A similar story. Click HERE to check out the sad story of Douglass House, built in 1720, now also facing demolition.
SIGN A PETITION TO ESTABLISH A WEST CAPE MAY HISTORICAL
PRESERVATION COMMISSION (MORE THAN THE TASK FORCE NOW
STARTED), WHICH WOULD PROTECT HISTORIC HOMES, HOUSES AND
OTHER STRUCTURES ASSOCIATED WITH REMEMBRANCE OF THE
DISTANT AND PICTURESQUE PAST.
West Cape Starts
History Task Force
By JACK FICHTER
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 boroughs 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 dont 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
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
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
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 Mays history,
she said. Action needs to be taken before the
election, its 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:
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 Mays 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,
Ive 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?
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
any photograph to see enlargement.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
(CLICK ON ANY PHOTOGRAPH TO SEE ENLARGEMENT)
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
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 GWE2000@aol.com
Also, see Gwen Goodwin's other projects (Click HERE).