HISTORICAL NOTES: Wreckage of a Dream

The rickety, hotel-like old building had been a landmark on the rolling New Jersey countryside, just 50 miles from Manhattan, for more than a century. One of its walls had fallen out, its broad porches sagged, its faded green shutters seemed ready to disintegrate. Last week when an auctioneer called for bids on it to satisfy a court order, only one voice was raised. The buyer—one Carl After of Brooklyn—got the whole sprawling ruin and a handsome set of ghosts for only $500.

It was an almost unnoticed demonstration of the perishability of men's dreams. The building had been put...

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