Steve and Esther Lesko have spent a lot of time in the air. Steve was a longtime crane operator who helped build high-rise casinos in Atlantic City. Esther was a flight attendant. But when it came time to build their dream house, they decided to stay grounded. The 4,000 square foot home they built in Upper Township is all on one floor.

The couple, who first met at the landmark Maloney's Tavern in Margate, had been living in Upper Township since they were married in 1973. They built their current home, a four-bedroom ranch, in 1987, when their two children, Steven and Kim, were 12 and 10.

"We loved the area so much we decided to build a house right around the corner," says Esther, who grew up in Linwood. "Caldwell Park was right there. The kids got to go to Ocean City High School."

The custom built home has a brick front and stands on more than three mostly wooded acres on a flag lot off Butter Road in the township's Palermo section. A stone driveway leads through the woods to a 2½ -car garage and a front courtyard dotted with specimen trees and shrubs enclosed by a low brick wall.

The front door opens to a ceramic tiled foyer with an unusual and exotic feature - an indoor garden, with a variety of live plants and a gurgling waterfall, is built into a wall.

"That wall was supposed to be a door to the basement," Esther says. "But we didn't want a basement. So instead of putting a double closet there I said 'Let's do something interesting.'"

In truth, a basement might have been overkill. The living space includes an enormous master suite, a sunken family room, and a great room with a kitchen open to a dining and living area. There's also a huge four-season Florida room that overlooks the tree-lined back yard. Outdoor space is available on the two rear decks on either side of the Florida room. The decks are accessed through separate sets of French doors in the family room and great room.

"We've had a lot of barbecues in the summer time," Esther says. "But even in the winter we have plenty of areas for entertaining."

The kitchen, which enjoys a central location at the back of the house, has newer granite counters and includes a large center island with a five-burner Wolf range. A parquet wood floor extends from the kitchen through the dining and living rooms, which are warmed by a wood-burning fireplace.

The Florida room has a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and rafters.The family room, which features a vaulted ceiling, two skylights and another wood-burning fireplace, is located at one end of the house. It's just off the master suite, which is equipped with an unusual feature - a large Jacuzzi tub that can be entered from both the bathroom and the bedroom.

"We were going to set up a wide screen TV in the bedroom so you could watch TV while you were sitting in the tub but we never got around to it," Esther says.

The tiled master bath also has a separate sitting room, skylights, separate vanities and a walk-in shower.

At the far end of the house are three more bedrooms, a hall bathroom and a large separate laundry room.

A large shed in the yard could serve as a potting barn or used to store garden tools and equipment. The house has a private well and septic system and natural gas service. There are also multiple zones of heat and central air conditioning.

It won't be easy for Steve and Esther to leave their home of 25 years. But lately the couple has been spending much of their time in Florida looking after Steve's elderly parents. Steve recently retired from his job as a crane operator and Esther no longer works for the airlines.

So, they've decided that moving to Florida would be in everybody's best interest.

"Our kids are grown and both living in California, if you can believe it," Esther says. "I don't know how that happened. And our daughter has nine children, so she doesn't get to the East Coast that often. It's a long plane ride.

"It's bittersweet," she says. "It's been a great house for us."

An open house at this property, which is listed for $468,900, will be held Sunday, Jan. 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information and directions call Elisa Jo Eagan of Balsley Losco Real Estate, 609-703-0432.

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