Back to Small Abandoned Buildings Page
Hilltop Care Center Fire
Hilltop Care Center
Hilltop Care Center After Fire Pics
Hilltop Nursing Care Center Aftermath
Hilltop Nursing Care Center Aftermath 1
Hilltop Nursing Care Center Aftermath 2
Hilltop Nursing Care Center Aftermath 3
Hilltop Nursing Care Center Aftermath 4
Hilltop Nursing Care Center Aftermath 5
Hilltop Nursing Care Center Aftermath 6
Couple caught for arson see last article on the webpage..
These people ruin it for everyone of us UE so enjoy jail just be glad you got less then a year for arson.
Fire destroys abandoned nursing home
Current owner had plans to raze spooky Montville site
Friday, August 25, 2006
BY JOHN WIHBEY
An abandoned Montville nursing home that for years lured teen trespassers and haunted house thrill-seekers burned in a massive fire yesterday morning, authorities said.
Hilltop Care Center, which sits on a 6.3-acre parcel on Hook Mountain Road in the township's Pine Brook section, was engulfed in flames when authorities arrived in response to a 2:40 a.m. call.
By afternoon, it was left a charred wreck, though its multistory skeleton was left standing, authorities said.
Montville Police Chief Richard Cook said the "fire was hard to get at in certain spots" and took more than 100 area firefighters 12 hours to control. The vacant facility be came a trouble spot for local law enforcement after it was billed several years ago on Web sites as a spooky attraction.
"We had to chase kids out of there," Cook said.
Montville police and the Morris County Prosecutor's Office Arson Unit are investigating yesterday's blaze. No injuries resulted from the fire, and a forested buffer around the old nursing center protected homes -- many assessed at more than $600,000 -- in the nearby residential neighborhood, Cook said.
Broken windows and creeping vines added to the eerie aura of Hilltop, which closed in 1996. When a chain-link fence and plywood over windows failed to thwart ghost hunters, police began patrolling the site more often.
The current owner, Hilltop Care Center Inc., was set to file an appli cation before the Montville board of adjustment as early as tomorrow to have the structure demolished and replaced with a 120-bed, 60-unit assisted living center.
"They are in the process of filing the application," said attorney Jo seph Vena, who represents Hilltop Care Center Inc. and who has been in contact with Montville officials about the project.
He said he could not comment on the fire because he did not know details about the incident. A call to Michael Jacobs, a health care company administrator associated with the project, was not immediately returned.
Township records show that Hook Mountain Road Associates LLC, a group of investors that purchased the center in early 2005, is still affiliated with the property. The site is assessed at $1 million, a value that has plummeted from $2.4 million in 2001, according to county tax records.
A plan to build a facility similar to the new proposal was approved by Montville's board of adjustment in 1998. That original application called for a four-story, 24,500-square-foot facility.
But the project never went for ward because owners determined that the market for assisted living centers was not favorable, according to former owner Jack Rosen, a prominent New York developer and entrepreneur.
The original nursing home had 114 beds. In 1996, it finally transferred those beds to St. Clare's Hospital in Dover as the facility began to deteriorate even before its doors were shut.
"It was not the kind of place you'd want to put your mother into," Rosen told The Star-Ledger last year.
John Wihbey is a reporter in the Morris County bureau. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 539-7910.
Officials mum on Montville fire
No new details revealed about building arson
BY TEHANI SCHNEIDER
MONTVILLE -- The Morris County Prosecutor's Office offered no new details Friday of the arson fire that destroyed a shuttered nursing home in Pine Brook on Thursday.
Through a spokesman, Morris Country Prosecutor Michael M. Rubbinaccio said Thursday the origin and cause investigation revealed the fire at the Hilltop Care Center was intentionally set. But the prosecutor's office declined to comment on specifics Friday, citing the ongoing investigation.
Montville Police Chief Richard Cook said trespassers at the abandoned building have been a frequent problem in recent years, and authorities are investigating whether the derelict structure was used recently.
It took 100 firefighters from six area fire departments more than 12 hours to extinguish the blaze, which gutted the five-story building on Hook Mountain Road. The building was vacant when the fire began, and no injuries to firefighters were reported.
Firefighters remained at the scene until nightfall Thursday, monitoring potentially troublesome areas in the cavernous building.
Built in the 1930s, the 114-bed facility closed in 1996 after thriving as both a resort and a care center for the elderly, and became ensconced in New Jersey lore.
In recent years, it was featured in "Weird N.J.," a popular publication focusing on eccentric and haunted happenings in the Garden State. Authorities said the ghost stories of Hilltop began to draw unwanted visitors.
"We've had problems with kids there in the past," Pine Brook Fire Chief Jim Schmitt said.
Township tax assessor Tom Lenhardt said the center's ownership could be traced to Hook Mountain Road Associates LLC in Norwood, which purchased the property last year. The value of the property was assessed at $1 million, Lenhardt said.
08/30/06 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
Trio charged in arson at old nursing home in Montville
Cops: Wharton residents found site by searching Web
MONTVILLE -- Two men and a pregnant woman, who learned about the abandoned Hilltop Care Center in Pine Brook through a Web site on eerie places, have been charged with using cigarette lighters to start the fire that destroyed the five-story structure Thursday.
Township police got an anonymous tip on Sunday and by late Monday charged the trio with arson, conspiracy to commit arson and burglary for allegedly sneaking into the defunct brick nursing home and setting fire to a plastic-coated couch. The fire, reported at 2:40 a.m. Thursday, took some 100 firefighters from six departments more than 12 hours to fully extinguish.
Detectives arrested Wharton residents Christopher L'Hommedieu, 19, Jordane Thomas, 18, and Landing resident Misty Venza, the 21-year-old pregnant girlfriend of Thomas. All unemployed, they were being held Tuesday night in the Morris County jail on $50,000 bail and are expected to appear today before state Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morristown for bail reviews. Venza is 61/2months pregnant, authorities said.
Morris County Prosecutor Michael M. Rubbinaccio said police believe all three defendants visited the deteriorating facility on Hook Mountain Road at least 10 times in the past. The prosecutor said they learned about the old nursing home, which closed down in 1996, through "Weird N.J.," a publication and Web site that features spine-tingling or "haunted" places.
"They purposely set the fire. That's clear," Rubbinaccio said Tuesday.
Montville Police Chief Richard Cook said the department in the past year received 14 reports of suspicious activity or trespassing on the property. The former 114-bed nursing home, which sits on 6.3 acres and had a swimming pool in its basement, was surrounded by a fence but trespassers easily slipped through gaps in the fencing to get on the property. The land and structure are assessed at $1 million.
According to a police affidavit, L'Hommedieu told a detective that he, Thomas and Venza traveled to the site late on Aug. 23 and stayed there past midnight into Aug. 24, last Thursday. They climbed through a hole in the fence surrounding the property, and once inside the building spotted a couch in the first-floor foyer. L'Hommedieu and Thomas both admitted to police that they held disposable lighters to the couch, which quickly was engulfed by flames and dripped fireballs on the floor. Venza watched as the fire was set, authorities said.
Rubbinaccio said the flames from the first floor "auto-extended" into the second floor, meaning flames vented out the first floor but re-entered the structure in upper floors and through the eaves of the roof.
Attorney Joseph Vena, who represents the building owner, said the destruction will not affect his client's plans to seek approval from Montville to build a 120-bed nursing home and 60-unit assisted-living facility. The owner, Hook Mountain Road Associates, planned to tear down the structure but possibly use the existing foundation as a base on which to erect a new nursing care building, Vena said.
"I have the application ready to be filed and it just so happens the fire occurred at the same time," Vena said.
Peggy Wright can be reached at (973) 267-1142 or email@example.com.
10/4/06 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
3 guilty in blaze at ex-nursing home in Montville
Pregnant woman admits role in break-in; 2 friends of hers say they started flames
A pregnant woman admitted Tuesday that she sneaked into the vacant Hilltop Care Center in Montville in August with two male friends, who both told a judge they set a couch in the lobby on fire with cigarette lighters.
The blaze at the defunct, five-story brick nursing home -- reported at 2:40 a.m. on Aug. 24 -- destroyed the structure in Pine Brook that last was used as a 114-bed nursing home 10 years ago. Authorities said the trio was attracted by legends of the building as spooky and haunted that were circulated through "Weird N.J.," a publication and Web site that highlights eerie locations.
Misty Venza, a 22-year-old Landing woman who was 6 1/2 months pregnant when charged with arson Aug. 28, pleaded guilty in state Superior Court, Morristown, only to conspiracy to commit burglary. She told Judge Salem Vincent Ahto that she was present in the building when her two friends spread combustible material around the couch, but she did not admit helping to set the blaze nor to actually seeing the fire start.
In exchange for her plea, Venza is expected to be sentenced Nov. 17 to up to 364 days in the Morris County jail and probation. The judge agreed to release her Tuesday from the county jail -- where she has been held since Aug. 28 -- because she is soon due to give birth. But her plea bargain anticipates she'll have to return to jail upon sentencing.
Venza's boyfriend, 18-year-old Jordane Thomas, and co-defendant Christopher L'Hommedieu, 19, both pleaded guilty to arson and both tried to take sole responsibility for setting the plastic-coated couch on fire. The plea bargains of the two Wharton residents also call for them to be sentenced on Nov. 17 to 364 days in jail and probation, Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Ralph Amirata said.
Amirata said that the two men used their cellular telephones to photograph the fire in progress before they fled.
The judge was exasperated when L'Hommedieu initially said no one was around when he lit the couch on fire, because Thomas had claimed he, too, acted alone.
"He didn't see you and you didn't see him?" the judge asked L'Hommedieu. "Did you both light the couch at the same time?"
"Perhaps," L'Hommedieu replied. But then he agreed that both he and Thomas ignited opposite ends of the couch when defense lawyer Joel Harris reminded him of statements he made to police upon his arrest in August.
Although no restitution amounts have yet been compiled, the judge warned the men they might have to pay substantial amounts of money in possible demolition or cleanup costs, or to compensate the massive firefighting effort.
Authorities believe the trio visited the deteriorating facility on Hook Mountain Road at least 10 times in the past. Montville police, in the past year before the fire, received 14 reports of suspicious activity or trespassing on the 6.3-acre tract.
Attorney Joseph Vena, who represents the building owner, could not be reached Tuesday, but he has said the destruction would not affect his client's plans to seek approval from Montville to build a 120-bed nursing home and 60-unit assisted-living facility at the site. The owner, Hook Mountain Road Associates, planned to tear down the old structure but possibly use the existing foundation as a base on which to erect a new nursing care building, Vena said.
Peggy Wright can be reached at (973) 267-1142 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Abandoned But Not Forgotten please e-mail us at email@example.com with any questions or submissions you may want to contribute to the site.
Check out our Forums