Informal Group Looks to Preserve Rumson Estate

August 3, 2012

By John Burton

The Rohallion Estate in Rumson is for sale and neighbors fear the property could be bought and subdivided for development.

RUMSON — A group of area residents are hoping they can muster enough support to preserve a borough property that they believe has historical significance.

The group, who met for the first time on Thursday, July 26, has begun hashing out ideas to save the Rohallion Estate, 45 Bellevue Ave., a sprawling 5-acre property with numerous large specimen trees and an expansive multistory home nestled in the center.

The 10 members of the group walked through the palatial home and grounds. “Rumson starts losing its estates, it starts losing its validity,” fears Bob Baxter, a North Rohallion Drive resident and a member of the group.

“I grew up here,” around the estate, said Nick McCabe, another area resident. “And I can’t tell you how beautiful it was.”

McCabe’s parents bought their property, about 3 acres on North Rohallion, in the 1950s from the then-owners of estate.

The fear for some is that the 5-acre tract will eventually be purchased and subdivided for development, possibly putting at risk the home, designed by the iconic late 19th and early 20th century architect Stanford White, who was responsible for the original Madison Square Garden.

“We’re looking at a little piece of our heritage disappearing,” Baxter said.

The Rohallion Estate on Bellevue Avenue in Rumson.

The group is only in its infancy, but participants are discussing the possibility of raising the money needed to purchase the property, or if the property can be purchased by local or Monmouth County government to use for something appropriate. “You could do so much that wouldn’t be invasive,” McCabe said.

“You could look at it as a park,” Baxter suggested.

Another possibility would be to find a private buyer to consider using the location for a business that would work in the existing residential neighborhood, such as a bed-and-breakfast or even a catering facility.

Edward Dean Adams commissioned White to design a country home in 1887, with the architect using a Normandy chateaux as his model, according to a history written by Derrill W. Hart.

Khaled Mostafa is the current owner, according to borough tax rolls. It has been on the market for the last couple of years, said Pauline Poyner, with Coldwell Banker real estate agency.

Borough tax records indicate it is assessed for $3,250,000, and the real estate listing puts the selling price at about $4.5 million, down from the original price of just under $5 million.

Mayor John Ekdahl said borough officials “actually gave some thought to (purchasing) it before we built the new municipal building,” on East River Road a few years ago.

The estate sits on a sprawling 5-acre property with numerous large specimen trees.

However, when officials looked at the building, they found it would have been difficult – if not outright impossible – to reconfigure it for the borough’s uses and meet current requirements. “The layout just wasn’t appropriate to an office setting,” said Ekdahl.

“At the end of the day I would love to see some public elegant use,” McCabe said.

But the trick, observed, Jamie Wark, a Linden Lane resident who is part of the group, is “to figure out ways to make it financially feasible.”

Group members said their next task will be to put together a plan to present to interested parties to begin the conversation about saving the location.

Baxter was not deterred by the challenge.

“We’re going to save it,” he said. “And, more than save it, we’re going to reinvent it into something that we all can be proud of.”

The location, which is zoned for residential use that needs a minimum 1.5 acres for development, is adjacent to Rumson Country Day School, a private school.

Any future subdivision of the property could prove problematic, Ekdahl speculated, given the location’s wealth of “some magnificent trees,” and the borough’s tree protection ordinance.

The mayor shared group members’ appreciation of the site. “It was probably the most magnificent property in Rumson for years, or decades,” he said.



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  1. This estate with its gardens of the world (with much respect for Mr. Heatley) and unique and world class architecture is such an exquisite example of what made Rumson Rumson . It could easily serve many community functions i.e. Rennaissance Festivals, Shakespeare In The Park Offerings, Jazz & Blues Festivals, Open Air Art Shows, Etc. All of these can generate money to keep it going.

  2. It’s a White Elephant, cold and drafty and has a bad history. Most of it’s owners were either foreclosed on or just disappeard. It’s ugly and badly laid out. It’s a money pit and you need some one with deep pockets to take it over. On the other hand the grounds are spectacular and would make a nice park. Some Hotel chain should buy it and turn it into a bed and breakfast that could work except for the fact that the narrow minded Rumson old guard would be against any progress nuff said.

  3. My friend Kevin and I cut the grass and trimmed the bushes at the mansion one summer while in high school at CBA. It took 2-3 days! Then we would start over. The pool was cut stone and surrounded by grass and all types of specimens. There was a storm that August and we spent 2 weeks afterwards cutting up tree branches. Great memory. Beautiful house and grounds. Should be saved.

  4. I would think that a Landmark commission could be formed to save what’s left of beautiful old historic homes in Rumson? There’s so much history that newcomers to the area know nothing about.


    A number of folks have interest in this. You can hopefully click on the FB link or if you’re on FB, search “Rumson, New Jersey” to read the comments.

    • Love to be involved. Our family owned the house earlier on in its history. Robert V. White, our grandad, was a Rumson industrialist, owned it. We used to go over there from time to time.

  6. It would make a great Eastern Monmouth Museum and Arboritum. If I had any money I’d help out. I wouldn’t mind doing any “technical advising” for the grounds or the structure.

  7. It’s a very sad situation that unless someone who is made of money comes along this could be lost. How about setting up a trust fund to which people can contribute to for saving this Historical Estate? Surely the “Famous” inhabitants of Rumson ( Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, etc…) should/would participate.


      Elise Baker Hughes Save it!!
      August 3 at 10:07pm · Like

      Hydi Dixon It’s a must to save it.!!
      August 3 at 10:10pm · Like

      Laird Bohn If it’s possible, keep this beauty around for a long time.
      August 3 at 10:15pm · Like · 1

      Mary Jo Olshan Schumin please save it – too much is removed for new the past is savable
      August 3 at 10:18pm · Like · 1

      Fred A. Blumberg Hope they can find a use, it would be about time Rumson showed some concern for its past…
      August 3 at 10:19pm · Unlike · 2

      Carla Paterno Annese Love that house I hope they can save it
      August 3 at 10:43pm via mobile · Like · 1

      Peter Pisani I’d sorta like to see the Monmouth County Park System take it over and hire me as the “Resident Historian/Horticulturist”. 😉
      August 3 at 11:22pm · Like · 4

      Fred A. Blumberg got any of those Rumson Dahlias around?
      August 3 at 11:24pm · Unlike · 2

      Steve Hoback It was designed by Stanford White! It is one of the last estates from the era that saw Mark Twain and many other notables “summer” i n Rumson. Save it.
      August 4 at 7:23am via mobile · Unlike · 1

      Mary Challenger SAVE IT!!!
      August 4 at 7:34am · Like

      Colleen Torsney Wonderful idea- count me in as a supporter!
      August 4 at 8:49am via mobile · Like

      Buff Anderson if you want to save it cough up the 4.5 million the owner is asking.
      August 4 at 8:52am · Like

      Peter Pisani ‎…4.5 plus the 30 grand a year for utilities and maintenance.
      August 4 at 9:13am · Like · 1

      George Howard Brown Rumson’s record on historic preservation is deplorable.
      August 4 at 10:35am · Like · 2

      Don Blesse I think it’s a great idea if they can come up with the money to buy and maintin it. I wonder… would this just be a local curiousity or would people come from a distance and pay admission to see it?
      August 4 at 1:00pm · Like

      Steve Hoback Have an annual Tour de Rohallian cycling event. Criterian on estate; road race thru Rumson.
      August 4 at 1:20pm via mobile · Like

      Karen Burke-gonzalvez SAVE IT!! Peter, you should be resident historian, since you lived there! The thought me of that attic still scares me! Seeing Briarwood demoslished was bad enough, but seeing this beauty go would be a sin! Dean Adams built it, right? He was a decendant of John Adams. Rumson needs to up its game on saving these old beauties!
      August 4 at 1:47pm · Like

      Lanier Lobdell Save it !!! Edward Dean Adams is
      my great grandfather … needs to be saved !! He also had built the Springsteen home across Bellevue for my grandmothers wedding dowry and my father was raised there… some little factoids for you.. :)
      August 4 at 2:00pm via mobile · Like · 4

      Elise Baker Hughes Thats amazing Lanier! more history please!
      August 4 at 3:51pm · Like · 1

      Peter Pisani Teeter’s old place on the corner across from Rumson Country Day School. He also changed the “geography”.
      August 4 at 7:06pm · Like · 1

      Kathy Kircher English Lanier you need to speak in front of council or send in a letter with all the info you know of this house. My father grew up in Rumson and my grandfather owned the esso/exxon on River Rd. I say who ever can get involved and save this beautiful house.
      August 4 at 8:53pm · Like · 3

      Karen Burke-gonzalvez Lani whatever it takes, do it! You can attest to the historical value of the estate. I’ll help, if I can.
      August 4 at 9:13pm · Like · 2

      John Blake Peter, You know Skipper and I mowed the grass at Rohallion for years, albeit intermittantly. For myself, one of my biggest resons for visiting back to Rumson was to drive down Bellevue and remember the great memories of the house and the Pisani family. Absolutely need to save it, somebody who is active in the town needs to GET THE MAYOR, JOHN EKDAHL INVOLVED for the cause! (maybe he already is!)
      August 5 at 11:26pm · Like · 2

      Neal Campbell When I lived in an apt at 1 Shrewsbury Drive (1978-85) my landlord lived here–I remember sending my rent checks to Rohallion. The Sourlis family, perhaps?
      September 6 at 3:21pm · Like

      Peter Pisani Yep.
      September 6 at 5:07pm · Like

      Fred A. Blumberg how to build an empire with a credit card… Ted and Elaine ” ‘flash’ from da past”
      September 6 at 6:40pm · Like

      Jennifer Wilson It would be such a shame to lose such a historical landmark. The landmarks that make Rumson so special need to be preserved.
      20 hours ago · Like · 1

      Buff Anderson burn it to the ground!!!
      8 hours ago · Like

      Jennifer Wilson ‎@ Buff: You’re kidding, right?
      6 hours ago · Like · 2

      Lanier Lobdell ‎@buff…sure hope that was a real bad joke !
      about an hour ago · Like · 1

      Carol Hockey I hope it was a bad joke, too!
      about an hour ago · Like · 2

      Buff Anderson of course it was a joke…. lighten up everone. what i’d really like to know is how do you people propose to “save” it?
      about an hour ago · Like

      Jennifer Wilson I was/am wondering the same thing. Actions speak louder than words.
      about an hour ago · Like

      Jennifer Wilson The “Informal Group” hasn’t offered any ways to get involved yet. Unless of course you’re made of money.
      about an hour ago · Edited · Like

      Buff Anderson unless someone comes up with the money to pay the current owner for the land, not much can be done.
      about an hour ago · Like

      Jennifer Wilson It’s a sad situation. I think that all of the “famous people” (Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, ….) who have moved to Rumson should get involved. In fact, I’m gonna pitch that to the Group. Have some sort of silent auction or SOMETHING to get these guys involved.
      about an hour ago · Like · 1

      Jennifer Wilson I just left the suggestion to the Group. It seems sensible to me.
      about an hour ago · Like · 1

      Ray Stoecker the town of rumson could buy it. then get “the ghost hunters team” to do an investigation; say it’s haunted; than run tours and charge paranormal investagators to pay to cover the cost of taxes and help the hotel and surrounding buisnesses a boon. send em to VAL’S FOR DINNER….
      about an hour ago · Unlike · 1

      Jennifer Wilson I’m surprised the Town of Rumson hasn’t stepped up…
      about an hour ago · Like

      Lanier Lobdell sorry Buff..but that was my great grandfathers home he had a little sensitive to the thought of it coming down.
      about an hour ago · Edited · Like · 1

      Peter Pisani Dear Buff, I watched the Rohallion Carrige House burn (arson) from the second story of Rohallion, the water tower burn (arson), the Sun House collapse (storm), and the Tea House collapse (vandalism). Certainly don’t wish the place to burn.
      3 minutes ago · Like · 1

      Jennifer Wilson HEY EVERYBODY!!! We should be posting on the link about this instead of here on facebook!!!! I’m gonna try to share this there.
      2 minutes ago · Like · 1

  8. I’m surprised with how long it’s been on the market that there havn’t been further price reductions. Seems like at the right price another family would buy it.

  9. My family was friends with the Pisani family, so I have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful home.
    More, I have a memory of being told that originally Rohallion was much larger than 5 acres and had specimens of every tree that would thrive in our climate…it was and should be , an arboretum along with the surrounding properties who benefit from the diversity of trees….maybe a walking tour

    • Hello: Was this Dr.Pisani by any chance? The doctor I am thinking of was either a Chiropractor or a Osteopath.
      Thank you,

  10. Best of luck on the endevour.



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