NJ Hopes to Save Life Saving Station
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | July 9, 2008
This summer could be the last for a former lifesaving station built in 1885 in Ocean City, N.J.
In late May, the building's owner, Pansini Custom Design, applied for an emergency demolition permit. But the state denied the permit, and a judge granted a stay of demolition for the former station, converted to a four-bedroom house in the 1930s.
The station is safe for now, since Ocean City prohibits demolitions during the summer tourist season, giving advocates for the site time to strategize.
"Just because the summer ends and the demolition moratorium may end doesn't mean that it's over," says Charlie London, president of the Saving Our Station Coalition, a 10-year-old nonprofit. "There's still time for people to donate. We may be able to acquire it ourselves and open it up to the public [as a museum or events facility]."
Built by the predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard—the U.S. Lifesaving Service—the station has been empty since the late 1990s, when developers Pansini and Roger Parkin bought it for $730,000, alarming preservation groups.
In 1999 Preservation New Jersey placed the lifesaving station on its "most endangered" list.
"Ocean City is a place hard-hit by teardowns, with New Jersey ranking top in the country, according to our stats," says Adrian Fine, director of the Northeast Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which provided advice to the city and coalition. "If it weren't for this longtime effort to save the Life Saving Station, this property would have gone the way of hundreds of others in Ocean City."
The owners will be free to raze the station 48 hours after an appeals court decision regarding its sales price, probably sometime this fall. London's coalition and the city of Ocean City appealed the pricetag of $1,072,500 set last December by Superior Court Judge Joseph Visalli.
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