Gothic Revival – Salem, NJ

Added to OHD on 8/23/16   -   Last OHD Update: 4/12/20   -   37 Comments
SOLD / Archived Post
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18 Oak St, Salem, NJ 08079

  • $14,900
  • 6 Bed
  • 2.5 Bath
  • 2324 Sq Ft
  • 0.4 Ac.
Investor alert! Home is in need of rehab, but offers a lot of living space, 4 bedrooms on the second floor and a full third floor with two additional bedrooms. Additional bathrooms have been roughed out in this property. Any/all inspections, cert, repairs will be at the buyers expense.
Contact Information
Richard Eber, CENTURY 21 Hearst Realty,
(856) 232-8400

State: | Region: | Associated Styles or Type:
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37 Comments on Gothic Revival – Salem, NJ

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  1. Kelly, OHDKelly, OHD says: 11884 comments

    1901 Folk Victorian
    Chestatee, GA

    Since I posted the neighbor, thought I’d post this one to see what happens. neighbor link

  2. MW says: 892 comments

    Wow, looks like some real bargains today. You can almost pick this one up down at the dollar store. Is that part of Jersey that bad?

  3. Sandra says: 320 comments

    Maybe a bunch of us OHD commenters can go in and scoop up all of the houses in the neighborhood. It’s a nice thought, at least. Imagine how great they would all look.

  4. francine says: 5 comments

    Looks like a religious organization owned it and it is a foreclosure.

  5. Ross says: 2480 comments

    For $15K ($15K!!!!!!!!) I assumed this would be across the street from a pig farm or something.

    But it’s across the street from a stone church!

    And other beautiful houses!

    Oh! My!

    This house could SO be a treasure again!

  6. John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

    The plight of the houses on Oak street troubled me, so I took a fair amount of time to try to understand what is going on to account for such a formerly impressive street taking a sharp turn towards decline. To understand why, you have to be able to grasp complex socio-economic forces at work in the region. The problems with Oak street could probably be traced to Camden, NJ (former home of Campbell soups and other major industries in the 19th and into the 20th centuries.)

    Camden is 38 miles away from Salem going north towards Philadelphia which is just across the river from Camden. Unfortunately, as industries left Camden, unemployment soared. Rent values declined, and widespread poverty followed. Systemic poverty and lack of gainful employment leads to crime, increased drug use-distribution, and other social ills associated with inner city poverty. As crime and Detroit-like residential areas became too dangerous to be habitable, residents moved away to other areas. Salem, which has roots in the 1600’s and went through the Colonial era properously, stayed a bucolic small town until a few decades ago. As mostly low income minorities (sometimes refugees from Camden) sought alternative places to live, Salem had many old houses offering affordable rents.

    A pattern of demographic displacement (sometimes called “White Flight”) has rapidly shifted ethnic ratios in Salem. The population overall has declined and it is now a minority-majority community. Surely, some long time locals fear it could become the next mini Camden. That old industrial city has old neighborhoods that are textbook examples of urban decay and neglect. In this atmosphere, the unique well preserved streetscape of Oak Street in Salem has little hope. Declining population, increasing poverty, and a lack of investment reduces the chances this very old community will see prosperity returning anytime soon. I haven’t looked at local crime stats but it doesn’t matter. From streetview tours through the town, I can say that Oak street is not typical of the old residential areas of Salem. While those still look better than the ruins in Camden, they may be headed in the same direction.

    Against that backdrop, few people would be willing to risk investment in a town rapidly changing for the worse. I feel a profound sense of sadness to see this process of decay and abandonment brought on by poverty playing out slowly in this community. To reverse this trend it would require a change in national policies and a completely different kind of urban renewal program that would focus on individual property improvements in neighborhoods rather than wholesale demolitions (which in turn, displaces and disperses the low income residents to other nearby areas where the process repeats itself again) Over time, solving these issues with a bulldozer blade and wrecking ball just leaves large swaths of vacant land. A different approach is clearly needed but that requires resources more than any of us have. Gentrification, is not an answer because although it infuses investment into neglected old neighborhoods, as property values go back up, impoverished residents are displaced taking their problems with them to other areas. As for Oak Street, if local officials felt it was worth saving, (a question that applies to Salem itself) first residents there need to feel safe. Second, some kind of favorable tax incentive should be in place to encourage new investment perhaps augmented with preservation grants. (awarded after the work is completed, of course) This one street could be stellar and I saw a few other areas in Salem with promise but it would take lots of resources in a state already with a crushing tax burden and an apparent attitude that cities like Camden, Newark, (which has had a mayor who has made a major effort to bring positive change to that city) and yes, Salem don’t matter. Otherwise, within a generation or less, the architectural riches of Oak street including this fine Gothic Revival house are likely to disappear forever. In a different setting this street could be one of the most coveted residential areas in a community. Go further south to fabled Cape May and houses like these would be in the six and seven figures, but not here. I need to win the lottery so this street could become a test lab for positive change. I listened to an impassioned speech by Charleston, SC’s preservationist mayor, Joseph Riley, about 20 years ago and realized he was on to something about ways to revitalize communities using historic preservation as an economic tool. This would be an ideal locale to find out just how effective preserving these old houses might be to the local economy.

    • Ben Comish says: 5 comments

      It’s a pretty cool house though.

    • SueSue says: 1139 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1802 Cape

      Even in a small way I have seen this happen in Maine. Areas that used to have wealth because of the mills, with grand houses, all turned into office space or worse. So sad.

    • CharlestonJohn says: 1118 comments

      John, you mentioned Charleston, so I’ll chime in. In the early 1980’s, Joe Riley bet the farm on the Omni Hotel project and won. Now called Charleston Place, this major project, which took up a city block between King and Meeting Streets, became the focal point of the downtown revitalization that has now lasted 30 years. The “white flight” of the 1960’s and 70’s was not kind to Charleston, and the city in the early 1980’s was full of dilapidated houses and closed businesses on track for demolition. Nobody really cared about preservation outside of the historical sites, and people with means wanted suburban houses on the area marshes or golf courses. Due to the efforts of Riley and many others, Charleston had a renaissance, and the preservation efforts have steadily pushed north slowed only briefly by the recent recession. Today the place to be is north of Calhoun along upper King, and places with names like North Morrison and East Central are now the hip, cutting edge neighborhoods. Charleston has some unique characteristics that enabled this, but the real key was leadership with the vision to inspire others. Now there’s the #1 rankings from Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure, a world class restaurant scene, and a booming high tech job market fueling the next stage of growth. Can this be replicated maybe on a smaller scale in other places? Why not?

      • John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

        CharlestonJohn, you are “preaching to the choir” on this topic. We are now 28 years into our own Urban Pioneer experiment but redevelopment has been the path taking, not widespread restoration. Both increase property values but only preservation and restoration preserve the original charm that brought us to this inner city neighborhood in 1989. We are ready to sell since development now will soon literally surround us. Since I’ve reached the sixth decade of life, I’m ready to try small town living for a more leisurely pace. Joe Riley made a lasting impression on me about livable cities. I’ve also personally met with Don (Donavan) Rypkema and listened to him explain the concept of place economics. He came to Fort Worth about 15 years ago, discussed the advantages of preservation with our neighborhood developer who, suitably impressed with Mr. Rypkema’s suggestions, proceeded to demolish 40+ houses in my neighborhood dating from the 1930’s back to the 1870’s. Developers often have an entirely different mindset than preservationists and it doesn’t involve anything old. Despite conceptual drawings promising a “Parisian Cafe” mixed use type environment, the reality is the redeveloped part of our neighborhood is now only Apartmentville and nothing else. They all look nice now but in 25 years or so, this neighborhood could be as marginal as it was when we moved here so long ago. You folks were fortunate to have someone of the stature of Joe Riley to oversee “good” development as well as preservation to make Charleston what it is today.

  7. Joe says: 753 comments

    If these houses are at such risk, some enterprising person could move them to or near Cape May. Couldn’t they be show stoppers again there? I wouldn’t advise this usually, but things said here make things look pretty dire, like demolition or someone torching them, for this and other houses in this neighborhood. For that matter these houses could be moved anywhere if it takes that to preserve them.

    • JosephFortHill says: 385 comments

      It’s not a trivial operation to move a house. And when you look at these, you have to look at the percentage of remaining visible original material to see if these are good candidates. Frankly, if it were possible to revitalize them in situ, fine, but the economics of moving a less than spectacular/preserved house probably makes it more sensible to let some of the components live on in a reconstruction.

  8. Pamela Ky girl says: 49 comments

    Looking at all of these beautiful old homes I do hope they can be saved, They are beautiful.

  9. Charlie1 says: 1 comments

    This home is a wonderful example of what was. In most parts of Southern NJ a home like this would be $350k or more, so you would obviously know there is a major underlying issue based off the price, even in its present condit ion.
    And the earlier comment about displacement from Camden and other poverty stricken areas to Salem NJ, have unfortunately allowed this town to its decayed demise.
    You would think that more middle class and blue collar workers would find the area more attractive due to its location, not too far from Philadelphia and the Delaware state border.Perfect for someone willing to commute.
    But for whatever reason no one came back, they all left. And down the town went.
    I’ve personally been to Salem and to look at a home that I thought I would have been interested in. It was an absolutely beautiful 3 story style Victorian that was once owned by a sea captain. I fell in love with the home and it’s ornate architecture. It had floor to ceiling windows that led to a screened porch. The basement was large enough to call it the catacombs, and the carriage house out back was large enough to be another home. Two staircaseseparate, a claw foot tub, and almost every room had a fireplace.
    But when I took my parents to see the home, they said that they would never come to visit me if I had purchased it.
    It was more than obvious that the area was decayed and the town inhabitants may not have been the best of people. It only took a small tour of a few other streets in the town of Salem and it was clear to stay away. The thing that confuses me,.is that no matter what your social status or income level, you can still take pride in what you have. You can still take care of your home and your community. So it’s much worse than that here, it where people have just given up and don’t care. And like the last comments posted, drugs and crime now plaque a once thriving beautiful town. Eventually these estate styled homes will be demolashed and leveled.
    And the saddest thing is that this home will never be brought to its full glory as you and I would love to have & own.
    It saddens me because I would love to own this home and fix it up, but it’s not a place that I would want to live.
    What a loss of beauty What a loss of history.

  10. Journey47 says: 15 comments

    So sad to see the decline in communities and cities around our country. These homes were built for large families and to last for many generations. They could last for many more generations with care. Our whole society has changed since they were built with most families today having only two children instead of 6 or more. We need to have preservationists looking at how some of these extremely large homes can be reconfigured for 2-3 families but saving as much of the beautiful architecture and beautiful materials as possible. When I’m ready to downsize I would love to be able to have an apt. in a beautiful home like this with such beautiful grounds. The exterior maintenance could be kept up by fees like condo units are maintained.

  11. John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

    Thanks Charlie for your comments. I have never been to Salem or even New Jersey, but I have lived in an inner-city neighborhood (now being redeveloped) in a big city. (Fort Worth, TX-part of the 4 million population DFW metro)

    After 28 years in our near downtown neighborhood, I recognize the signs of neglect. The belief that low income minorities do not care about their surroundings is a myth. The real determinate about caring for surroundings is home ownership and the pride that it generates. Renters of all ethnic backgrounds have no personal stake in the place where they live or their surroundings.

    I imagine a majority of the old housing stock in Salem is being used as rentals. When the rental is low income or Sec. 8 subsidized often a adversarial relationship develops between the (usually absentee and often unsympathetic) landlord and his tenants. A renter is late on rent or repeatedly asks for a plumbing issue or heating problem to get fixed. The landlord often responds to late rents in a ruthless manner. He may promise to fix a problem the tenant complains about but sometimes the promise is not kept. How can a renter think about painting or improving a house (assuming they would ever have the money for such luxuries when just having the basics is the norm) especially when the landlord treats them so harshly?

    Low income renters themselves often have their own fair share of personal issues; drug use or alcoholism, spousal or parenting problems, as well as run ins with the law are part of the impoverished lifestyle. Money is always tight and stress is always high. In such a survivalist environment, why would a renter even care about aesthetics or their surroundings? Survival on a day to day basis is priority one and such an environment brings with it youth gangs, open drug dealing, and frequently violence creating an atmosphere of fear for one’s safety.

    Those from safer neighborhoods who are better educated and better off financially think about saving (and perhaps restoring) this old house or that old one. Not surprisingly these individuals with such noble sentiments have completely different realities and live in different worlds than the impoverished renters.

    There is a path for neighborhood improvement via gentrification, however, it inevitably leads to low income residents being displaced. Of course, if the low income residents are renters anyhow, the transient nature of their residency means they will be moving whatever happens.

    How does gentrification begin in a marginal area that was perhaps far more charming long ago? Typically, it takes someone with vision and courage who is willing to stake out a claim in an area most people consider too marginal for “normal” people to live in. They stubbornly go ahead and improve their property even if those houses around them continue to look neglected. If they are lucky or have some friends, eventually someone else may be willing to take a chance and then two properties are being improved. Over time, others, noticing the improving trend, buy a house or a couple of houses because of the low prices. In time a cafe or coffee house opens, property values start to go up, crime departs because by that time a neighborhood watch program is in place and local law enforcement pays closer attention to this improving neighborhood. In the final phase, some of the early “urban pioneers” cash out and move on and the area is considered safe enough for families with children, mostly younger professionals that are part of the back-to-the-cities movement.

    In the other scenario, there is continuing decline until the entire neighborhood disappears one house at a time so that all that is left is a large “Demolition Greenspace”. Because of its nearness to larger urban markets and jobs, developers will buy up the cheap land and build market rate apartments or condos. A new, safer neighborhood springs up from the land where an old neighborhood once stood. Brush Park, which used to be THE poster child in a city infamous for neglect (Detroit) has taken the second path. He’s the envisioned rebirth of the old neighborhood: (the original is largely gone) From the swept away ruins of Camden, this too could happen there but Salem is still intact enough to save its rich history via the urban pioneer/gentrification route. Somehow, renters need to feel they have a stake in their surroundings but I do not know of a successful example of low income renter engagement where they have become part of a neighborhood improvement effort. Cities are making a comeback (as the Brush Park Detroit example shows) and Salem, with its rich history going back to the 1600’s and old housing stock could be an example of urban (albeit small town) renaissance by urban pioneers rather than urban renewal via demolitions.

    • Shannon says: 2 comments

      Love your comment, yes it’s gonna take that one person that buys this house I feel and it just may be myself❤️

      • John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

        That’s the Spirit, Shannon! I can’t count the number of nice historic neighborhoods I’ve visited that had at one time been in steep decline but a few hardy urban pioneer types anchored the neighborhood and one by one rehabbed houses until the faded status faded away and the area was rebranded as “trendy”. By that point some of the original pioneer types are cashing out at handsome profits and young professional career families with kids have started moving in. The neighborhood has then come full circle from originally desirable, to marginal in decline, to starting to improve and then again back to desirable. All it really takes are people who care about their surroundings. Renters, especially in low income neighborhoods, have little incentive to make any improvements so it usually takes homeowners to change things for the better. If you acquire this property, please keep us posted on how things go. Prayers and best wishes for your success!

  12. Ray Unseitig says: 206 comments

    This is a sad reflection on our times.
    So how much will THEY pay me to live there per Month? I’ll need guns dogs and my own private army. Still there is hope, I hope.

    • John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

      Ray, I don’t think this street in particular is unsafe but go a few blocks in any direction and everything changes. Usually, in a town of 5,000 most people tend to know their neighbors but here, mostly non-minority residents have moved away for greener pastures and in their absence a transient, mostly renter population has taken their place. They may very well be urban “refugees” from Camden with its classic urban ills. There are three houses (two Gothic Revivals and a lovely brick Queen Anne) available. In streetview, there is one nicely restored and painted house: (Streetview) There potentially you may find the person with vision. All it takes is a few people with motivation to turn things around. If people willing to take the risk bought the 3 aforementioned Victorians and initiated restoration and landscaping improvements, in a town this small it would stand out. From the nice architectural examples here one can see this was once a very respectable street where some of the town’s leading citizens once lived. It could be again, or it could be all lost and then followed by a long wait for future development to come which it will eventually.

  13. Julles says: 538 comments

    There is still a chance for this town and street to turn around. It takes one charismatic person with vision and drive to inspire people to turn this around. Find businesses to locate there. Offer really low taxes, court industry that needs semi skilled workers, make your schools great and get the town to rally and belive it can be done. North of Atlanta in Gwinnett County there is a school called Brookwood. It is in a predominantly blue collar neighborhood. The people rallied around their kids and school and it is the number one school in a system that got the Broad prize for best urban school system in America. It takes a crowbar to get people to sell their less expensive homes there because the community is so tight. Look at Griffin Georgia, they have a large minority population in section 8 housing. They are turning their city from old inexpensive decaying housing to renovated streets. It can be done and those houses in Salem can be restored. They just have to find that person with a dream and a plan that is willing to inspire a town. I choose to believe!

    • Shannon says: 2 comments

      That’s all it takes, you’re so right I have high hopes for this town I took a visit there and did a tour around the neighborhood, the people of Salem seem to be very nice people just in need of a new direction and some change, I have this on my heart so heavily now since I went there, maybe god wants to use me to do the job, all I know is I’m willing to give it a try!

  14. John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

    I agree Julles. All to often in our country naysayers outnumber those with hope. It can be done; I’ve seen too many examples for such reversals of decline to be an anomaly. City living is becoming “cool” again among the younger set and they are the leaders and business people of the future. Suburbia has had its day and is becoming less and less attractive to many people especially those seeking homes and neighborhoods with character that are almost impossible to create artificially.

  15. JimHJimH says: 5010 comments
    OHD Supporter

    I’ve been through Salem NJ a few times. Most folks would feel like Charlie1, “I would love to own this home and fix it up, but it’s not a place that I would want to live.” You can buy a fabulous home down the block with a stone barn and big lot that needs less fixing. It’s only $79.9k, but the same would apply.

    Salem is a small town of 5,000, the county seat in a mostly rural area. There are no jobs, and high rates of poverty and petty street crime. There’s not enough money there to attract serious gangsters though, so you probably won’t get shot. The silver lining is that Salem is at the edge of the Philadelphia metro area with 6 million people, and it has a great history, an attractive downtown area and fabulous old houses all over. One hour by car to downtown Philly, and in every other direction from the city you have to pay a lot more money.

    Salem reminds me of another small city, Hudson NY, which is a now a hot weekend spot for New Yorkers. Thirty years ago it was the same kind of “small city with big city problems” until a couple of antique shops and cafes brought some tourists, then some positive publicity and the place took off. You could have bought a whole block of houses in the 80’s for what one sells for now, and you’re more likely today to encounter a movie star than a mugger.

    Salem doesn’t need some big urban redevelopment scheme – it’s just waiting for a spark of life and enough support to kindle the transformation. There’s a ton of Philly money that would show up if folks could see it starting to turn around, and the community would be there with open arms.

  16. John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

    Thanks for your comments, Jim. No. 30 Oak street is that brick Queen Anne I was referring to. (bet its “drop dead” wonderful inside) While I think you’re spot on about the Philly proximity advantages, as mentioned, Camden stands between Salem and Philly. I agree if there were some signs of investment and restoration going on, others might be enticed to invest there as well. There are abundant examples of former dangerous, marginal residential areas, gentrifying to the point where they are now considered upscale and trendy. Oak street has some remarkable Victorian residential architecture and remains intact enough that it would not take too much to bring it back. If I were younger, I’d consider the possibility but I did the urban pioneer thing 28 years ago and don’t think I have the energy to do it again.

  17. John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

    I had googled Salem and then typed in directions to Camden. It showed 38 miles. The distance from Camden (where “Detroitification” is well underway) is less important than the demographic and economic changes happening in this historic little town. More narrowly, the question to be answered is how to preserve this rare slice of high end 19th century architecture on Oak St. within the context of a community in transition?

  18. lara janelara jane says: 490 comments
    OHD Supporter

    Even after reading all of the posts above, and maybe because of them, I really want to live on Oak Street.

  19. John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

    Lara Jane,
    At least one house (not officially on the market) is under consideration for purchase at 20 Oak Street by an individual (posted today) who has visited the mansions of Newport, RI and appreciates the historic details. All it takes is a couple of caring homeowners and dedication to begin changing Oak street for the better.

  20. G.Watson says: 6 comments

    Hi all.My family and I are considering selling up in the UK and possibly renting in the UK and buying a house in the USA somewhere so that we can go between both.We would be thinking about a cheap older property that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (along with other body parts) to make it liveable.It would need to be structurally sound and in a half decent area (i.e. not have to worry about drugs,high crime rate etc).Can anyone give me any hints and tips on what sort of prices or issues we might be looking at,suitable areas to live etc? I saw this house in Salem and have seen others that I thought are absolutely beautiful! I can’t even imagine what something like this would cost in the UK in the same condition.Its just an idea at the moment but we want to see if its a viable option for us.Thanks,Gloria.

  21. G.Watson says: 6 comments

    Forgot to say,what do you think it would cost to renovate this one? Just curious 🙂

  22. John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

    G. Watson, A couple of factors would probably deter you from choosing here. First, Salem itself seems to be undergoing a transition to a minority-majority population (i.e. 60% African-American; and about 40% Anglo and other ethnicities-source: Wikipedia) Most of the newly arriving residents appear to be coming from further to the north around the crime ravaged Camden, NJ area. The arrivals appear to be primarily renters and thus transient. That said, I think Oak Street is a relatively safe area of Salem but the extremely low property values reflect the changing demographic patterns in the community. The second factor is property taxes-New Jersey has the highest average property taxes among the 50 states. Last, as to renovation costs, they vary widely depending on the work required. A new roof would probably run in the $20,000 range on average-less in some areas, more in others. Rewiring might run $4,000; a complete replumb $15,000, but the only way to have a realistic figure is to first obtain a professional written house inspection. (customarily a few hundred dollars) Based on what the report reveals, a more realistic renovation list can then be created and quotes from multiple contractors (licensed, insured, and bonded are the best) used for a final figure. But old houses also have a well known phenomenon known as the “Mushroom Factor”. In simple terms, once walls are opened or other work is initiated undiscovered damage comes to light and must be dealt with thus raising the costs of renovation. If a home along the Atlantic Seaboard is desired, look in lower tax costs states like North Carolina. Never assume any house priced way below average is without issues of some kind. Best to do some more homework and if possible when a visit to the U.S. is in the cards, check out some select locales that fit your relocation criteria. Many real estate firms also have relocation specialists who can serve your needs. The resources are there for you to use so why not make use of them? If you should choose Salem, not being there for part of the year would probably be a deal breaker. Best in such situations to have a house in a smaller community where good neighbors would keep an eye on your property in your absence. Good luck with your search.

  23. Kelly, OHDKelly, OHD says: 11884 comments

    1901 Folk Victorian
    Chestatee, GA

    Back on the market.

    From the new listing pics, someone started doing some work. I wonder what happened?

    I probably will not repost this.

    • RossRoss says: 2480 comments
      OHD Supporter

      1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
      Emporia, KS

      So, new owner goes in, makes a mess, then puts back on market, with a higher price.

      It’s a crazy world.

      • John Shiflet says: 5441 comments

        Ross, I think it might be a bit more complicated than that. No need to tell you that some potential old house restorers sometimes bite off more than they can chew. Salem, NJ itself seems to be in a transitional state so someone investing in this property will probably have to do so as a labor of love project rather than one which makes economic sense. Perhaps the previous owner realized that putting a lot of money into this property would not nudge its market value up very much and decided to cut their losses and put it back on the market. I still see potential in this house but when the location is problematic that is a problem not easily resolved. Still, I can hope for a better outcome but it all depends on the next buyer/owner and what they intend to do with the once fine Gothic Revival home. I wish them the best.

        • RossRoss says: 2480 comments
          OHD Supporter

          1894 QueenAnneFreeClassic
          Emporia, KS

          Hi, John!

          In my comment I make no mention of why the owner is selling, and appreciate that there could be 1,000 different reasons.

          My issue is rather the almost 70% price increase when nothing of discernible value has been added. Indeed, in my opinion, tearing out original plaster has diminished rather than enhanced the house.

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