The historic Jersey Shore Hotel has been demolished to make way for luxury townhomes

Local landmark or eyesore?

For the past five years, the White House in Belmar has been both things — until a demolition crew arrived this week to demolish the old hotel at the corner of Ocean and Second streets.

It took less than a day for Greg Lertch Demolition’s excavator to excavate 34 rooms made of wood, wire and brick, as the curtain came down on the grand, wrap-around balcony hotel.

One real estate developer, Down to Earth Construction, recently won court approval to build six luxury homes, ending a four-year court battle that left the White House empty and boarded up.

“This is one of the last grand old houses,” said Ricky Stein, a trustee of the Belmar Historical Society. “Everyone who visited Belmar knew that house on Ocean Ave. It’s heartbreaking to see this happen.”

Located just off Shark River Inlet, the White House was once a private Victorian-era mansion that opened as a hotel in 1931. For more than 80 years, the White House has opened its doors to summer vacationers and weekend warriors who stay there. – Around the balcony, cool breeze and ocean view.

Visitors came from near and far, and from all walks of life. The famous Fort Lee psychologist, Dr. Joyce Brothers, was a frequent guest, the local newspaper Coast Star reported. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards also stopped in a limousine one day around 2005 to pick up his nephew and take him to dinner, the newspaper reported.

“This building has a long and interesting history,” said Patricia O’Keefe, who was working at the Belmar Museum when the excavation crew arrived. Didn’t watch.

“It’s a little sad to see these historic buildings disappear,” she said. Although it was familiar to many, the building was not a designated landmark and was not protected.

White House

The White House at Belmar in 2016. The Jersey Shore vacation spot was demolished to make way for six townhomes.Courtesy of Belmar Historical Society

Belmar once had several hotels, but most of those buildings have been demolished and replaced with private residences. Oceanfront real estate is so valuable that it is more profitable to sell a building for demolition than to continue repairing it.

“You have to have a lot of money to build on Ocean Avenue,” Stein said. He added that the only hotel remaining on Ocean Avenue is the Mayfair Hotel at the corner of 10th Avenue.

White House owner Tom Wagner sold the building after the Belmar zoning board approved a set of variances to allow construction of six luxury homes. This was followed by a lawsuit filed by two neighboring property owners, Joseph Beaulieu and Rita Beaulieu, and Joel Russell, who challenged the zoning board’s approval process.

Demolish the White House

The White House Hotel has been in operation at the corner of Ocean and Second Streets in Belmar for nearly 100 years.Richard Quinn/NJ Advance Media for NJ.Com

The White House remained closed for five summers while the lawsuit crawled through the courts, an omnipresent eyesore at Belmar Inlet, just south of the Shark River Bridge. Finally, last month, an appeals court upheld the original lower court ruling that allowed the project to move forward, giving Down to Earth Construction the green light to demolish the White House.

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Richard Quinn can be reached at rcowen@njadvancemedia.com.

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