Villa Maria by the Sea in Stone Harbor will be turned into 13 lots and a Smaller Retreat House.

Villa Maria is a 250-bed retreat house on 111th Street in Stone Harbor only used in the summer since 1937. It will be demolished and turned into a new smaller retreat house and 13 lots.

On Feb 2nd Stone Harbor Borough Council introduced an ordinance to vacate a small paper street that is used now as a lawn. Stone Harbor will be paid 2 million dollars for the vacated street to make way for the new sub-division if approved.

The nearly 200-room Villa Maria by the Sea was built in 1937 and has been a retreat for Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The property includes 4.5 acres on the beachfront in Stone Harbor.

Early in 1936, Mother Kostka McCormick (Mother General from 1935 to 1940) had a serious challenge; both financial and spiritual in nature. The community had previously owned a retreat house in Cape May, NJ. After the hurricane of 1933 and several lesser storms, the coastline had eroded so rapidly that the Retreat Rectory had washed out to sea and the sisters’ retreat house was undermined with water. Some sisters remember their senior members recalling that water could be heard swishing under the building.

Mother Kostka and her council, realizing the need for the sisters’ spiritual and physical renewal, explored the southern New Jersey coast, sought church and legal advice, and purchased 4 ½ acres of land in Stone Harbor. Time being a prime concern, plans moved forward. To the chagrin of all, the bids drawn up were well over the planned budget. Later, Mother Marie Alma in her book commented: “There was no alternative, however, so secure in the knowledge that Divine Providence would provide.”

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