TENAFLY, NJ — The Swiss chalet-style home on Forest Road has seen a variety of notable personalities pass through its decorative front door: A prominent inventor, a famous artist and, most recently, Hillary Clinton.
Now, the “Everett-Dunn House,” built in 1867, has gained historic landmark status so it will be protected from major alteration and demolition. The Borough Council approved the designation at Monday night’s meeting.
The home was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, a prominent figure in American architecture, who was best known for his work on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the Breakers in Newport, R.I., and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.
Among the prominent residents of the home were inventor Charles J. Everett and Harvey Dunn, an artist whose sketches of World War I are housed at the Smithsonian.
Hetal Gor, a physician from India who moved into the six-bedroom home in 2010, said she and her husband, Moiz, were immediately drawn to its beauty and historical significance. “They told us it’s a historic house. There were a lot of very important people involved in the house, which made it very intriguing to me,” she said. “There are so many historic details inside. Every person who lived in it left their mark behind.” Gor, who is active politically and serves on the board of BergenPAC, hosted Clinton at a fundraising event she held at the 6,600-square-foot-home in April.
The historic landmark designation is more than an honorary status — it comes with responsibility, noted Karen Neus, chairwoman of the Tenafly Historic Preservation Commission. Owners of such homes cannot make exterior alterations without approval from the Historic Commission. Interior renovations are not included in this rule. “The street view is what’s important,” she said.
The guidelines do not bother Gor in the least. “I love art, history and culture,” she said. “In today’s world, everyone is so shortsighted about things that may take a long time. We need to go above and beyond to save what we have had for hundreds of years.”
Since the commission was established in 1990, at least 65 private properties in Tenafly have gained landmark status. In Tenafly, the owners apply for the designation or they must support a designation. Additionally, the railroad station, Theodore Roosevelt Monument and the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly all have local landmark status. Some — such as the Elizabath Cady Stanton House — are on the national and state Registers of Historic Places.
Councilman Paul Stefanowicz praised the commission for trying to be proactive in saving local historic sites. “It’s hard to keep up with the home sales, and one could spend all day trying to educate sellers or buyers on the benefits of preservation,” he said.
There is no universal standard among New Jersey municipalities protecting local historic landmarks. Some towns have historic commissions, while others do not. And even those that have the groups differ in their approach. Some are strict, while others lack ordinances that would provide preservation guidelines. The lack of consistency has generated criticism among many preservationists. “Historic sites are one of the reasons people moved to Tenafly,” Stefanowicz said, adding that preservation must be a town wide effort.
Tenafly’s commission is not always successful in preserving the past. The 1870 Valley Hotel, where Stanton and Susan B. Anthony attempted to vote at a time when women were not permitted to do so, was razed this summer. Although many residents and preservationists came to public meetings to protest the plan, a daycare center will be built on the site of the former feminist landmark.
Tenafly Historian Alice Rigney hopes the latest designation on Forest Road will spur more interest in local history. “It’s a magnificent house. More people should learn about Harvey Dunn, who was one of our greatest artists and drew sketches during World War I,” she said. Saving historic homes provides “a portrait of what Tenafly was in the past. It’s important for us to remember.”
Hetal 1: A living room in Dr. Heta Gor’s Swiss chalet home, which is over 100 years old and has finally gained landmark status in Tenafly, NJ. The home was photographed on Wednesday, November 23, 2016. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran)
Hetal 2: Owner Dr. Hetal Gor seen here outside her Swiss chalet-style home on Forest Road (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran)