On the same day that the Atwood-Blauvelt Mansion in Oradell was named to the Preservation New Jersey 10 Most Endangered Historic Places, local and state politicians along with community members descended upon the building to hear about its lengthy history and unknown future.
The mansion and its sprawling front lawn were created when the 80-acre property was purchased by Kimball Chase Atwood in 1896. It later changed changed hands when it went to Hiram Blauvelt in 1921 and after several pieces of the initial 80-acres being sold off, the current 4-acre property is owned by the Wells family since 1979.
Raymond and Betty Wells began the process of restoring the mansion and their son Jeff and his wife Bonnie continued the project. But soon the Wells family will be leaving the Mansion as the building is under foreclosure proceedings and the has been bought by CareOne.
"It's such a shame," District 39 Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk said. "It's a beautiful structure, very distinctive inside and outside from just a different time period that reminds us of an elegance from long ago. It something doesn't happen we won't have this for future generations. We need to appreciate our history. Between this and the museum, they both make a mark on our community."
The mansion is valued at $3.5 million but efforts to raise funding to protect the historic building have stalled following the borough's receipt of $1 million in a matching Open Space Trust Fund grant.
"Four million to save and turn into something, somebody should step up to the plate," New Milford Mayor Ann Subrizi said. "I wish this was my project to save."
On a local level, Paul and JoAnn Young of Oradell have started the Bluefields Foundation as a way to save the mansion. Both the Young's and Jim Bellis Sr. of the Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation have previously met with representatives from CareOne to see if a compromise could be made.
The Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation runs the nearby Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in the former mansion's carriage house and features a variety of wildlife art exhibits. The museum property while next to the Mansion is actually on a separate lot.