Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Stonham Farmhouse

In the late 1800's, Verona was a quiet town, a far cry from the large cities surrounding it. The rural setting was perfect for institutions such as the Newark Boys Home, The Newark Girls Home, and the Essex County Jail Annex. In neighboring Cedar Grove, the Essex County Overbrook Hospiral had just been constructed. But in the heart of the town, all that existed were a few small factories, Everett Field and a handful of homes. Despite this, the Bloomfield Avenue Trolley and Erie Railroad promised to bring prosperity to the blossoming town.

Built on a small hill overlooking Bloomfield Avenue, the quaint little Queen Anne Victorian home was constructed by Arthur Stonham. The location seemed like a good place to raise a family. The Stonhams had already lost two children since traveling to America from the U.K., so they were eager to try again. Before long, the little house needed an addition to accommodate the five new children that they would go on to have.

Things remained relatively unchanged for two decades, but in the 1920's, the Stonham family sold the land to O'Connor family. It was at this time that an important factor came into play; there was a land use restriction imparted on the deed. The construction of the Annin flag factory across the street threatened to start in an industrial boom in the area. With Everett Field right across the street, with a similar land use restriction on the deed, nobody wanted to see the land get overdeveloped and polluted. The restriction expressly forbid the development of commercial real estate on the property. As the property continued to change hands, the land use restriction remained in effect.

As the population of Verona began to grow, and commercial properties began to sprout up all over Bloomfield Avenue, the former Stonham property remained unchanged. That is, until around 2012. A plan came forward which included demolition of the home, the early 1900's era retaining wall, and a majority of the trees on the property. Such development would forever scar what was, until then, a beautiful residential property, as well as remove the buffer between the commercial properties on Bloomfield avenue and the residential neighborhood that surrounded Everett Field.

For the next few years, the developer would try several times to get approval, each time being shot down by the overwhelming opposition of local residents. The developer, a bitter man named Dennis Handel, began to grow irate that the town wasn't allowing him to break the land use restriction and ruin an otherwise quiet neighborhood. Though one might argue that he should have done a little bit of research into the property before purchasing it, Handel didn't feel that way. After his third attempt was rejected, he told local reporter Virginia Citrano "Take a walk asshole. Write that in your biased report." He threatened to sue the town, despite the fact that he never did his due diligence, which is ultimately his problem.

Things looked bleak for the irate developer. Unfortunately, in 2015, Verona's planning board approved the plan, despite the consistent backlash from the long time tax paying residents of the area. Not one to be pleased, Handel filed several OPRA lawsuits against council members who opposed his developments, as well as one local resident who isn't even on any board that would require OPRA complacency. A clear demonstration of charactor, Handel himself was being sued by his former lawyer for non-payment. However, the dollar signs blinded the town council, just as they have countless times before.

As the days go by, the residents of the area hold their breath, hoping a complaint they filed stops the development that will ultimately destroy the quant neighborhood they love. It won't be the developers conscious though. So for now, we wait.


  1. Looks very familiar abandoned. I have seen that stairway with the hanging lantern looking light before. :)

  2. It's over the bitter developer asshole won. Verona another town's council and politicians that can be bought...sad

  3. It's over the bitter developer asshole won. Verona another town's council and politicians that can be bought...sad