The North Jersey home where America’s queen of entertaining threw her first parties is up for sale.
Built in 1930, 86 Elm Place in Nutley was the childhood home of Martha Stewart, the media mogul who made cooking, decorating and entertaining both art and business. Long before she released her landmark 1982 book, “Entertaining,” Stewart was hosting high school friends for soirees at 86 Elm.
With four bedrooms and three bathrooms, the home is typical of Elm Place. The suburban street is brimming with deep and narrow colonials. It is also quiet, tree-lined and just a short jaunt from Memorial Park on Third River and Yantacaw Elementary, where Stewart went to school.
Stewart moved to 86 Elm from Jersey City in 1944. She was 3. Her father Edward Kostyra, a pharmaceutical salesman, purchased the home for just $7,500, records show. The asking price in 2023 is slightly less than $600,000.
Stewart, born Martha Kostyra, learned how to garden, cook and sew at 86 Elm. She also entertained there.
Following senior year, she threw one friend a girls-only farewell barbeque that made The Herald-News. Not content with the afternoon fete, Stewart invited the girls’ escorts over for a party that same evening, the newspaper added.
The three-story home at 86 Elm is set apart from its neighbors by a large rear garden with fig trees and vegetable patches once cultivated by Stewart and her father, said agent Claudio Saavedra with A New Day Realty. The love of food started young with Stewart, who as a child was no stranger to local favorites Rutt’s Hut in Clifton and Holsten’s in Bloomfield.
In her years at Nutley High School, Stewart was a standout, getting straight As, reveling in club activities and serving as the Class of 1959 senior class treasurer. She was also managing a budding career as model “Martha Kost,” telling the school’s Maroon and Gray newspaper in early 1959 that her modeling gigs would pay her way through college.
After graduation, the local Rotary Club bid Stewart farewell with a scholarship to her chosen school, Barnard College in New York City. Stewart then was an aspiring architect who appeared in newspapers nationwide by controversially wearing Bermuda shorts amid a bizarre campus ban. Stewart left Barnard to get married in 1961, but she would return in 1962 to graduate with a double major in history and architectural history. She never became an architect and it would be years before Stewart would launch her famous “Martha Stewart Living” brand.
First, she became a mother. Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she worked as a stockbroker. Restoring her 19th-century Westport, Connecticut home led her on a path to a home and garden empire, but stock trading would eventually come back to threaten her fame and fortune.
In 2004, she was issued a five-month jail sentence for lying to federal investigators about a 2001 stock sale. Despite the setback, Stewart saw her net worth soar and her public standing remain strong — especially in Nutley.
While embroiled in criminal controversy in 2003, Stewart was inducted into the Nutley Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class. More than 200 people attended the ceremony. Most were there to back Stewart, as a target of undue prosecution due to her gender, celebrity, success or a combination of the three, according to newspaper reports. Stewart the celebrity has also attended big class reunions and other Nutley events to much local fanfare.
Though packed with more people, Nutley in many ways remains unchanged from when Stewart called it home. The town of 30,000 still attracts a diverse mix of families and professionals looking for a suburban lifestyle within proximity to urban amenities, Saavedra said.
The home at 86 Elm also has retained its character over the years. Hardwood flooring, white trim and pastel paints swath the rooms. The home was in the Kostyra family until 1987, when Stewart’s mother Martha Kostyra sold it.