One-of-a-Kind Point Pleasant Home Built Around Century-Old Trolley Car – New Jersey Monthly

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Tucked away on a facet road, deep within the coronary heart of Level Nice, sits what is probably New Jersey’s most unusual home: a summer season house constructed round a basic trolley automobile that’s now a household legacy stuffed with reminiscences, and restored to final for generations to return.
It was Ed Sjonell’s father, additionally named Ed Sjonell (pronounced sha-nell, “just like the fragrance,” says the youthful Sjonell), who had the audacity to tackle the enterprise. The story reads like a fable: Sjonell Sr. was a younger Swedish sailor who jumped ship in New York Harbor in 1918. He joined the U.S. Military, preventing in Europe throughout World Conflict I earlier than returning to New Jersey to cool down. He ultimately discovered work with the Public Service Transport, the company that ran trains, trolleys and buses all through the state.
A black-and-white print of the Sjonells’ trolley whereas in service some 100 years in the past. Photograph by John Bessler
Because the story goes, retold by Sjonell and his spouse, Kathy, when Ed Sr. discovered that quicker trains and buses had been changing trolleys, he managed to buy a decommissioned automobile—trolley #6500, which as soon as ran between Elizabeth and New Brunswick—for the whopping sum of $1. That was in 1938. He then purchased a parcel of wooded land in an undeveloped city in Ocean County. That buy set him again one other $14. Explains Kathy, the unofficial household historian: “The realm was full of woods and blueberry bushes, which reminded Ed [Sr.] of his native Sweden.” The largest problem, in fact, was the way to transport the trolley to the distant spec of land. Ingenuity prevailed once more. For $300, Ed Sr. had the trolley shipped on a flatbed truck. His son, who was two years outdated on the time, would develop up in it.
Every room within the Sjonells’ transformed trolley-car house makes no thriller of its origins. The sitting room, proven right here, was as soon as the rear of the trolley. Unique black-and-white prints present trolley #6500 in its authentic state. Photograph by John Bessler
It took a number of years for Ed Sr. and his Scandinavian mates to safe the trolley and construct a cottage round it. Finally, the trolley construction boasted a kitchen and two bedrooms, all customary inside the unique passenger automobile; the lounge and entrance porch had been constructed as add-ons.
The Sjonells’ house has been constructed seamlessly across the trolley; the trolley’s exterior is solely intact. The hallway’s new flooring mimic the trolley’s authentic woodwork. Photograph by John Bessler
Sjonell, an solely little one, has vivid reminiscences of rising up within the trolley home. Whereas the Sjonells lived in a two-family house in Elizabeth—his dad was a bus driver and his mother labored for the telephone firm—they made the trek to Level Nice nearly each weekend. “We’d drive down Route 34,” says Sjonell. “Each third or fourth journey, we’d get a flat tire.” The household would cease off at an ice home on their method to the Shore. “We’d get a hunk of ice for 1 / 4 and put it within the icebox on the again porch,” he remembers. “We had a pump for water. We had an outhouse. You could possibly say it was very rustic.” Days had been spent fishing, crabbing and swimming within the close by Manasquan River. “We’d go fishing on a regular basis,” says Sjonell. “We caught eels within the bay, and my father would fry them.” Weekends had been a particular time. Life was carefree; the trolley house sat on what was then a sandy, dead-end road. “There have been solely three homes on the block, however a lot of children to play with. We’d play pinochle till three within the morning, for 1 / 4,” Sjonell remembers. “I’d be excited if my father would win a nickel.”
Someday within the late ’40s, the sandy street was paved. Round that point, the Sjonells upgraded and added plumbing to the trolley. “We didn’t take too many showers earlier than then,” he jokes.
The Sjonells’ compact kitchen. Photograph by John Bessler
Quickly sufficient, Sjonell, Kathy and their three kids took over the trolley home, and the enjoyable instances continued with a brand new era having fun with the home. (The household’s full-time residence is in Scotch Plains, the place Sjonell retired as a steerage counselor.) “It stayed mainly the identical for the following 60 years,” says Kathy. “We solely determined to develop when our six grandchildren started to appear.” In 2002, the couple determined to tear down the tiny home whereas leaving the trolley intact, a venture simpler mentioned than executed.
The 2002 renovation contains an overhang and columns, resembling a trolley pulling right into a station. Photograph by John Bessler

“We consulted a number of architects,” explains Sjonell, “they usually all needed to eradicate the trolley.” That was out of the query, provides Kathy. They continued their seek for an architect who would embrace the trolley’s historical past. Finally, they stumbled upon David Feldman of Feldman & Feldman Architects in Wall Township. “He shared our love of the outdated automobile,” says Kathy. When Feldman sketched a two-story house that resembled a trolley automobile pulling right into a station, the Sjonells knew they’d discovered their architect. “That was it,” provides Sjonell. “Feldman was the person.” Provides Kathy, “He maintained the integrity.”
The unique trolley, and the home constructed round it, from the road. The Sjonells had been cautious to recreate the unique colours. Photograph by John Bessler
The addition, which included a second story with three bedrooms, two baths and a loft, additionally expanded the lounge beneath. The couple known as upon trusted native builder Tom Blake to sort out the venture. It took him two years, but it surely was well worth the wait. “He did an exquisite job protecting it intact,” says Sjonell. Aesthetically, there’s no mistaking the unique trolley automobile. “The wheels are nonetheless within the floor. It’s the unique mahogany, the unique home windows, the unique oak flooring, the unique buzzer,” says Sjonell. “For those who rely them, there are 286 authentic rivets.”
Ed and Kathy stand exterior their house. Photograph by John Bessler
The couple proceed to spend most weekends on the trolley home, however now compete with their grandkids, all vying for time. “Our grandkids use all of it summer season,” says Kathy. “Everybody desires their time right here.”
RESOURCES: Architect: David Feldman, Feldman & Feldman Architects, Wall; 732-761-8182. Builder: Tom Blake, Level Nice; 732-899-4427.
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