The house where Richard Kershner and Genie Palm live is much like the other Victorian-era homes that comprise the quaint and historic community of Cape May Court House. Built in 1905, it retains many original features including hardwood floors, plaster walls and a wood-burning fireplace. But Richard and Genie's house has two things that set it apart from neighboring properties: a charming two-story guest cottage and a magnificent garden.
The guest cottage had been gutted by a fire when Richard and Genie purchased the property 11 years ago. Genie's son, a builder, spent the better part of a year rebuilding it, and the cottage now features two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. It's currently rented out to an artist.
As for the garden, that was all Genie's doing. She took a barren section of back yard and converted it into an aquatic wonderland with a stream and waterfalls that feed into a large pond lined exotic perennials and teeming with goldfish and frogs.
"I designed it to be something you might stumble upon when you come through the woods," Genie says.
The garden is entered through a gap in the high hedge that shields it from the street. A sign over the entrance reads "Genie's Enchanted Garden."
"It looks different depending on the time of year," Genie says. "Right now the Canna is in bloom and makes it look tropical. The red flowers attract hummingbirds and earlier in the season the butterfly bush has purple flowers and is so full of butterflies it looks like a butterfly tree."
There are tiger lilies and hibiscus all around the pond, which is lined with 60 tons of river rock. Behind the garden is a long raised planting bed where Richard tends to his vegetable plants.
Richard and Genie were familiar with the area before they bought the house in 2002. Richard grew up in Vineland before settling in King of Prussia, Pa. and Genie, a native of Reading, Pa., previously owned a property in nearby Holly Lake.
Location was a major factor in their choice. Cape May Court House, which is part of Middle Township, is about a 7-minute drive from the beaches of Stone Harbor and Avalon and 10 minutes from historic Cape May. From their house on Atlantic Avenue, it's a short walk to shops, restaurants, the library, a Wawa and, of the historic Cape May County Court House which was built in 1849. It's also just a block away from athletic fields that include the Middle Township High School football stadium.
The 4-bedroom 1½ -bath main house has its original floor plan, with a kitchen and formal living and dining rooms on the first floor and four bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor.
The house is entered through a small Victorian style anteroom. The living room features a working wood-burning fireplace framed by a brick chimney. The dining room, which Richard and Genie use as a library, has as narrow stairway that winds its way to the second floor. An enclosed porch off the updated galley kitchen serves as a breakfast room and opens to a back deck that extends over the pond.
The house also has a full unfinished basement and a walk-up attic that is accessed from a second floor bedroom. It has replacement windows and updated electric service and is heated by natural gas/hot water radiators.
Richard and Genie, whose children are grown, plan to stay in or near Cape May Court House after they sell the house. But they're looking to downsize, possibly to a 55-and-over community.
"We'd like to do some traveling, spend some time in Florida, maybe take a trip down the Rhine River," Genie says. "I have a son in New Mexico and family in Pennsylvania and Florida. They used to come and visit more and now they don't as much."
An open house at this property, which is listed for $259,000, will be held Saturday, Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information call Suzanne Cafiero of Century 21 Alliance, 609-522-1212, or direct at 609-231-9347.
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