Before we leave Cape May, I must show you Franklin Street Church, an 1879 structure converted into three dramatic condominiums. This is one of my favorite Cape May houses, not a Victorian at all, but Gothic. It was a Designer Home in 2006 and, sadly, I didn’t get to see it, but my friend Madeline did, and says it was unique and fascinating.
It was badly deteriorated and empty for several years before Bill Saponaro, a Cape May antiques dealer-turned-developer bought it and acted as general contractor on the construction project. His vision was to create three luxury condos from its 7,700 square feet of soaring open space punctuated by the lacy fretwork of a series of exposed trusses. The units incorporate the stained-glass windows and celestial ceilings -- 15 feet high in the bedrooms, 27 feet high in the great rooms.
"He's a pretty persuasive person, and since the mission of our organization is to support preservation, his vision inspired everyone," says Marjorie Preston, communications coordinator for Cape May's Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts.
"I have a soft spot for these old buildings," says Saponaro, 46, a onetime hotel and restaurant manager who still owns a pizza shop in Roxborough.Architect S.J. Fenwick of Linwood, N.J., worked with Saponaro on the design, coming up with a plan that positioned the bedrooms on the ground floor and the living spaces on top to create great rooms that use the steeply peaked roof.
"The hardest part was figuring out where to set the floor levels," Fenwick says. "When they decorated the walls with all those large, wonderful windows, they didn't have a constant horizontal plane in mind."
Saponaro, who estimates he's spent $1.7 million on the renovation, had all the stained glass removed and sent out for restoration. The bottom sashes of most of the windows have been changed to clear glass to let in light and views. The leftover stained glass has been incorporated into some of the 14 new windows added to the building.
Two of the units have been sold, but the good news is that one is still on the market. For a mere $1,195,000, this one could be yours. Here are some photos of the inside.