The Fort Lee Historical Society met Tuesday to discuss petitioning the Mayor and Council and the Fort Lee Zoning Board of Adjustment to save Rambo's Saloon, a house dating back to the Civil War era, from demolition. Rambo's, better known to locals as Gus Becker's, is located on First Street in the Coytesville section of Fort Lee.
Because of its prominent role as a site location in the early film industry that once dominated Fort Lee, the saloon is listed on the Bergen County Register of Historic Buildings. However, according to Tom Meyers, founder and Executive Director of the Fort Lee Film Commission and founder of The Fort Lee Historic Committee and member of The Fort Lee Historical Society, that designation offers no real protection from demolition.
"Despite its designation as an historical building on the County's register, the only way that building could have been preserved is through more stringent local zoning laws," Meyers said.
Still, The Fort Lee Historical Society met Tuesday to talk about the petition they have created to try and save the building from demolition. The petition, created by Historical Society President Donna Brennan, will be delivered to both the Mayor and Council and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Meyers said that the significance of the building lies in the fact that it was used as a film location in many films, a dressing room area, and meeting place for many of the early film pioneers and studios when Fort Lee was the first American film town.
D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Mack Sennett and many other film pioneers developed the American film industry in their work on this property and inside this structure, Meyers said.
"This is the most important surviving building in the Borough of Fort Lee that was used during Fort Lee's days as the first American film town and this building helped give birth to the American film industry," the petition reads.
The building is in the midst of a private sale with a developer who has filed plans with the Fort Lee Building Department to demolish the structure in order to erect a two-family house.
Members of The Fort Lee Historical Society said that they will be present at Thursday's meeting of the Mayor and Council to bring this matter to their attention.
Editor's update: The attorney of record is Robert Montecallo and the applicant is Joseph Romano. They are scheduled to appear at the March 19 meeting of the Zoning Board at 7:30 pm in the council chambers of Borough Hall.
The property is located in an R 3-A zone which is a residential zone primarily consisting of one and two family attached and semi-detached homes. Among the variances being sought by the applicant are height, building coverage, and side and rear yard variances.