Published On: Mon, Dec 2nd, 2019

Prominent New Hope home demolished without borough approval

The home at 49 W. Mechanic St. lies in ruins on Nov. 5, with the New Hope Borough Community Room in the background.

New Hope residents on their way to vote on Nov. 5 were treated to a shocking sight: a locally renowned home at the entrance to Borough Hall had been unexpectedly and completely flattened.

Previously owned by New Hope notables Nora and Frederick Wertz, the home was located in the borough’s historic district at 49 W. Mechanic St. It had been built in 1900, and sold in December 2018, some years after Nora’s passing.

No one seems to know why the structure was leveled without warning by new owners Jerome and Susan Aspite of Warminster, who were not able to be reached for comment.

49 W. Mechanic St. before it was destroyed.

“We are not sure what prompted the property owner to proceed with the demolition without the proper permits, as the Certificate of Appropriateness and building permits issued clearly did not include any demolition,” said a borough spokesperson. “And the property owner did not indicate in any application review process that they were planning to demolish the property.”

“Since the demolition, the property owner has been issued several violations notices, and fines and penalties are being calculated,” continued the spokesperson. “The focus at this point is to make sure that the site is safe and secure.”

Sculpture by Nora Wertz donated to borough.

Meanwhile, many New Hope residents were left scratching their heads and reminiscing about the home’s former inhabitants.

“I loved Nora,” said Meshell Kimbell, owner of the God Save the Qweens clothing shop at 13 W. Mechanic St. “When I first opened, I walked down the hill past Nora’s every day, and we became fast friends. I would stop and have a chat with her when she was out. She insisted I take some flowers — she had the most beautiful flowers. I really miss her.”

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Displaying 22 Comments
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  1.' Ivy says:

    This comment is not so much regarding the politics of the policy/codes/permits that is under scrutiny, but more so an opportunity to reminisce. This was my grandma/grandpa’s home. There were so many good memories in this sweet home. I remember my cousin and I flying from Oregon to Pennsylvania to live with grandma and grandpa over the summer when I was 16 (2001?) so I could work and save up money. I worked around the corner at “Taco Loco” and was able to walk to and from work. I eagerly made a pocketful of cash almost daily that my grandparents allowed me to keep all for myself, which at 16 was a pretty big deal. The town of New Hope was adorable and this house fit right in. My grandma and grandpa would take us on late night runs to the local grocery store for klondike ice-cream bars, coca cola for our private mini fridge upstairs and goodies galore. I will never forget grandma stopping every stranger in our path to introduce myself and my cousin. Grandpa was quieter but was so thoughtful and caring. I remember how much he loved his cat, Togar, who unfortunately passed while we were there. It was always his idea to take us out to eat, take us to the store for midnight snacks. I still crack up at the fact that my cousin and I would cringe and hide while driving in their wood paneled station wagon through town. Grandpa would stop a good 200 feet before any red light. People would honk or drive around us and pull up to the crosswalk to stop. So many funny/great/loving/wonderful memories. Love the two of them forever. The house may be torn down but there legacy they left on so many will live on forever!

  2. It is so touching to see that my mom and dad are fondly remembered. They LOVED the unique character of New Hope and the independent thinkers that attracted to the town. We were very sorry to have to sell the house. I believe that the house IS on the historic register (or was on it anyway) and Mom and Dad respected the historic code of New Hope even though in later years they lost the ability (physically and financially) to maintain it as they would have liked. The house needed an awful lot of work. I sincerely hope that the new owners will rebuild with a reverence for the aesthetic New Hope is known for. Happy New Year all, Nora II.

  3.' House says:

    It’s super sad to see Grandma and Grandpa’s house demolished this way especially one so many good memories were made there I love the fact that I can still visit there mermaid statue regardless one of my best memories was one of my Grandpa took me on a train ride through New Hope and the train was so old I was picking Cole out of my hair just a good memory Grandma and Grandpa you will always be missed and you always beloved furthermore I believe the basement to this place was made out of Rock built in the 1700s so therefore possibly historic value so I’m thinking they weren’t going to get approval to demo it so they did it without permission from the city and decided just to pay the fine without getting permission anyways I hope whoever demoed it that’s a beautiful house and know that two beautiful people used to live there

  4.' JaneAdele says:

    I don’t think the issue is so much that the house brought good memories to locals, or that Nora was a wonderful person. The issue is that the Borough has been publicly clamping down on other “violations” in town, and this will be a test as to whether the town officials will be consistent in their power plays and/or legal battles. Or will they be arbitrary? Will money talk?

  5.' Tony says:

    Id like to comment as i read this article and only wander- why would the public have any say in a matter of a Private property? I understand the former owner were good people. But they sold and new people spent thier hard earned money in a home. If they chose to demo and rebuild so be it. Why does a local government get a say in that? Its not up to them. And its rediculous in my opinion that ALL these local govts issue fines and fees for people trying to update and renovate a property to live in. Honestly if youre not paying for it then keep your opinions to yourself. Or BUY IT YOURSELF and leave it delapidated and full of termites. I have a home on main street and as a veteran i believe in keeping to the old ways of life, this is america why do we need permission to repair/replace our homes? Public opinion should focus on BORO owned properties have a great new hope day all!

  6.' Mike says:

    Time to thin the herd a bit in New Hope. It’s not ageing well and is getting a bit tired. I’m sure the authorities will fine the new owners AND then gladly accept the additional tax revenues generated by the new house that they couldn’t derive from the old and not so charming one torn down.

  7.' Sandra says:

    If this house was so special, why did no one go through the process of placing it on the National Register? Probably because there is nothing significant about it. It’s sweet that people knew the previous owner & loved her, but New Hope is failing before our eyes. All those empty storefronts should be of more concern than this neglected house.

  8.' Jacky Block says:

    I agree with Meshell. Nora was a lovely, alive woman. She had the most beautiful flower garden some parts surrounding her mermaid sculpture she said her husband bought her in France for one of their wedding anniversaries. Nora would hand me bouquets of flowers as I walked down the hill from my parking space. We were in the same yoga class.
    Her home meant the world to her.

  9.' Sandy says:

    Much of the charm that was New Hope is disappearing. My family moved to the area in 1856 and the family name was well known. Now Odettes is moved, Gerensers is gone, and a Dunkin’ Donuts holds the focal spot in town. Yay progress, not. I don’t know why they figured they wouldn’t get permits, pretty much anything goes now.

  10. New hope is a shadow of it’s former self. No regard for history. They should make this a dog park and forbid the people to build here.

    •' Common Sense says:

      Let’s all get ourselves in a knot over an old house.

      Not everyone loves a rundown New Hope. Why should an owner need to preserve something just to make people feel better?

      Work without permits is not appropriate but if the town focused more on efficiency vs pocket lining, owners would not need to resort to this type of action. Permit? You mean cha ching for NH.

      •' Reggie says:

        Common sense.You hit the nail on the head (POCKET LINING)for the Snob elite class of New Hope who tut,tut around Bucks county Playhouse and play LETS MAKE A DEAL for the right price.

  11.' Kit Taylor says:

    And this demolition happened literally right under the nose of the NH Police Dept. Someone with the city and/or its vendors was paid off to overlook this non-approved demo. Investigation is needed – not in Ukraine – but right here in our home towns. Another McMansion Townhouse will go up in its place as a new canker sore for the neighborhood.

  12.' Reggie says:

    I think New Hope thinks and worries about the most unimportant items.Is everyone in mourning are they going to have a candle light service. Did some not get their bribes and their Elite snob status ruffled. Raven reduced to a parking lot and that eyesore is the focus of attention. Get a real life New Hope.

  13.' Sandra says:

    Built in 1900. Not exactly the 120 year old home that I look at and think, “How beautiful. I hope they preserve it.” Certificate of Appropriateness? Is that a real thing? This is a case of it being easier to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. Permission we all know they would never have received.

  14.' Jean Cervi says:

    It’s not rocket science to figure out that the current owners, Jerome and Susan Aspite, were well aware that they would never get permission to tear down that historic home so that they could build an oversized house unsuitable for the property. Aspite solution: demolish it and let everyone yell about the loss after the fact when it is too late. Solution by the borough: make them rebuild an exact replica of the Wertz home. Now that would be justice!

  15.' Mugman says:

    No one ever had a short chat with Nora…she was an Olympic conversationalist and a voracious reader.

  16.' LWV says:

    I’m interested to see what happened in this situation. I find it difficult to wrap my mind around the thought a homeowner of a property in town central or the service responsible for demolition wouldn’t have reached out to the town. Something is not adding up with this event. However if there in fact was no contact with the town prior to demolition…that would be irresponsible in a grand way.

  17.' Niles says:

    This is very sad. My wife Kathy & I were totally surprised by this. Nora was the first person we met when we began visiting New Hope in 2001. Ironically our first conversation was about concerns she had about the construction of the complex across the road from her on Mechanic Street. To see this happen now is tragic. How did this happen?

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