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APHS Files Application to Designate Crane House a Historic Landmark

An application has been filed with state and national officials to have the historic Stephen Carne House on Fourth Avenue in Asbury Park designated as an historic landmark.

The Asbury Park Historical Society filed an application at the end of March with the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which handles such applications.

"The application was a long and tedious process that took about two years," said David Sobotka, chairman of the historical society’s Historic Preservation Committee, who headed a four-member panel to put the application together.

Sobotka said that the statement of significance about the Stephen Crane House is 14-pages long and that, along with maps, vital statistics, and other documentation, the application is about 50-pages, along with 60 photographs.

"I am relieved it is over but I expect SHPO may come back asking other questions or wanting some enhancement. We really tried to look into past construction history of the house but few records have survived over the years," he said.

"I am confident the application will go through but SHPO may require a few changes," he said.

The Stephen Crane House, formerly Arbutus Cottage, was built at 508 Fourth Avenue in 1878, only seven years after the founding of Asbury Park. It remains what is probably the oldest residential structure in Asbury Park and is the sole-standing building in the United States associated with Stephen Crane.

Stephen Crane [1871-1900] was a prolific American author who began his literary career in Asbury Park, as a teenager.

Throughout his short life, Crane wrote notable works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Expressionism. He is recognized by modern critics and authors as one of the most innovative writers of his generation.

"The good writers are Henry James, Stephen Crane and Mark Twain," wrote Hemingway in The Green Hills of Africa in 1935. "That's not the order they're good in. There is no order for good writers."

Sobotka said he has no time frame as to when the state may approve the application.

"The application was a much harder process than I had anticipated. It’s a long application and is very specific in what needs to be presented. In our case, I feel the application has a lot to do with who lived there, both Stephen and his mother," he said.

Stephen’s mother, Mary Helen Peck Crane, was a leader and organizer in the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union and she would host dignitaries and meetings for the Union in the parlor of the Asbury Park house. She was also a well-known lecturer, writer, and organizer on women’s suffrage and topics concerning her Methodist faith. The house was also visited by WCTU founder Frances Willard in the 1880s.

The New Jersey Register of Historic Places is the official list of New Jersey's historic resources of local, state, and national interest. Created by the New Jersey Register of Historic Places Act of 1970, the New Jersey Register is closely modeled after the National Register program. Both Registers have the same criteria for eligibility, nomination forms, and review process.