The echoes of weddings, birthdays, proms, political events and fundraising formals in Belmar fade as a wrecker's ball fills the final appointment date in the Barclay Catering Hall's long and storied calendar.

Demolition Begins on Belmar's Barclay Catering Hall (Charles Koehler)

According to Charles Koehler of EXIT Realty in West Long Branch, builders and developers had long kicked around the idea of replacing the ornate, opulent center with more pragmatic residential space. After Superstorm Sandy ravaged the structure, builder and Belmar resident Bill Merkler decided it was time to buy the tract.

Merkler and partner Walt Bostian are overseeing the dismantling, separating and recycling salvageable building materials, after which they'll embark on a plan for Silver Lake Estates: two luxury homes fronting Silver Lake, and two more homes on Fourth Avenue and A Street.

In a prepared release, Merkler marveled at what he found inside during pre-demolition inspecitons. "Time appeared to have stood still," he said, "with dishes and some food items still left on tables in one room of the hall."

Demolition of Belmar's Barclay Catering Hall Nears Completion (Charles Koehler)

The contractors erecting the new dwellings are Belmar-based as well. North End Builders is the firm behind the redeveloped corner on Ninth Avenue at B Street, and another project on Sixth Avenue.

Koehler says that they plan to continue their association with EXIT Realty to place residents inside the new homes, having collaborated on six sales in the borough this year.

Details of the planned properties can be seen at Koehler's firm can be found at