Fort Lee Celebrates Rambo House’s Latest Incarnation
It became an inn, then a movie star, of sorts. Its distinctive peaked dormer and front porch appeared in hundreds of Western films before the nascent motion picture industry moved to Hollywood. At one time, the place buzzed with the creative energy of technicians, actors and directors.
After decades as a neighborhood tavern and then another stint as a private residence, the house on Wednesday was celebrated for its latest incarnation — two publicly owned affordable housing units for families of military veterans.
At a ceremony outside the First Street house on Wednesday, Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III called the most recent transformation “a story of government as a force for good.” Mayor Mark Sokolich, meanwhile, called the project “a great victory for Fort Lee.”
Three years ago, the historic building was set to be razed by a developer who planned to rebuild a modern two-family home in its stead. Local film and history buffs were furious and petitioned borough officials to step in to save the structure.
After the plumbing and electrical systems were removed in preparation for demolition but before a wrecking ball arrived, the borough negotiated a deal to purchase the property using $565,000 from its Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The Fort Lee Housing Authority and its affiliated development entity, the Fort Lee Assistance and Support Housing Corporation, or FLASH, then won a grant from the county’s Division of Community Development to fund renovations.
Tedesco presented FLASH with a $240,000 check on Wednesday even though the renovations were completed by GK Contractors of Pompton Lakes earlier this month. He then joined other officials in unveiling a historic marker to be displayed permanently on the house’s front porch.
The marker includes a brief history of “Rambo’s Hotel,” named after the family that once owned it, as well as historic photos and portraits of prominent people who spent time there.
“This project is a testament to the value of historic preservation and the desire to cherish the people and the places of the past in a way that is useful in the present and future,” Tedesco said.
Cynthia Forster, director of the county’s Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs, agreed that the manner in which the Rambo House was preserved is “the way of the future.”
“It’s extremely tough for people to maintain buildings as museums,” she said. “So often we would have to reuse them in other ways. And this shows you one wonderful way of reusing a building while keeping the façade, keeping the historic marker out front.”
Two families of military veterans are expected to move into the two-story, two-bedroom units as early as next month, officials said. Those families have yet to be finalized.