Thirty-four large antique copper panels that were temporarily removed from the facade of Asbury Park’s historic Convention Hall for a structural inspection have been stolen from storage. It is believed that the panels weighed more than five tons, and had an estimated value of almost $50,000.
Madison Marquette officials announced the theft during a city Technical Review Committee meeting on Thursday, March 22 after a city official requested information on the panels.
Madison Marquette, the boardwalk redeveloper that currently owns Convention Hall, explained that the panels were removed two years ago to order to inspect the structure of the building. They were stored in the Sunset Pavilion, a vacant pavilion just north of Convention Hall, across from the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel on Ocean Avenue. This pavilion is also owned by Madison Marquette.
The theft was first reported on August 2, 2011 to police, but city officials said this week they were unaware of the theft until it was announced last Thursday. When asked to comment Madison Marquette’s director of retail services, Carrie Turner, sent an email.
“Copper panels from Convention Hall, which had been removed to make necessary repairs to the building, were stolen in late 2011. Madison Marquette has been working with the Asbury Park Police Department, and the matter is in the court system. We remain hopeful that some or all of the panels can be recovered, and we remain committed to the repair and restoration of Convention Hall.”
A recent visual inspection of Convention Hall shows that a total of 34 ornate panels were removed from the north, east, and south facades. Each panel is about 16 feet long and about four-feet high, perhaps hand-wrought, and made of solid copper.
An Asbury Park police report says that the theft was reported by a Madison Marquette employee on August 2, 2011, and Police Chief Mark Kinmon said that city detectives were involved in the investigation.
A Madison Marquette employee was subsequently arrested on September 26, but was only charged with stealing more than $1,000 of cable wire from Convention Hall. “But we were never able to connect or develop enough probable cause for theft of the copper panels,” Kinmon said. The employee never appeared for a subsequent municipal court date on the theft charge, and there is a current arrest warrant on him for failure to appear. Kinmon said the investigation is closed pending the outcome of municipal court, unless new evidence is received.
It is believed the panels were approximately 1/8 inches thick. It was also believed that the panels were made from 8-gauge copper, which weighs 5.12 pounds per square foot. Based on the estimated dimension of the panels and assuming they were 8-gauge, each of the 34 stolen panels would have weighed a little more than 327 pounds. At 327 pounds per panel, the total amount of copper stolen can be estimated at more than 11,000 pounds, or about 5.5 tons, which would be worth as much as $42,000 to $50,500 at current copper prices. Copper prices have fluctuated from $7,500 to $10,000 a ton in the past year. But the historic value on the stolen copper is priceless to many.
Asbury Park resident Dolly Sternesky, who is also secretary to the Asbury Park Historical Society, said she has been looking for the copper panels to be replaced for about two years, around the time they were original removed. “I am so, so disappointed. I feel like crying. It’s just another one of Asbury Park’s treasures gone, and it’s not likely that we will get them back. I feel so discouraged, and every time I’ll look at Convention Hall I will feel sad,” she said. Sternesky said she believes there needed to be more than one person involved in the theft due to the weight and amount of copper.
“This sounds like it was well-planned out. Who’s in charge, and what can we do to not let this happen again?” she said. Sternesky said she thinks the public should have known about the theft at the time it was discovered last August. “The longer you wait, the less chance we have to get them back. And we want them back,” she said.