Dec 1, 1999
John Beam House was built in about 1913 by Edward Balch, one of the most important developers in turn-of-the-century Maplewood. John Beam, a realtor, was probably the first resident of the house, according to town directories going back as far as 1916. However, the records list Mr. Balch as the owner, so Mr. Beam must have rented or leased the house.
Edward Balch built many of the houses on Ridgewood Terrace and several adjacent streets at a time when other residential development above Ridgewood Road – including Roosevelt Park and Washington Park – also were being created. A 1908 directory lists Mr. Balch himself living in an impressive house still known today as “Mr. Balch’s House” at what is now 624 Ridgewood Road, at the corner of Mountain Avenue. In 1908, his son Henry, a New York tailor, was living at the corner of Ridgewood Terrace and Ridgewood Road, with no number listed. It may have been a house at the present location of #1, or on the opposite corner. In the 1916 directory, Henry is listed as living with his father.
Mr. Beam was still living in the house in 1920, the year before Mr. Balch sold it. In 1929, the house was on the market again for $50,000. The 1924 directory places Mr. Beam at 608 Ridgewood Road, which, interestingly, the Beam family and others remember as being built by Mr. Balch – and so the threads continue to intertwine.
The gracious house sits on a rise and is fronted by a terrace linking the house with the landscape. It has many Craftsman elements, including broad, bracketed eaves, arched lintels over first floor windows and the front entryway, and multipaned windows, 12 over one on the first floor and 15 over one on the second. In true Craftsman style, the main first floor rooms, living room, dining room and library, have oak woodwork and coffered ceilings. Fireplaces warm the library and living room, and these rooms lead outward – to the porte cochere on the library side and to a tile-floored solarium off the living room.
Attention to detail extended to the second floor as well. The window and door surrounds in all three bedrooms and the sewing room have eared lintels and stepped, engaged columns flanking them. The second floor bathrooms are virtuoso examples of 1930s tile work. A terra-cotta tile roof, added in a 1920s renovation, complements the warmth of the red brick.
Typical of the evolutionary state of many Maplewood houses, Casey and Bill Bradford in 1999 completed extensive renovations of the kitchen, pantry, den and laundry area, choosing light maple cabinets and Mexican floor tiles to contrast with the darker woodwork elsewhere in the house.
Information on this house was derived from research by Marilyn White and Lorraine Abruzzo in the Essex County Hall of Records, as well as by Susan Newberry in the reference division of the Maplewood Memorial Library, and the Maplewood Clerk’s Office and Building Department.
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June 9, 2019, 1:00 PM
Juneteenth, an African American celebration marking the end of slavery in the United States, will be the focus of the June program in collaboration with the South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. The afternoon will include dancers, storytelling, a quilt display, musicians, activities for families and children, Civil War Colored Troop reenactors, as well as information about New Jersey’s history of slavery, which continued up until the time of the Civil War.
As part of the celebration, we are sponsoring a student essay contest on communications barriers between people of different races. All students in grades 6 through 12 who are residents of Maplewood or South Orange are eligible. Deadline is May 28. Read more information about the contest.