Calico The Clown Is Sticking Around, State Says

first_imgBy Joseph SapiaMIDDLETOWN – If the Shoppes at Middletown project comes to fruition, it appears the iconic Calico the Clown sign on Route 35 North will be saved.But the local landmark that has stood near the Kings Highway East since 1956 may have to move to a new home nearby.The slightly sinister-looking “Evil Clown” with the puzzling red-tipped finger has been working for years, advertising the Food Circus and Foodtown supermarkets, and today the Spirits Unlimited liquor store. At 30 feet tall, the steel sign once rotated, but now stands stationary.The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Historic Preservation Office and Division of Land Use Regulation are working with the developer on a plan to protect Calico on the development site, said DEP spokesman Larry Hajna.“The development company has stated verbally that they believe Calico is a New Jersey landmark and intend to keep it, but they need to move it to another location on the property,” said Hajna.The developer of the 118-acre proposed project – John Orrico/Village 35 LP of Purchase, New York – could not be reached for comment regarding Calico. But plans for the project on the ShoppesAtMiddletown.com site, posted by National Realty & Development Co., suggest Calico would be moved more toward Kanes Lane.The Shoppes is to be 338,455 square feet of commercial space on 52 acres of Route 35 between Kings Highway East, Carriage Drive and Kanes Lane. It is to include retail, restaurant and movie theater space.Orrico/Village 35 was to have made its second appearance before the township Planning Board Wednesday, June 15 – after this issue of the Two River Times went to press.On the remaining 66 acres, Toll Brothers of Horsham, Pennsylvania, wants to build the Oaks at Middletown, a 350-townhouse complex. The Oaks project, which would be built along the Carriage Drive end of the property, has not yet appeared before the Planning Board.The 118 acres is owned by Mountain Hill LLC, or the local Azzolina-Scaduto family. The family, which owns the Spirits Unlimited, along with Calico, could not be reached for comment.Leslie Worth Thomas of the Road Ad Sign Company designed Calico, according to Weird New Jersey magazine. Thomas also designed the Asbury Park icon, Tillie, the smiling face once gracing the city’s Palace arcade.To locals and non-locals, Calico is an icon.Margie Rafferty, 55, is a lifelong township resident, a wife, a mother of four, a technical writer – and perhaps Calico’s biggest preservation proponent.“When I was a little girl, sitting in back of the ’64 Chevy, going to the store, the thing (Calico) is revolving and I’m cowering in the backseat,” Rafferty said. “He’s been an affectionate symbol of the town I grew up in.“Most of us want to hold onto him for that idyllic sense,” said Rafferty, who lives in the Chapel Hill area. “Calico becomes symbolic of a simpler time.”A year ago, Rafferty filed paperwork with the state, starting a process to get Calico placed on the federal Register of Historic Places. She also created the “Save Calico, the ‘Evil Clown’ of Middletown, NJ” page on Facebook and the @calicoclown account on Twitter.“It’s kind of been an ongoing labor of love,” Rafferty said.Ana O’Connor, 44, who has lived in Middletown since her freshman year of high school, said she “absolutely” wants to see Calico preserved. But she is OK with moving it for preservation.“’The evil clown,’ everybody calls it,” O’Connor said. “It’s a symbol, it represents Middletown.”Lifelong township resident Gina Gizzi, 48, wants to see Calico preserved somewhere in Middletown.“I remember growing up and seeing it here,” Gizzi said. “It’s sort of, kind of known throughout the state. It’s like the Tillie of Middletown, at least for somebody who grew up here.”John Krilla, 64, remembers passing Calico as a child on his way to the Jersey Shore from his home in Perth Amboy. Seeing Calico was a gauge as to how far he had traveled.Krilla, who now lives in the township, would like to see Calico preserved.“Just the history of it,” Krilla said. “It’s just a landmark, a familiar site.”Luigi Fardini, 55, of Fort Lee was visiting the Shore recently. It was the first time he saw Calico, he said, but he was won over for preservation.“It’s a good idea,” Fardini said. “It’s a big clown, everybody notices.”The township Landmarks Commission has been involved with the matter.“The question was whether it was Register-eligible, for the state and national Registers,” said Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger. “It’s not a matter of support or not, that was the question out there.”The state said it appears to be eligible, Scharfenberger said.Scharfenberger said he did not want to comment extensively on a project before the Planning Board, so as not to have a conflict of interest. Iconic Sign May Be Moved Nearbylast_img

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