Architect John Olivieri died in 1999. But his legacy remains in the magnificent homes he designed and restored all along the southern New Jersey Shore. Jerry Valentine owns one of those homes, a 3-bedroom 2.5-bath neo-Victorian that fronts the bay in Wildwood Crest. The custom built home features three levels of decks and 47 windows, all of which feature a view of the bay and wetlands. Jerry takes none of the credit.
"People are always telling me what a great job I did with the house," he says. "I tell them it wasn't me. It was John Olivieri. I just rubber stamped it."
Jerry, who owned a fire restoration business for many years, grew up in Philadelphia, but had been summering at the Jersey Shore for years.
"I've always been a seashore guy," he says. "When I became successful I wanted to build my dream house at the Shore." For a time, Jerry owned a waterfront condo in Wildwood. He bought the bayfront lot in Wildwood Crest in 1993 and hired Olivieri to design the house.
"John told me that it's rooflines and windows that make a house special," he says. "So I told him to give me lots of windows and I wanted to be able to see the water from every room in the house. When it was done it was everything he said it would be."
The house, which has 2,033 square feet of living space, is located seven blocks from the ocean at the intersection of Lake and Buttercup roads. It's situated on a part of the bay known as Sunset Lake which flows into the Intracoastal Waterway. An avid ocean fisherman, Jerry made sure to build a dock for his 26-foot Southport fishing boat.
"I have two floating docks and four boat slips," he says. "I'm about 15 minutes from the Cape May Inlet and a half hour from the Cape May reef."
Jerry had the house built as close to the water as local ordinances allowed.
"Theoretically I could dive off my upper deck right into the bay," he says.
Most of the improvements Jerry has made over the years are related to the exterior including the maintenance-free Trex decks and vinyl railings. He installed a new vinyl bulkhead in 2007.
To protect against flooding, the living areas of the house are on the second and third levels. The lower level consists of a garage, a half bath, an outdoor shower, an unfinished room with cinderblock walls and a ground-level deck that runs the length of the house.
"Because of fear of mother nature I raised the house as high as possible," Jerry says. "All my utilities are on the second level and my heating system is bolted to the garage ceiling. I took a foot of water during Sandy but since it was all cinderblock there was no damage. It's the first time I took water in 18 years."
The second level features two bedrooms, a full bath, a kitchen and family room with dining area, and a 12-by-28-foot upper deck. The kitchen has ceramic tile floors but Jerry says a new owner will probably want to replace the original wall-to wall carpeting in the living room, dining room and bedrooms.
The top floor is devoted to a master suite with a private bath and a private deck with an elevated view of the bay.
Jerry, a long time divorcee, used the house on weekends until 2000, when he made it his year round residence. Now he's planning to relocate to Morehead, North Carolina, where his son and daughter both live.
"We were all supposed to get together in Cape May but their work took them to the Carolinas," Jerry says. Now that I'm getting older they're bugging me to move down there."
While it's hard to leave his longtime home on the bay there is a silver lining.
"Up here I wait eight months for four good months to use my boat," Jerry says. "Down there you wait four months for eight good months."
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