Sensing the American Spirit

As English warships departed Sandy Hook Bay after their defeat in the American Revolution, we might imagine the jubilation of patriots standing on “Point Lookout” in Atlantic Highlands, watching those sails fade away for good into the mist. Site of the last British encampment during the Revolutionary War, it was this 3-plus acres at 170 Ocean Blvd. where Chad Sullivan recently built a remarkable home that channels the rich history of its location.

“I thought of it like a century build,” Chad says. “I wanted the feeling of an old house, so I paid attention to everything from the ceilings down to the floorboards.” True to his vision, history informs modernity in this masterfully realized home, and that proud colonial legacy is built into the bones and heart of what is now known as “The Thomas Paine House.”

Thomas Paine was an Englishman who immigrated to the United States with the help of Benjamin Franklin. In 1776, he published the pamphlet titled “Common Sense,” which advocated American independence from England. The current home got its name because, during its construction, a copy of the Paine pamphlet was found under the floorboards of the original 1750 farmhouse kitchen.

Chad was astounded during construction by the discovery of other colonial artifacts in addition to the pamphlet. Eighteenth century newspapers and books were uncovered, probably used for insulation in the old house. They were remarkably well preserved, and some of the most mint condition pages are now framed and on display in the home’s wine-tasting room. Chad used parts of the original, massive stone foundation, bringing them forward into the present design. The result is a 12,000 square foot mansion house inspired by 18th century architectural style and design, and fit for the family of the most discriminating modern day squire.

Details that Chad used to summon the magic of past lives include the oak planks for the kitchen floor, some of which came from the former farmhouse. As a result, he explains, they   are not uniform and don’t fit together perfectly, so there are irregular spaces in between the planks – leading Anna to raise an eyebrow about places where dirt may get trapped. She agrees, however, that the look is stunning, and the effect is, well – historical. Chad had also noticed that old marble floors show unmistakable signs of wear from the footsteps of   generations, so after he bought rough-cut marble for the kitchen, it was sanded down in such a way as to recreate the patina of age. “It even has waves in it,” he notes, “that give the feel of old.”

Chad created this magical environment for his family: his wife Anna, and their young baby son. The couple met in Shanghai, China, where Anna was studying Chinese dialects and language, and were married two years ago. Anna is a classically trained pianist and can be heard playing the beautiful ebony grand piano in the expansive, marble-floored foyer that opens out to views of the ocean.

The Sullivans now share a home that is a spectacular example of historically-inspired elegance. Though not old, this home is certain to have the staying power of a treasured heirloom for generations to come. Chad and Anna have built a home that bridges the colonial past with a glorious American present and future.

Photos: Brian Anderson

The outdoor spaces are a masterful combination of formal landscaping and natural beauty. Landscaping and water elements are fully integrated into the surroundings. Flowers and trees create vistas of green and richly colored blooms. Chad says there is nothing better than strolling around these magnificent grounds on a warm summer night.

The Sullivan house is like an art gallery when it comes to exterior masonry. This statuesque chimney is a great example of artistry in the real world. This home is a classic in so many ways. The use of brick and mortar as well as peanut stone and iron stone create a lot of interest on the exterior of this estate.

Exterior details include a beautifully integrated set of garages that recreate the look of a stable. Hidden inside is a 1963 Bentley that Chad won in a card game from race car driver Bob Hancher. He rarely takes this car for a spin, but when he does, it’s a real head turner.

Chad enjoys showing off the below-ground level spaces that are his domain. A room that was, intriguingly, once used as a jail is now a gathering place to sit back and enjoy a fine wine. The oak bar includes a copper-lined spittoon and wine dispenser by Cruvinet.

A fully appointed catering kitchen is equipped with a center island work area and steel sink, perfect for hosting big parties.

Parts of the massive stone foundation that dates back to the original 1750 farmhouse were left in place and incorporated into the new design, including the large fire box for roaring fires on cold winter nights.

To the right of the fireplace is a hidden door that looks like masonry wall, but opens to a wine room. Inside, pages from colonial era documents found during construction are displayed on the walls.




To the left, a steel door fronts a 5' X 5' space that Chad thinks may have been used as an armory.












Behind the wine room, the wine cellar is kept cool by an ingenious cistern system that surrounds it with 55 degree water, year-round, without using energy!

The stylish and romantic double staircase has oak treads and newel post. The front door is a massive artifact and may have come from the Rumson courthouse.

The spacious foyer functions as a centerpiece for the entire residence. Chad took particular care to give the marble floors the look of age. Listening as Anna, an accomplished pianist, plays exquisitely, guests can be further transported by a sweeping view of the ocean through the French doors. Minuet, anyone?

Just off the kitchen is a formal dining room graced with a rustic 5' X 12' banquet table that seats 18-plus. Chad crafted the table himself from wide plank lumber, possibly Douglas fir, reclaimed from the former house. It's a table that conjures tankards of beer and joints of meat, but is just as inviting spread with fine modern fare.

Triple French doors provide expansive views of the outdoor landscape beyond.

A professional grade chef’s kitchen features many premier quality appliances and architectural elements. The antique white cabinetry features brushed silver drawer pulls, a farm sink and random width oak flooring finished in a satiny, but also rustic finish. The kitchen includes a Wolf 6 burner stove and Sub Zero refrigerator. The massive center island is a great place to get together for coffee and scones. Pendant lighting and a coffered ceiling also complement the space.

The master bedroom is quite elegant and generously sized. The room features wide crown moldings reminiscent of those inspired by Jefferson’s Monticello. A cozy bed takes center stage and is placed on a patterned rug, adding much visual interest to the room’s overall décor. Sconces above the headboard and mantel add just the right amount of soft lighting to any evening. French doors lead to an outlook taking full advantage of the views beyond. A well-appointed master bath includes an antique mirrored boudoir piece, double sinks and a generously spacious claw footed tub.

For guests who prefer not to climb stairs, this charming main level room has all the look and feel of a colonial-era retreat.

Chad chose this modern-style painting for its pop of color. He is unsure of the artist's name, but jokingly likes to call it a "Frederick Matisse." [Henri Matisse was the famous painter]

The “monkey” bedroom, as it is fondly known, adds whimsy to the classically inspired interior design of this home. Sconces feature carved monkeys clothed in colonial inspired dress and a center hanging lighting fixture also in a monkey theme. The bed in this room is known as an English Shropshire and is well proportioned to be used in the space. The coffered ceilings create great architectural interest.

All of the 6 bedrooms in the house are ensuite with their own bathrooms. The entire house is kept warm and welcoming with modern radiant heat.

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16 May 2017

By Michael Berman & Photography by Al Kruper