Fire destroys 200-year-old mansion in Rumson

A large fire in Rumson Monday destroyed a historic mansion that is often used to host charity events.

Vendors and designers were out at the ruins of the Blithewald mansion on Tuesday, picking through the pieces. Amid the rubble were works of art, landscaping and other decorations that were to be used for a benefit for the Visiting Nurse Association.

"It's very sad. It's like losing a member of the family," says Mark Polo, one of the interior designers.

Polo says he and other designers were decorating the mansion's 22 rooms for the "Stately Homes by the Sea Designer Show House," the event that would raise money for the Visiting Nurse Association Health Group. The nonprofit provides home care and hospice.

"They do so much for the community," says Natale Siclare of Sickle's Farm, one of the vendors for the benefit. "Everybody gets their services whether you have the money or you don't have the money."

The benefit was expected to raise $500,000 for Visiting Nurses.

The organization's CEO says another fundraiser will be planned, but the priority now should focus on the owners of the mansion who were willing to open it up for the fundraiser.

"We just want to help the homeowners recover from this trauma," says CEO Steve Landers.

A black tie gala was set to kick off the fundraiser this Saturday. House tours were supposed to run through the end of May.

The Blithewald mansion was built back in the 1800s.

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