Beach Haven’s Historic Beck Farmhouse to Be Partially Preserved

Oct 11, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson The Beck Farm’s main house, with the porch that will be demolished and rebuilt after moving.

The heirs and owners of the historic Beck Farm in Beach Haven have come to an agreement with the town that will partially preserve the oldest portion of the home, built in 1875 by the Sherborne family, while demolishing later additions.

Local builder and developer Mark Davies said the town was happy with this compromise when it was proposed at an Aug. 7 public hearing of the Beach Haven Land Use Board.

The original home will be moved to the southeast corner of the property on Liberty Avenue and five building lots have already been sold, said Davies. “One family member (of the Frazer estate of six children) has purchased it from the other heirs and will live in the Beck House. The owners of the other five lots will build their own dream houses.”

Davies served as a real estate consultant in the process.

The Beck Farm lies outside of Beach Haven’s 30-block historic district. Beach Haven’s Historic Preservation Advisory Commission tried to save the building a few times. Commission member Jeanette Lloyd said the group had tried years ago to persuade the family patriarchs, Jim and Evelyn Frazer, to put it on the national or state registrars of historic homes. “But a son who was a lawyer in D.C. gave all the paperwork a look-over and said no, so we lost that battle,” she said.

When the Frazers passed away and the estate took over the property, the commission again tried to save it by raising funds. Lloyd created a PowerPoint presentation and held four public meetings over the summer, always well attended. “People were interested but not enough to save it. Nothing worked out. It was just too much money.”

The house was built by Philadelphia architect Thomas P. Sherborne and was known as “Liberty Hall” or “The White House of New Jersey,” said Lloyd.

In 1911, Charles Beck, a Philadelphia engraver, purchased the Sherborne Farm and began to promote Beach Haven.

Beck and Maja Leon Berry, a prominent lawyer, started the Long Beach Turnpike Co. to build the first wooden bridge or causeway to Long Beach Island. Using laborers and early steam shovels, it was built in two years and opened June 30, 1914 to local fanfare.

According to John Bailey Lloyd’s book Two Centuries of History on Long Beach Island, one of Beck’s hobbies was horticulture and “he soon cultivated and enriched several acres of his property …making it an Island showplace for thirty years.”

He also enlarged the house to nearly 8,000 square feet, with more than 14 bedrooms.

Beck’s engraving company printed the 1914 edition The Lure of Long Beach Island by George B. Somerville. Beck’s grandson, Charles Edgar Nash, was asked to revise the book in 1935 and his name graces this edition.

His grandchild, Betty Nash, married Nate Ewer and opened the Sea Chest Gift Shop on the Beach Haven boardwalk that was later swept away during the 1944 hurricane. In 1948, the Ewers brought a three-masted sailing ship, the Lucy Evelyn, and turned it into a unique gift shop in Beach Haven. It burned to the ground in February 1972.

Jeanette Lloyd has seen much change over the years to her hometown of Beach Haven.

At present, there are two trailers outside the Beck Farm homestead that are filled with furniture taken out of the house, said Lloyd. “We did get permission to go in and take pictures so we have documentation of what was inside,” she said.

Davies said work on salvaging much of the part of the building to be demolished has started. “They are saving the hardwoods, floor joists, windows, shutters and siding. Then that section will be ripped down and the house will be moved, about two months from now.”

“The town was very happy and supportive” (of the plan), said Davies. “It worked out really well. We kept the majority of the house, the oldest part.”

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

 

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