you at 609-884-1005 or fax a letter to 609-898-0888.


WEST CAPE MAY - The historic Moffitt House needs a new home. Do you have a vacant lot and a heart for history? This wonderful Colonial era home could be yours for the cost of moving it to your property.

The need to move the house is immediate or the structure will be lost. The Moffitt House, built around 1770, is facing demolition because the Borough of West Cape May has no regulations covering the destruction of historic homes. The Moffitt house, at 715 Broadway, was operated as a bed and breakfast until three years ago and a private residence until last year.

The Moffitt House was sold by Andrew Danko and Susan Repko to LTB Properties L.L.C, of Wallingford, Pa. last November for $550,000, according to county records. LTB Properties plans to demolish the house and built two new homes on the site.

Donald Bailey Jr. of LTB Properties told Preservationist Gwen Goodwin he would give her two weeks to find someone interested in having the house moved to his or her property before he demolishes the Moffitt House

Goodwin sent New York firefighters to the Moffitt House for free vacations after Sept. 11 World Trade Center Disaster under her Breath of Fresh Air program. She sent more than 400 firefighters to Cape May for free bed and breakfast stays.

Peter McCabe, who sold the Moffitt House in 2000, said he believed builder James Johnson built it in 1770.

The house was built without nails using Mortise and Tenon joints where one beam is milled into the end of another. The house has some of its original wood floors.

One owner of the land may have been Mayflower descendent Joseph Whildin, said McCabe.

The home features fireplaces in many rooms and wide plank floors. Oak beams are visible in the attic.

The home appears structurally sound. Holes were punched in the roof when asbestos shingles were removed but most of the home's historical features are intact.

Time is of the essence. Contact Gwen Goodwin at 609-972-1961 or email

Also, see Gwen Goodwin's other projects (Click

Thank you for being visitor number: