An Early History Of Asbury Park From The Daily Record Of Long Branch – July 1889
Although we have often given the history of Asbury Park, the place is becoming so well known through the owners of cottages and the press that we are often urged to again give its history in type. Its success is almost marvelous; Its growth as a sea-side resort has been greater than any similar enterprise on the American continent. It will be noticed that a permanent village has grown up, arising from the necessities of the situation. Some, who at first only spent a few months in the Summer, now live here the year around, as they have all the comforts of the large towns that are much nearer New York.
We take pleasure in re-publishing its history as given in a previous number of The Journal by Mr. James A Bradley, the original proprietor:
"One afternoon in May 1870 I was walking down Broadway, New York and suddenly ran against my friend David H. Brown, Esq., Treasurer of the Ocean Grove Association. 'How is Ocean Grove getting along?' I asked. 'Very fairly,' said he; 'why don't you buy a lot? Those who have their names put down now have first choice.' 'Well put me down for two,' said I. A few days after in company with Rev. W. H. Boole and George W. Cheeseman of Birmingham, Connecticut, Rev. Mr. Saxe and others, we started for Ocean Grove. We took the boat for Port Monmouth, thence by railroad to Eatontown. The sea-shore route was opened a few days afterwards. After dining at Mr. Brown's country house at Eatontown, we drove to Ocean Grove in carriages. The turnpike company had just commenced operations and from Great Pond to Ocean Grove was one of the worst roads that could well be imagined. I was completely taken with Ocean Grove and its surroundings--so much so that I purchased the first lot ever sold there, the premium being $85.
"Having for some time previous been in bad health, I concluded to try what I had been recommended -- sea air. Too close application to business had made inroads on my constitution, and my nervous system was seriously affected. So, a few days after purchasing the lots, taking two horses, carriage and tent, and John Baker, my colored man, I left the hum of the busy city behind to become an inhabitant of the wild woods, where my wearied body and brain might rest, lulled to sleep by the murmuring sea at night, awakened in the morning by the songs of birds in the pine trees surrounding my couch.
"John and I arrived at Ocean Grove just at nightfall and having gotten our horses under shelter, in a barn belonging to Charles Rogers, near the present Ocean Grove school house, we entered the woods, and about a half a mile off, erected our tent. It was too dark to get poles so we hung the tent on the beams of what was afterwards the Association Office, the first building ever erected in Ocean Grove. This building stood near the Auditorium and was afterwards torn down or removed. The building at that time was without roof. We were without light, and soon after lunching on some crackers we lay down to sleep, our heads resting on the carriage cushions, and our covering being the carriage blankets. So we spent our first night in Ocean Grove, and so began an entire change in my mode of life, and which led eventually to an almost complete restoration to health.
"In the morning Baker sighed and said 'Mr. B, this is a wilderness place.' He was homesick; for, let the reader, who perhaps has been on the same spot during the busy summer season, and heard the continuous click of the telegraph instrument, and seen the vast throng of men and maidens call for their letters when the mail arrives, remember it was far different on the morning of which we are writing; although it was the tenth of June, not a soul was within hearing distance of us. I cheered him by saying: 'Oh! Don't be cast down,' and soon we were eating our morning lunch. That finished, we proceeded to my lots on the lake, and pitched our small tent on the ground now built upon by Rev. Alfred Cookman's widow. My large tent was erected on the lot now owned by Wm. P. Breck, Esq., and so we began our Crusoe life. During the day we occasionally saw Mr. Franklin's men, who worked about the grounds, and at night we were left to our solitude. Mr. Franklin's men tented on the lots now covered by the Hayward cottages, but on Sundays went to their homes in the interior of the township.
"Baker was my steward, housekeeper and cook. I procured a box and dug a hole in the ground and put it in, and that was our ice house. We would sometimes drive to Long Branch, six miles away, and procure food, principally canned goods. Foreman Franklin's men indulged more in fresh meats than Baker and I, so I would trade canned goods for old fashioned savory stew and that gave muscle to the men who first removed briars and brush from Ocean Grove and made its streets.
"One evening Baker and I took a stroll along the ocean and I proposed a bath. Baker smiled and said 'No, no. 'But remember, John, cleanliness is next to godliness.' I took an ocean bath; but, oh how different from the way bathers usually enjoy the surf, the waves dashing over their heads. I lay down on the soft sand and allowed the water to just touch my body, and I can tell you, reader, it is somewhat lonely to trust yourself in the great ocean in the twilight and alone. After I had been lying on the beach for a little while I looked around to see what had become of Baker. He had plucked up my courage by my example and had readily divested himself of his clothes and, coward like myself, barely allowed the water to touch him. His dusky skin was somewhat in contrast with the white sand, and the whole scene forcibly reminded me of Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday.
"I have often met persons since the time I first camped out at Ocean Grove whose nerves were shattered by too close applications to their professions, studies or their chase for the 'almighty dollar.' I was familiar with their sufferings which, alas, strong men look upon with contempt. Some were taking this or that 'nervine cure-all,' but the best nervine for a man who is not absolutely past repair, is to break away entirely from his calling or greed and camp out on the sea shore, White Mountains, Adirondacks, or in some healthy locality, or travel in Europe, and patiently wait for the return of the greatest boon God has ever given to a man -- good health.
"During the camp-meeting that took place in August we often heard the inquiry, 'Who owns the land on the other side of the lake!' One day Rev. Wm. B. Osborne and myself went over and at the risk of having our clothes torn from our bodies, worked our way through the briars until we reached Sunset Lake. And, like the red man, of whom we read in tradition we could say, 'Alabama -- here we rest;' for we stood on the banks of as beautiful a sheet of water as can be found anywhere. We returned to the Grove by way of the beach, and soon set to work to make up a company to purchase the land. We soon learned the owner would not sell any land in parcels, but the purchaser must take the whole or none. Here was a difficulty; five hundred acres. 'Never mind,' said some; 'the more land we have the more profit we will have.' Our company was to consist of eight persons, some of whom were very enthusiastic; but alas! When the cool nights of autumn came along, it chilled their enthusiasm, and their example had its chilling effect on me. But I often thought of the mater, and as soon as I heard that Bishop Simpson of the M. E. Church urged the Ocean Grove Association to purchase it, to prevent its falling into the hands of someone who was not in sympathy with the enterprise they had in their hands, I called on David H. Brown, and proposed he should join me in the purchase by taking one-eighth the price asked being about $90,000. 'No,' said he, 'I am determined to have nothing to do with any enterprise in that neighborhood that would seem to place me in an inconsistent position, as I am now treasurer of the Ocean Grove Association. This I will do I will write to every member of the Association and if they say buy, I am inclined to think I shall not oppose it, although I think we have enough land now. But if they do not buy it, you can. And as you wish me to negotiate the purchase, I will do so on condition that you advance the requisite amount to secure the property, and if the Association decided to take it, your money to be refunded. We are to have a week's option to consider the matter.' A majority of the Association decided not to purchase the land although some urged it very strongly; so the property became mine -- I at the same time assuring them that the property would be resold only to such parties as would appreciate the situation of the place. After the purchase, the briars before alluded to, with the tangled underbrush, were removed at a cost of several thousand dollars, and very few would now suppose that the choice spots upon which are now erected beautiful cottages was so recently a jungle.
"As stated above it was supposed that immense profits would result from the purchase of the land known as Asbury Park, but the man who has tried to meet every emergency that has arisen is wiser now than when he first risked a fortune in and entirely new and untried scheme. There was not, as far as he knew, a seaside resort, an incorporated town on the American continent or in Europe, where in the deeds the sale of intoxicating liquor was prohibited. 'With your restrictions you can never make a seaside resort a success so near New York,' said the timid and the croakers, but the founder of Asbury Park, with an intense and lifelong hatred of the liquor traffic has given hundreds and hundreds of deeds which are on record at the County Clerk's office, and contain a protest against the curse of society which the American people strangely allow to exist; and yet Asbury Park, notwithstanding, did grow and its success has been so great that the anti-liquor clause is now a feature in the deeds of many seaside resorts started on the New Jersey coast within the past ten years.
"As the town grew a serious difficulty arose: 'How will you drain and sewer the town?' It was found that people were not prepared to grapple with that question, so, again, another fortune was invested in demonstrating that seaside towns on the New Jersey coast could be sewered and every house put in a complete sanitary condition.
"Money has not been lost in the purchase of Asbury Park, but the slight profit made (a mere salary to its founder) would disgust the ordinary speculator, and although the calculation as to profits has been a disappointment, the enterprise is a grand success.
There will never be another seaside town on the Atlantic coast from Sandy Hook to Barnegat Inlet with as wide streets and open spaces as Asbury Park, because nearly all the land north and south of Asbury Park has been mapped out or is owned in smaller parcels than the original tract of Asbury Park. Future generations will have opportunities to ornament the town by statuary, vases, gardens and fountains.
Asbury Park was the first seaside resort on the American continent to adopt a perfect system of drainage. We have fifteen miles of street mains, exclusive of house connection pipe, our sewerage is discharged into the ocean and is carried away by the current. We have miles of walks; an Ocean Plaza one mile long, and from sixteen to thirty-two feet wide. Asbury Park has the purest water in the world from our Artesian wells, the analysis of which was made by Professor Cooke, State Geologist.
Asbury Park has seven church edifices -- Episcopalian, Reformed, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, and African: a public Library Building worth with its grounds $20,000; hotels, boarding houses, stores of every variety necessary to a large population are established; weekly papers with a circulation of over 3,000 copies; post office, salary $2,300; two public halls -- one, Educational Hall, being the same name it bore when it stood on the on the Centennial grounds at Philadelphia -- seating over 1,500 people. We also have an opera house seating about 1,200.
There are eight hundred cottages, besides hotels, The finest Masonic lodge-room in monmouth county was erected by the late Allan R. Cook, who was for a long time the esteemed superintendent of Asbury Park. We have also one of the best planned school-houses in the State, with a daily attendance of seven hundred; the school lot was donated, and fronts on three streets, and is 200 X 200. Asbury Park was assessed in 1869 for $15,000; the assessed valuation in 1887 was over $2,000,000.
Streets running at right angles to the sea are from one to two hundred feet wide, an advantage possessed by no other seaside resort on the New Jersey coast. The depot grounds are the finest on the line of the Long Branch Division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and with adjoining streets cover four acres, including magnificent woods.
The Borough, under a law passed in the winter of 1885, has erected water works costing about sixty thousand dollars -- the water is procured from the artesian wells which are now becoming so celebrated. Electric lights were first introduced June 20, 1885, which make our streets and beach promenade still more attractive.
The First National Bank of Asbury Park was organized for business in the early part of 1886. Its success has been great. The deposits in the summer of 1887 ran up to nearly $500,000. The Asbury Park National Bank was opened to the public on Thursday, Sept. 20, 1887. The Monmouth Trust Company, with a capital of one hundred thousand dollars, are now doing business, and are erecting a building costing thirty thousand dollars. The firststreet car line in Monmouth County had its birth in Asbury Park. The cars are propelled by electricity power being supplied by the Asbury Park Electric Light Company. – [ From the Asbury Park Journal ]