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Demolition of Battersea Road Estate Makes Room for Six New Lots

Unable to find a buyer, the owner of the former DuBois estate is subdividing an acre of land in the Gardens.

Wrecking crews finished hauling away the remnants of the DuBois estate on Battersea Road on Tuesday.

All that remains are memories for owner Don DuBois, an acre of land in the heart of the exclusive Gardens section of Ocean City and six for-sale signs.

The parcel that housed the estate—uncommonly large for an island crammed with $12.9 billion worth of real estate—is being marketed as six separate lots, each listing for $450,000, by Cheryl Huber of Prudential Fox & Roach.

For DuBois, 67, the demolition marks the end of an era that started when his grandparents, Josiah and Amelia DuBois, built the estate in 1924.

DuBois said his grandfather owned three lumber yards (including one that became Ocean City's Shoemaker Lumber) and a small ice-cream store on Battersea Road. Josiah DuBois lived in Woodbury and summered at the Ocean City estate with his wife and nine children.

The summer home had long hallways, two staircases, eight bedrooms, four bathrooms and servants' quarters above a garage.

DuBois said his grandmother helped design the house, and his grandfather built it. He also said his grandfather lost everything, including the house, during the Depression. The bank took possession for two years.

Josiah DuBois and his two brothers bought the house back on a handshake. They agreed to pay the bank $500 per year until a $17,000 note was satisfied. The brothers paid off the note in less than two years, and Josiah ultimately bought out his two brothers, Don DuBois said.

He said his side of the family has owned the property since 1972.

"There were great times, great parties, plenty of room for your friends," DuBois said. "I stayed there year-round for a number of years."

A retired auto repair shop owner, DuBois now lives in the Seaville section of Upper Township. His father and mother, Herbert and Elizabeth, were the most recent residents of the estate. Herbert died in 2007 and Elizabeth in 2010.

That left Don and his sister paying about $20,000 per year in property taxes and the expenses of maintaining the house. His sister died in March.

"It became prohibitive," DuBois said.

The property has been for sale for almost three years, but with a list price of about $2.7 million and a house in need of substantial renovation, there was no interest in purchasing the property as a whole, DuBois said.

He said the property's former agent, French Real Estate, approached the state Green Acres program in an effort to preserve the lot as open space.

"But the administration at the time (Mayor Sal Perillo's) wanted no part of it," DuBois said.

The property owner received approval for a six-lot subdivision last year.

Even still, DuBois said he held out hope that a buyer for the entire property would  come along.

"We kept everything open until the last minute," DuBois said. "We waited literally until the last possible moment to find a buyer. And we couldn't find any interest.

"It's a shame, because if I had my druthers, I would have rather have kept the house. To tear the house down on my watch is not a happy moment for me. I'm extremely sad to see it go."

DuBois said he's been told by neighbors that they enjoyed playing football in the yard or riding sleds down the terraces on the lawn.

"Everybody had fond memories of the house," DuBois said.

Cheryl Huber said there's still a possibility that a single buyer could purchase all six lots (which together would equal the former sale price for the estate as a whole). Each of the lots for sale at 647 Battersea Rd. is approximately 42-by-100 feet.

Gary Trucano May 18, 2011 at 01:11 PM
How pathetic has Ocean City become? Demolishing this grand old estate is bad enough, but then to read that six lots will be carved out of an acre of ground. I don't see how that is even legal. I'm sure this will make the realators, contractors, and nouveau riche shoobies happy, but as a long time year round resident, it sickens me. Ocean City has become but a shell of its' former self. Gary Trucano
gary prettyman May 18, 2011 at 01:28 PM
It's a sad day for sure. I live down the street and could see the house. It's amazing to me that the City can spend $2.5 million for a new parking lot but somehow can let history slip away. Gary
christine bauder May 18, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Gary - I agree with you but you should know that the word is REALTORS and pronounced without an A between L and T and they had nothing to do with this issue. The owner could not bear the costs of upkeep anymore and waited for the City to intercede but I think Mayor Perillo nixed the first deal and the second chance would have been next year. But it is pathetic that Ocean City Governence did not intercede to keep this piece of land as a park under green acres or an historical site. I am also a full time resident that lives just down the street and I am crushed by the loss of this beautiful property. Zoning should note that there will have to be a review of the streets once this area has been built up with 12 new condos as parking will be a nightmare. Ocean Road going East and Pinnacle going West or street parking restrictions. I watched as the age old trees were being taken out of the ground and the birds were panick stricken as there nesting sites were going down with them. These kinds of trees are generational trees for the birds - whole flocks livining in them generation after generation. I guess there is not room for anything when cities decide that taxes are more important than asthetics. Such a shame.
Frank Robey May 18, 2011 at 02:41 PM
My Mom used to manage the Cumberland Farms that was across the street from this house so I used to walk/bike past it all the time...I think we played football on the lawn a few times as well. What a great looking house it was, so much different than the junk they build today. Very sorry to see it demolished. Frank Robey
Gary Trucano May 18, 2011 at 02:52 PM
I apologize for the spelling error, I was concentrating on spelling nouveau correctly (haha). Anyway, it's nice to know other people share my sentiments.
christine bauder May 18, 2011 at 04:05 PM
No problem. I had a few of my own.
Jean Bell May 18, 2011 at 04:34 PM
My son and I saw a large dump truck travelling down Bay Road yesterday; his comment was "Another demolition". Neither of us had any idea it was the Dubois property until today. We were both filled w/ nostalgia and regret; we lived around the corner, on Ocean Road, in the early 70's, and it was a given in our existence. Always beautifully groomed, outdoors, I wondered, at the time, why a fence wasn't built around it to keep the neighborhood children off the premises. But, there were no complaints, and kids played w/ abandon on the grounds, and we walked, admirably, adjacent to the green lawns and the splendor that WAS Ocean City. Now, it's gone; I mourn the loss as well as that of the trees, shrubbery, that I have lost in the demolition that surrounds my own little cottage on Simpson Road.
Florence Moyer May 18, 2011 at 10:29 PM
"He said the property's former agent, French Real Estate, approached the state Green Acres program in an effort to preserve the lot as open space. "But the administration at the time (Mayor Sal Perillo's) wanted no part of it," DuBois said." In the opinion of this life-long summer resident (does that make me a shoobie?) whose heart is breaking over the loss of yet another piece of natural and architectural beauty, the quote above about sums it all up. Makes it all the more amazing that the Life Saving Station was actually saved, thank goodness. Wait 'til the economy picks up and Ocean City becomes Demo City again. Very, very sad.
Dubert May 19, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Very, very sad indeed
C M Sagady May 19, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Another example of short sighted politicians allowing the character of Ocean City to be hauled away one dumptruck load at a time. Buildings like this can NEVER be replaced. Just plain stupid.
Mike May 22, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Well said Gary! You and I, both have the same view on things here in OC. I would like to share what I took the time to write Ocean City's Mayor and Council members. NOT ONE RESPONSE BACK. Who do they work for again? Yes, I am blunt. I fight for what I believe. One thing for sure is, I am territorial when it comes to my stomping grounds, here in OC. What we need is people that are not interested in making money. Enough we all this crap catered towards tourists. Think about preserving land. Enough of these ugly two, three stories duplexes made out of vinyl and plastic. We as locals should have privileges such as not paying Cape May County tolls for one. Don't even get me started on the bridges. I hope to bring my ideas to the table and possibly run for council. I am the voice of a born and breed OC ambassador. I never had an interest in politics till recently when I witnessed this area's natural environment and land being ruined. What could have happened with this Battersea property is the city could have bought it and applied for funds with Green Acre later. Realty companies could have bought and invested in it.. Its a shady money hungry concept. Worst of all, nobody has purchased any lot. What makes taring it down more marketable. Maybe I am not aware, but who owns it now? Does Don not have to pay property taxes any longer? What is the result of this? I am going to attach the letter, but since this blog limits the amount of characters, I will include it in series..
Mike May 22, 2011 at 07:43 PM
"To Whom It May Concern: Ocean City is beautiful place with a strong history of valuable real estate development. With that come sacrifices of destroying cultural things that make Ocean City for what it is. It is unfortunate the North Jersey influence is slowly creeping down to the rural south. The demolition of the NJ Parkway trees is the catalyst of my concern to make a difference. At the current rate of real estate development, there will be nothing but vinyl sided duplexes on every block. I am not a retired person or a tree hugging hippie, but rather young and full of life. I want to be the voice of our next generation \for the people of Ocean City. The reason I am contacting you is I am trying to fight the plans of demolition on Ocean City’s historic properties. Although I am not Jewish decent, the DuBois estate is the spirit of the fight they had to go through back in the early days. It is to my understanding the city could look into purchasing with the help of the Green Acres funding. The Garden’s area is well known for its beautiful unique homes. I want to stop Don Dubois’s property on 647 Battersea from being just another ‘tare-down’ with an ugly vacant lot of dirt. I understand people have ventured through the process of saving it, but I do believe there are other avenues to help. While doing some quick research, it was brought to my attention of the concern of it being broken into. Growing up in the area for the past 30 years....cont'd
Mike May 22, 2011 at 07:45 PM
2nd part cont'd.......I can attest there is little chance of any vandalism. I would actually volunteer my time to care take the property. I have never announced myself as being a ‘voice’ until I just have had enough seeing my environment being destroyed, both land and sea. “And for what?” So someone can make some extra money? After I witnessed the destruction of all the trees on the NJ Parkway. I wanted to join the fight to protect the environment, which is what I aim to strive doing. My main concern will be environmental protection but this on particular case at hand is hitting home with me. The DuBois estate, including other properties in the area, are places I grew up playing sports on with my friends. Taking away these neighborhood lawns will be devoting on the children to play in the streets. It may sound silly to some, but these are where children like to play. At the moment, there is demolition equipment planning to destroy the beautiful unique DuBois property. I guess the eight Prudential “For Sale” signs were not enough already to try splitting up the lot. The large green grass yard is a favorite for the local children to roll around and play on. The home sits high on its own little empire, which is where it should stay. It is well taken care of that many people in the area do not want to see it go, including myself. I am afraid of more vacation homes being built in the Gardens area.....cont'd
Mike May 22, 2011 at 07:46 PM
3rd part cont'd... This area is a refuge for residents to life away from the bed and breakfasts, inns, and motels. I have seen local blocks ruined with building vacation homes on. How can I help? What can I do to keep this from being another vacant dirt lot for sale? Regards, Michael
Jan bye July 13, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Is it too late for the city to buy the land- and make it one parcel again, under the Green Acres Program? What a lovely park it could be! Or is it already relegated to be part of "beige city" (what I think of when I see one after the other newly constructed condo houses.)

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