Antionette Dorf isn't old enough to remember when her house was built. That was 1912, the year the Titanic went down. But she does remember when she moved into the three-story home in Atlantic City's Lower Chelsea section. It was 1943, and "Toni," as everyone knows her, was seven years old. "It was during WW II, and I remember my father built a bomb shelter in the basement," Toni recalls. "It was solid concrete. We called it the bomb room."
The bomb room, presumably built to withstand an aerial bombardment by the Luftwaffe, is still there. So are the solid wood doors with glass knobs, the wood-burning fireplace with the massive stone chimney, the cast iron radiators, the plaster walls and the towering Greek columns that flank the front door.
"Nothing has really changed, except for the window treatments," Toni says. "Everything is old like me."
Toni was born in a house on Georgia Avenue in Atlantic City's Ducktown section. But she's lived in the stately colonial revival at the corner of Tallahassee and Ventnor avenues for most of the past 70 years.
"I lived in New York for a while when I was married and then we moved to Margate for a few years until I got divorced," she says. "I've been here ever since."
Toni's parents, Mike and Antoinette Marshall, bought the house in 1943. Mike, who went by the nickname "Hobo," was the owner of a construction company and later a demolition company that razed much of the city's Inlet section during a 1970s urban renewal project.
Toni's house is a block-and-a-half from both the ocean and the bay. It's in one of the quietest residential neighborhoods in Atlantic City and features large homes built by affluent families in the first half of the 20th century. Toni says the house across the street used to belong to the mother of Leonard Tose, the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Toni's all-brick house has five bedrooms, 3½ baths and about 2,600 square feet of living space not including the finished basement (and bomb shelter). The property also includes a buildable lot facing Tallahassee Avenue that is currently a meticulously landscaped back yard where a brick garage still stands.
"The yard used to be my grandmother's garden," Toni says. "All the neighbors would come over to talk and they'd go home with baskets full of fruits and vegetables."
The beautifully preserved house features a large living room with a coffered ceiling, wood- burning fireplace, a window seat and French doors to a covered porch. A spacious formal dining room also has a window seat. The eat-in kitchen, which has been updated over the years, has a long booth that can seat more than a dozen people.
"We were a big family," Toni says. "My dad's four brothers and four sisters all lived here at one time or another."
A back door off the kitchen leads to a small covered porch overlooking the back yard.
The second floor has three bedrooms, two remodeled bathrooms and a large landing that leads to a "Romeo and Juliet" balcony that overlooks Tallahassee Avenue. The large master bedroom has a private bath, a separate dressing area and a window seat. On the wall above the bed is a button that was once used to summon the maid.
The third floor has two bedrooms and a full bathroom with original yellow tile. One of the bedrooms is large enough to serve as a rec room.
A full walk-out basement has a low ceiling but includes a laundry room and several finished rooms.
Toni's memories of Atlantic City stretch back a long way.
"I remember ice skating at Convention Hall and the outdoor rink at the Traymore Hotel," she says. "My daughter used to dance at Steel Pier with Tony Grant's Stars of Tomorrow. And I was here for all the hurricanes and what not. The hurricane of 1944 was the worst. The boardwalk was floating down Ventnor Avenue."
Toni is now preparing for the next chapter of her life. And, considering that her father lived to be 99 and her mother lived to be 96, it could by a long chapter.
Step one is to sell the house and find something a little smaller.
"I'd like to stay at the shore but I've looked at a lot of homes and I'm very picky," Toni says. "I'm not an elevator person so I don't want to live in a high-rise. I really have no idea where I'm going. But I'll handle it. I've handled a lot over the years."
For more information on this property, which has been reduced to $499,000, call Kevin Corcoran Real Estate at 609-348-0077.
Contact David Enscoe: