BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Evergreen, the Charles Shultz home, will be listed for sale this Friday, according to Montclair History Center officials who are stewards of the century-old home at 30 North Mountain Ave. The asking price is $1.449 million.
In July, the group announced they could no longer financially keep up with the three-story, 21-room home it has owned since 1997.
The home is listed with Halstead, with Chris Lane as the realtor.
In 1997, the last surviving Shultz heir, Molly Shultz, bequeathed the home, and its contents, to what was then the Montclair Historical Society. Molly was an active member of the Society and lived in the home until her death.
Completed in 1896 for Charles S. Shultz, president of the Hoboken Bank for Savings, the house stands as a time capsule. The Queen Anne-style home, surrounded by evergreen trees and with views of New York City, still contains its original side-by-side gas and electric light fixtures. The home still holds its eclectic furnishings purchased by Charles Shultz on trips abroad, in addition to a one-of-kind turn-of-the-century library complete with microscopes and first-edition books, a carpentry and electrical shop that looks something out of Victorian Sci-fi movie, and a kitchen that has never been modernized with the exception of the “new” stove the Shultz women purchased in the 1920s.
Rumors concerning a developer converting the property into a senior home, or the home being taken over by Essex County, could not be confirmed by Jane M. Eliasof, executive director of the MHC. But, she said, the group is now preparing the home to be put on the market.
“We had a bunch of different people come in with ideas, but nothing went far enough down the line. We would be further if we weren’t trying to preserve the building and the space in front of it,” said Eliasof, about companies that were interested in the land. “We dismissed them from the onset.”
MHC officials have spoken to regional and national preservation organizations, non-profit organizations, real estate and design professionals, officials on the local, county and state levels, universities, surviving relatives of Molly Shultz, the National Park Service, and the Smithsonian.
“We have worked hard to find a solution that allows us to maintain a museum space on the property, but our hopes for that scenario have dimmed,” said president Elizabeth D. Hynes.
Eliasof. said the group will meet with New Jersey Historic Trust to work on creating an easement, or restriction, on the house and the property. The house has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979 and is listed as a local historic landmark. Being a local landmark carries more weight in preservation, said Eliasof.
Last year, the town created a demolition-review process for all homes designated as historic by federal, state or local bodies, or one that falls within a historic or potentially historic district. The ordinance details the jurisdiction of the planning and zoning boards as regulating what can be built on property, not whether a structure can be demolished. The Municipal Land Use Law gives the HPC approval power concerning historic preservation, pertaining to aspects not determined as land use, and therefore will oversee demo permits.
Eliasof said that the easement would give more protection to the property and its structures.
“At this point, although the home wouldn’t be open to the public, reverting it to a single-family home would ensure it being preserved,” she said about the sale. “We owe it to the house.”
SHULTZ HOUSE COSTS
The house’s annual operating costs average $26,000, including operating funds for basic maintenance such as snow removal and landscaping. In the last five years, maintenance and emergency repair costs of water and oil tanks, gas lines, furnace and sidewalk replacement have totaled more than $175,000.
And in the last three years, maintenance and emergency repairs at the Shultz property have equaled approximately 25 to 40 percent of the MHC’s total annual operating budget of approximately $200,000, according to Eliasof.
In 1999, it was estimated that another $1 million would be needed to restore the house completely. An in-depth feasibility study commissioned by the MHC in 2015 concluded that maintaining two campuses and six historic buildings, three of which are interpreted as historic museums, was not sustainable on the nonprofit’s operating budget.
The Shultz house also requires at least $1.5 million in emergency funding for roof repair/replacement, porch stabilization, and upgraded electric and plumbing. The plumbing has remained turned off since 2014 due to leaks, said Eliasof. Although the house has four bathrooms, the only working one is in the carriage house.
County officials said they have received two emails requesting the county consider acquiring the property.
“It would be premature to say that Essex County is interested at this time because we have not had any internal discussions,” said Anthony Puglisi, the county’s Director of Communications.
In 1998, Essex County established a county Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, funded through the collection of property taxes at a rate of 15 cents per $100 of property valuation for all county property owners. The fund can be used to acquire, develop and preserve recreational space and historic properties.
Two examples of properties purchased and preserved by the county, using a combination of grants from the NJ Green Acres program and the Recreation and Open Space Program, include the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Montclair, and Kip’s Castle in Verona.
“Those are two ‘historic homes’ acquisitions,” Puglisi said. “Over the past 18 years, the county has acquired a total of about 500 acres which has been added to the Essex County Parks System, of which those properties are two.”
In the meantime, Eliasof said the MHC has begun selling some of the items also bequeathed to them. Eliasof would not say what had been sold or for how much, only that about 15 to 20 items were sold through an auction house.
The staff is currently going through the home’s items, many of which have not been touched in more than a century. Most of the families’ belongings — books, furniture, journals, notes — are where the family left them. A note in the breadbox reads that the person who borrowed coffee filters should replace them; a microscope with a slide waits to be viewed in the library; a saw sits next to a piece of wood in the woodworking shop; family photos are piled on a night stand.
“We found boxes in the attic with items wrapped in newspapers from 1892 apparently placed there after Shultz’s move, but not touched since. And there’s still slivers of soap and half-empty Vaseline jars,” said Eliasof.
The center plans on saving photos, journals and anything that portrays the history of the family. And the remaining heirs have been contracted to go through the items. But other items that pack the house will be acquisitioned.
Molly placed no restrictions or conditions on the MHC’s use or disposition of the house or the contents. Any funds raised on sale of the house contents would be dedicated to maintaining the museum’s collections.
The property also contains a carriage house that remains rented.
“It gives us peace of mind that we have a tenant there watching over the property,” Eliasof said.
The three-season monthly tours the center holds at the Shultz house will cease once the house is on the market.