Friday, June 27, 2008

Tudor Stands Out

Long Beach Family keeps upgrading home after 35 years

By Joseph Kellard

Last Thursday afternoon, 77-year-old Sam Arnone could be found lounging in shorts and a T-shirt on the newly renovated front porch of his home at 310 W. Olive St., at the corner of Laurelton Boulevard.

The Tudor, built in 1952, sports the exposed wood framing, white plaster walls, front and side gables with slate roofing, and dark-brick chimney with decorative gray stone typical of its architectural style. Yet Arnone’s home strikes a neat, high-maintenance look that makes it a standout in a neighborhood that includes other Tudors and a landmark Spanish-styled house next door.

Rising from a well-manicured, elevated lawn, the Tudor is surrounded by lush bushes of varying sizes and bordered by a thigh-high concrete wall that cleanly demarcates the treeless, sun-soaked property from the Laurelton sidewalk. That all the exterior features appear new on this classic-styled home is a testament to the many hours of sweat Arnone has invested in renovations since he and his wife, Carol, bought the three-bedroom, three-bath, 2,000-square-foot home in 1973.

“Every year I do something new,” said Arnone, a retired electrical engineer with Sperry Gyroscope, a company that developed navigation systems for the U.S. Navy. The brick and concrete front porch, with its granite steps and new awning, was his latest project.

Although Arnone now hires contractors to do such major work, over the years he and his son, Chris, renovated the kitchen, bathrooms and basement so many times, he’s unsure of the exact count. “Two or three times,” Arnone said about redoing the kitchen that now has a modern mica countertop and cream-colored cabinets.

He said he renovated often because the rooms got outdated, but Carol said the former rooms were just as functional. She claims her husband just has to keep working.

“He can’t stay still,” she said. “He’s very handy and he made this whole house all over. And when he retired, he didn’t know what to do with himself.”

When the Arnones had five cars, he widened the driveway. They also installed central air, and, five years ago, had the concrete wall along Laurelton set back three feet and replaced a nearby stretch of grass — between the sidewalk and curb — with red brick.

“I put brick there because I was tired of mowing the lawn,” Arnone said with a chuckle.

Inside, one of the few original features is an ornamental marble fireplace in the living room, along with cornices around the windows.

“The only reason we didn’t do anything with the fireplace is because it’s a beautiful piece,” he said. All the original windows were stained glass, and some 20 years ago he replaced them — except for the three that remain in the trio of bathrooms — with weather-proofed panes.

The Tudor’s original owner, whose name escapes the Arnones, held a prominent position at House Beautiful magazine, and they attribute to him the home’s fancier features that remain.

Carol, a Manhattan native, spent summers with her parents in a bungalow on Wisconsin Avenue in the West End. This is where she met Sam, who had lived in Long Beach since he was four. They bought their Tudor from the Brown family, and they rented it for a year before they moved in from Queens after their son graduated from elementary school. Carol recalled that she put a down payment on the home while her husband was on a business trip. “Boy, he flipped when he came back,” she said.

She remembered the asking price was $52,000, but she got the real estate agent to sell the home for $40,000 after it was on the market for an extended time and the Browns were also away.

“When I bought it, I told the realtor I wanted something distinct,” Carol said. “And when we passed this house, I took one look at it and said, ‘If you can get me inside this house, you have a sale.’”

Today, Carol said she believes she and her husband can get — in a healthy real estate market — up to $900,000 for their Tudor. But the Arnones have no intention of selling. “I love Long Beach,” Arnone said.

“What’s great about it is the beach and the boardwalk. You can’t beat the boardwalk, and the beach’s white sand is beautiful.”

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.

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