By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – The St. Leonard’s Association, formed in 1921, is one of the oldest homeowner’s associations in the nation and boasts a tight-knit group of people who have a strong sense of community, association President Bill Sill said.
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the association is planning to erect a mosaic on the side of an outbuilding located at the Suffolk Avenue recreation complex that is visible to the boardwalk where thousands of visitors stroll, ride their bicycles or jog for exercise. Sill said the association wanted to create something beautiful that also creates awareness of the St. Leonard’s Tract, a seashore neighborhood with unique architecture built by wealthy individuals nearly a century ago.
The association has worked hard over the last 100 years to preserve the historic nature of the neighborhood, which includes 180 French Provincial, Spanish Colonial, Queen Anne and other unique residential mansions where presidents, business moguls and even Charles Lindbergh and Irving Berlin spent their summer vacations.
“What’s really terrific is the association is a tight knit group of members who have a strong sense of community,” Sill said. “We have various social gatherings throughout the year and do some civic projects.”
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, association members have been holding BYO tiki bar parties and discussing ways to celebrate years of preserving the tract’s heritage and enforcing the strict zoning codes outlined in the association’s charter. The area is bounded by Inside Thorofare, Surrey Avenue, Cambridge Avenue and the high water mark of the Atlantic Ocean. At the end of the summer, 13 trustees had a socially-distanced gathering in a member’s back yard to brainstorm ideas for the celebration.
Board members came up with the idea of creating a 3- by 20-foot mosaic for the boardwalk side of the building, which is located behind the tennis courts. They enlisted mosaic designer Jill Snyder of Margate to guide them through the construction process.
Association members will cut and glue pieces of tiles to a series of fiberboard panels and the city’s Public Works Department will install the mosaic, which includes the lettering, St. Leonard’s Tract, with a seascape design in the background.
“It will be pretty and another way of marking St. Leonard’s Tract for people passing by on the boardwalk,” Sill said.
It is not the first public-private partnership between the association and the city. Last year, the association designed and had manufactured distinctive black and white street signs and the city erected them on street corners throughout the neighborhood.
“City Hall and the commissioners have been very supportive of our efforts to create a center of place for St. Leonard’s,” he said. “We’re building a nice record of partnership with the city.”
The panels will be manufactured in a barn at the rear of Vice-president Anne Corrigan’s property. They plan to start cutting and gluing the tiles in March and have it installed by June.
The association plans to unveil the mosaic at its 100th anniversary block party being planned for Saturday, June 26 at the sand lot next to the building.
“We hope to have city officials and special guests participate. Celebrating 100 years for any institution is pretty darn good,” he said.
Sill said the association is hoping to get the tiles donated from residents who have had tile work done at their homes.
“We already asked our members and reached out to several contractors. Next, we will approach tile warehouses to see if they have any leftover tiles. We are very appreciative for anything we get,” he said.
Based on the design, seafoam green, blue, purple and grey tiles are needed. Anyone who has tiles to donate can call Sill or Corrigan to arrange to have them picked up.
“As a voluntary organization, I think it’s amazing that we can do this, and the reason we can is because of our dedicated members. Anne has spent countless hours to transform ideas into reality. It’s an amazing group to be part of and I am honored to be their president,” he said.
To donate tiles, call Bill Sill at 202-491-4949 or Anne Corrigan at 609-576-1199.
For more information about the association, see www.stleonardstract.org.
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