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Herrmann’s Castle gives way to wrecking ball

JENNIFER STEELE PHOTO A wrecking ball at work on Herrmann’s Castle Wednesday morning.
JENNIFER STEELE PHOTO A wrecking ball at work on Herrmann’s Castle Wednesday morning.

If Walter Herrmann were here today, he might shed a tear as a wrecking ball began demolishing his beloved Herrmann’s Castle at 85 Shore Road on Wednesday to make way for a modern structure that will be the home of Zach Vella and his family.

Mr. Herrmann, a German immigrant who came to the United States to establish a contracting firm, built the iconic structure in 1973. But when demolition is completed, the site will give rise to a modern structure that has been several years in the planning stage.

When Mr. Herrmann and his wife, Ingrid, conceived the original structure that has a commanding view of Crescent Beach, it was their fantasy of a Bavarian chalet.

But the structure sat empty for years and became a crumbling image on the hilltop with twisted metal railings shifting in the breeze. Plywood panels were on the ground floor to keep out curiosity seekers . For several years, there were Town Hall debates about what to do with the structure.

Enter New York City-based real estate developer Zach Vella who had plans for renovation.

An original design for the new house was introduced in 2012 by his architect, Guillermo Gomez, who outlined a modernization plan for the more than three-acre site. Those plans called for modernizing the original structure, creating a two-bedroom second story over an existing garage and adding a tennis center with indoor courts and a balcony from which to watch games.

It would through the ZBA with members pushing back on the amount of development on the site and concerns about the two-bedroom structure being eventually turned into a separate area of living quarters.

Eventually, approval with many restrictions, was granted, but no work got underway.

It would be awhile before Mr. Vella put a new team in place, including architect Barbara Corwin, who brought a new modern design to the table.

Ms. Corwin won approval from the Town Board for a two-story structure to replace the original Herrmann’s Castle, but still had to go to the ZBA for variances.

Session after session, Ms. Corwin made suggested changes to the plan, but always wanted to add a viewing room atop the two stories. When the ZBA finally gave its go-ahead on the project, Mr. Vella’s team had to return to the Town Board to get approval for a viewing room that the architect said was critical to the Vella family.

This past year, all approvals were finally in order and work has now begun and will stretch through the summer months, requiring limits to working hours and provisions for parking construction vehicles on site.

But today, the castle had its final swan song.


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