By noon on Monday, all that was left of the historic Williams-Robard estate in Fair Haven was an old television, a couple of mattresses, a laundry basket, and a chunk of foundation on a heap of scrap.
The 160-year-old waterfront DeNormandie Avenue home that freed slave Charles Williams built — and made home to his immediate family and Robards family descendants — was demolished to make way for a passive park was on the banks of the Navesink River in Fair Haven.
The acquisition of the property has been in the works, via several funding avenues, for the better part of a decade.
The borough finally acquired the 6.9-acre property in the fall to preserve a rare swath of waterfront open space for future generations to enjoy, rather than letting it be sold to a private developer and closed off from public access.
The house, officials have said, was in too much disrepair to preserve. Also, as part of the deal for procurement of funding for the $1.2 million acquisition, borough officials had to agree to demolish the home.
The most recent owners, the Robards descendants, had lived in the house since 1855.
“Winifred Robards (who lived there since 1855, when she was 3) was known to invite kids onto the property to play and enjoy it all the time,” Lucarelli said.
It was her wish to pay that forward, Lucarelli had said. A plaque commemorating the Williams-Robards families will be erected on the site with a recounting of its history, Lucarelli said at the announcement of the acquisition in the fall.
— Photos and story by Elaine Van Develde