The old home is reduced to rubble by a demolition excavator.


A landmark home dating to the late 1800s that had once served as the summer estate for a prominent family of Sea Isle City hoteliers and formerly included an indoor swimming pool is no more.

A giant excavator demolished the Dutch Colonial-style house at 223 85th Street on Tuesday, reducing a home that was a fixture in Sea Isle for more than 100 years to a pile of rubble in just hours.

All of the contents left inside the house were demolished as well, including an ornate 19th century Weser Bros. piano that preservationists had hoped to save but could not find anyone to rescue it at the last minute.

“It would be a sin to let that beauty get torn down along with the house,” Abby Powell, president of the Sea Isle City Historical Society and Museum, said of the piano in an earlier interview.

The museum did not have enough room to accommodate the grand piano, which was badly in need of restoration. Powell turned to social media and contacted other museums in an attempt to find a new home for the instrument.

The piano keyboard could be seen being smashed to bits by the excavator’s big claw as the rest of the two-story house was being torn down.

Jeri Musselman, a resident of 85th Street who lives a few doors down from the demolished home, was heartbroken that the piano was destroyed. She took photos of it before the house was torn down.

She asked the demolition workers whether any of them would want to salvage the piano, but found no takers.

“They said they couldn’t save it and that they just did not want it. Oh, well, we tried,” Musselman said.

Musselman and her husband, Ron, watched from the windows of their house as the old home was demolished amid the ominous sounds of shattered glass and broken wood.

“It’s terrible and sad,” Musselman said.

The antique Weser Bros. grand piano, now destroyed, once sat inside the home at 223 85th Street. (Photo courtesy of Jeri Musselman)

The old house is included in a binder book of locally significant homes compiled by the Sea Isle Historical Museum. The museum’s description of the house notes that it was once the summer estate of the Cronecker family, who owned the storied Cronecker’s Bellevue Hotel.

The Bellevue stood at the corner of 40th Street and Landis Avenue, but was demolished in the 1960s to make way for what is now the LaCosta Lounge, according to museum records. The Croneckers were a force in the Sea Isle hotel business for 70 years.

The home at 223 85th Street reflected their wealth. When the Croneckers lived there, the house included an indoor swimming pool that was later converted to living space in the basement.

Online real estate records indicate the house was built in 1889. There are conflicting dates for the house’s origin in the Sea Isle Historical Museum records. The caption for an old black-and-white photo in the museum’s archives of the Cronecker family says the house dates to 1895. But the museum’s binder book of historically significant homes puts the date at 1905.

Sea Isle tax records show the old house is owned by 92-year-old Marie Regina Thomas of Philadelphia. Contacted by phone in October, Thomas said she has transferred the deed to her children, who could not be reached for comment.

Some of the house’s distinctive architectural touches were evident with the siding and roof.

The house had become deteriorated. However, architectural touches on the weather-beaten exterior gave a hint of the home’s original splendor. Among them was an elaborate wood shingle siding decorated with different patterns. The dwelling was topped by a distinctive cross-gambrel roof, according to museum records.

The old home occupied a double lot, giving the owners different options for redeveloping the property now that the structure has been demolished. It was not immediately clear whether the owners plan to sell the property or build new housing on it.

“Who knows?” Musselman said, noting there is plenty of speculation circulating among the neighbors about the property’s future.