June 29, 2012 10:45 pm NYTimes…
In eastern Monmouth County, the name Hartshorne has plenty of resonance. In addition to Hartshorne Road and Hartshorne Woods Park, there’s the Hartshorne Mansion, a brick Tudor-style home on the banks of the Shrewsbury River in Little Silver. It was built in 1929 by the Olympic figure skater Harold Hartshorne.
A home built in the ’20s for an Olympic figure skater in Little Silver.
In eastern Morris County, it is the Gorga name that rings bells. One of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” Melissa Gorga, with her husband, Joe, has drawn much local attention since joining the show’s cast two years ago. But the couple’s palatial Montville home, built by Mr. Gorga, has in a way upstaged them. It draws a steady stream of celebrity hounds; they knock on the door and, when the famed owners appear, snap pictures.
Both of these unusual houses are on the market, and even with their 80-year age difference, a comparison confirms a proverb: the more things change in the luxury real estate market, the more they stay the same.
To begin with, they each total about 11,000 square feet. They have slate roofs, numerous windows and alcoves, hardwood paneling and floors throughout, multiple fireplaces, and formal living rooms with soaring ceilings. They have billiard rooms and other entertainment space: a theater in the Gorgas’ home, and an in-ground pool at the Hartshorne house.
Now for some stylistic differences: the Hartshorne living room’s ceiling is crosshatched with beams imported from the Black Forest in Germany, while the Gorgas’ is trimmed in decorative gold, with an enormous crystal chandelier descending halfway into the room. The Hartstorne home has 217 leaded-glass windows, many inset with stained-glass images of historical or allegorical figures. At the Gorga home, some windows are shaped like oversized Coke bottles; others run room height and width. Harold Hartshorne left his mark by including his initials in bas-relief on the gutter downspouts. Joe Gorga tipped his hat to his heritage by including limestone from Italy in the exterior.
In addition to all the custom styling, the houses each have elements linked to their creators’ career choices. For Harold Hartshorne, a five-time national champion, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist, and a primary force in ice-dancing, that meant building a skating pond, where he and his fellow skaters, including the Olympian and movie star Sonja Henie, could skate when the Shrewsbury River failed to freeze over. In the basement of the Gorga house, Mr. Gorga installed a state-of-the-art recording studio for his wife, who has produced several songs there, including two that have reached the Top 10 in downloads.
Entertaining family and guests has been a central activity at both homes, and each has an enormous kitchen, though the Hartshorne kitchen wasn’t expanded to its current size until 1987, by the house’s current owners, Blair and Herb Richter. The Gorgas — whose family feuds with Mr. Gorga’s sister Teresa Giudice, a fellow “housewife” on the program, are legendary — felt it was necessary to have a large central island with a wraparound granite counter, for producing the kind of Italian feasts their relatives have come to expect.
“We have a huge family and I love to entertain,” Mrs. Gorga said. “But we also wanted it to be kid-friendly so it would feel like home for them.” She pointed out her 2- and 4-year-old sons, who ran between the kitchen and two playrooms on a recent steaming hot day. (Her 6-year-old daughter was at school.)
Selling a house owned or once occupied by a celebrity has its challenges. And in the case of a historic house, so does setting the price. Two doors down from the Hartshorne mansion, which is listed for $5.9 million, a similarly sized 11-year-old house is on the market for almost $2 million more; it is viewed as having all the latest modern conveniences. But the difference doesn’t bother Sarah Pomphrey of Coldwell Banker, the agent for the Hartshorne property, who knows she has something unique, on 4.5 acres edged on three sides by 870 feet of waterfront.
“I can show you waterfront houses all day long, and I can show you big houses all day long,” she said, “but here you have a historic house, in great shape, on the water. How many of those are there out there?”
Mr. Richter, the seller, said it hadn’t been the original occupant who had drawn him to the eight-bedroom house 25 years ago. (Hartshorne died in 1961 in a plane crash, en route to coach a skating competition in Belgium. Before the Richters, the house had two other owners.) “That Harold Hartshorne lived here was not as important as the style and charm,” Mr. Richter said. “I’m European by nature, and this house spoke to me.” He and his wife decided to sell because their children have grown and moved away.
The Gorgas say they’re selling because they want to move back to Franklin Lakes, where they lived before coming to Montville. They say they plan to build a house as big as this one — perhaps larger. (They denied recent reports that they can’t afford to live in their Montville house and are planning to scale back.)
Listed with Jerome Sahlman of Re/Max Village Square at $3.8 million, the house has a limited market, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to get a look inside. To sort bona fide potential buyers from the merely curious, the agent requires visitors to qualify for more than $5 million in financing, according to Mrs. Gorga. Also, there are no open houses planned.
That said, Mr. Gorga, who has built custom houses throughout Bergen, Morris and Passaic Counties, feels their notoriety can’t hurt.
“I believe if someone’s really a fan and they have this type of money,” he said, “they can say, ‘I love them, and I bought their house.’ ”
Missy STILL can’t sing!!!
(Thanks to SH reader “LV”!!)