Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Light of Asia - Cape May

Most fans of the Jersey Shore know of Lucy the elephant in Margate.
Very few know that she once had a cousin located a bit further south in Cape May.
Known as the "Light of Asia" or Old Dumbo by the locals she was designed by Philadelphia architect N.H. Culver and was built for land speculator Theodore M. Reger. ( Culver was no doubt influenced by James V. Lafferty, designer of Lucy in 1881 and Elephantine Colossus built in Coney Island in 1882.
Completed in 1884 it's owner, Reger, ran ads in the local paper soliciting tenants for his colossal Pachyderm. " Parties wishing rooms in the elephant to sell soda water, fancy articles, advertising, etc. and the privilege for bathhouses, ice cream garden and dairy. Apply on the premises or to T.M. Reger, 508 Walnut Street, Philadelphia."
The elephant stood forty feet, ten inches tall and a "howdah" or covered pavilion rested upon the giant's back. The hind legs were equipped with spiral stairs that provided access to the interior of the elephant. Two sets of stairs on either side of the interior led to the howdah, where an observatory offered to tourists for ten cents a scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was estimated that over one million pieces of wood were required to construct the elephant that was covered with a skin consisting of over 13,000 square feet of tin.
She was located in what later became South Cape May - now the empty stretch of beach between Second Avenue and Cape May Point that today borders the nature preserve.
Although the electric railroad ran along the beach from east Cape May to the point most people preferred to skip it and enjoy the view from the Cape May Point lighthouse for free. Some lots were sold but in the end the Light of Asia was abandoned and after years of vandalism the city sent her to the elephant graveyard.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Annual Ritual - very cool

My friend Neal sent me this:

Weird rituals greet start of summer season in NJ
By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press Writer Wayne Parry, Associated Press Writer - Wed May 20, 5:47 pm ET
OCEAN CITY, N.J. - Merchants in suits and dresses will parade into the sea in Ocean City, Atlantic City will "unlock" the ocean, and the beer will flow bright and early in Point Pleasant Beach.
It's all part of the kickoff of summer at the Jersey Shore. The recession is expected to slow travel and tourism somewhat, but tourism remains New Jersey's second-largest industry, and this weekend it kicks into high gear.
The number of drivers taking to the roads this weekend is projected to be down slightly as the recession keeps some folks close to home. About 7.4 million drivers are expected to use the Garden State Parkway between Thursday and next Tuesday, down from 7.6 million last year, according to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
"Financial uncertainty is what's keeping more people from traveling," said David Weinstein, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Even so, gas prices remain well below last year's."
The average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline is expected to be $2.20 this weekend, down from $3.81 last year.
"The high-water mark should be no more than $2.50 per gallon this summer nationally and the Jersey gallon is typically 10 to 15 cents cheaper than the national average," Weinstein said. "These prices continue to be a silver lining."
That should make it cheaper to get to Ocean City, the southern New Jersey resort that was named the state's best beach this week. On Friday, Ocean City merchants will don their best business attire, clutch briefcases, and march into the ocean to the strains of "Pomp And Circumstance," something the city does each year to kick off summer. No one is really sure why.
On Sunday in Atlantic City, Mayor Lorenzo Langford and Miss Atlantic City will symbolically "unlock" the ocean, though no one locks it back up again in October.
And in Point Pleasant Beach, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend is traditionally high school cut day, when plenty of youngsters - not to mention their parents - turn out early for a free concert at a boardwalk bar that spills onto the sand. This year's show features Rascal Flatts.
A major overhaul of the Parkway's Driscoll Bridge is finished just in time for the summer crowds. The $225 million project has given it greater capacity than the George Washington Bridge.
The bridge, over the Raritan River, expanded from 12 lanes to 15 and added shoulders. The lack of shoulders had aggravated congestion during breakdowns and accidents.
Air travel at Newark Liberty International Airport is expected to be down 6.1 percent this weekend, with more than 448,000 passengers arriving or departing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Asbury 1944

What man builds nature can take in a flash. This photo shows the unbelievable damage sustained by Asbury Park during the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944. Convention Hall in the distance sustained damage but survived the massive storm.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Point Pleasant Beach Train

Generations of families recall the little beach train that for almost 5 decades made the trip from Jenkinson's Pavilion to the boardwalk pier at the end of Broadway. 
Tradition states that Orlo Jenkinson Sr bought the train after seeing one operate in Brighton England.  At one time there were three shiny locomotives that pulled seven, two seat cars each and a pair of them always ran in seven-minute intervals often passing each other at 20 MPH.

By the mid 1990's the new owners of Jenkinson's lost interest in the train and the Zitarosa family purchased the train running it as a labor of love. Part were impossible to locate so locomotive parts were pirated from each other and by the end one locomotive could barely run at 5 MPH on a single set of tracks. The family struggled to find a buyer as they dealt with the constant deterioration of the tracks caused by the sand and heat. In the end they gave up the good fight and the old beach train became a Jersey Shore memory.

Picnic with Lucy

Lucy has led a varied life since being built as an attraction to promote real estate sales in South Atlantic City ( now Margate.) The 65-foot-high pachyderm was a distant cousin of the Light of Asia in Cape May, and the Elephant Hotel ( or Elrphantine Colossus) in Coney Island. She is the only surviving relative. Lucy did a stint as a hotel, tavern, and even a summer cottage. She was going to ruins until a group of preservationists saved her and moved her inland to nearby Margate. Lucy is now a National Historic Landmark and worth a visit.
Pictured her is a picnic circa 1930 when she was still located along the boardwalk.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Asbury in amazing detail -1919

In 1919 the US Army took aerial images of the entire Jersey Shore from Long Branch to Cape May Point for defense purposes..
They are a wealth of knowledge for historians and fans of the shore. I am posting it in large format so you can click on it and really see the detail.

I'll be posting various aerial views of NJ resorts in the weeks to come. There is an Asbury #2 image to follow. Some towns like Cape May have 4 or more images to cover the entire city.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Come On, Rise Up - crank up the volume

My money is on Asbury Park coming back.
Once known as the Duchess of the North Shore I see good things happening.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Dreamland" Coney Island NY

Yes I know this is my blog for the New Jersey Shore but some of our best boardwalk amusement parks evolved from Coney Island attractions.  Dreamland looks like a magical place.

Advertised as the Great Pleasure Park of West Brighton Beach it was massive collection of amusements.
The park had thousands of electric lights to outline the buildings, Venetian canals, trained animals, a 3-ring circus, high-divers, a miniature railroad, etc.

Take a look at the illustration and my description from left to right.
On the far left is the bizarre Midget City that the park populated with little people where tourists would gawk at the inhabitants as if they were zoo animals. The tower next to it was a 300 foot observation structure that must have looked incredible in the evening outlined with miniature white lights. Next is the pier where the boat is docking. There was a covered ballroom over the pier.  The "fire" on the right was actually an exhibit called the "Realistic Fire Exhibition."  Lastly the pier on the right with a hump-like shape in the middle of it was a "Leap-frog Railroad." 
Wouldn't you love to have seen it for a day?

Two Views of the Asbury Park Casino

You recognize that guy right ?? :) :)

He was getting ready to take over the planet, and the Casino, well, it traveled in another direction.

The one constant is change.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Lots more Asbury Park " Come on, Rise up."

The Boss wrote "  I can hear the organ's song but the congregation's gone..My city of ruins"but our famous troubadour also added " Come on, rise up !"

Many people believe he wrote this heart wrenching song about the horrors of 9/11 but he actually wrote this for his lost city of Asbury Park and first performed it at a benefit for the resort.

Here are some wonderful old images of the boardwalk, the inside of Convention Hall and the Casino.

Come and on Rise Up


Asbury then and now

I stopped by Asbury Park today on the way back home from Cape May.
Some progress since my last visit but very slow.
A few nice shops open on the new boardwalk but the Casino remains an eyesore and the Casino Carousel building is fenced off.
Take a look and keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ocean City NJ 1944

As I feel asleep in the Cape May cottage last evening the day had turned from bright,sunny and 87 degrees to a thunderous hailstorm with a wondrous show of lightning.  The wind off the ocean picked up around midnight and the the awnings and windows howled into the morning. I laid in bed and thought of the ever changing weather of our Jersey Shore which makes it so exciting to live here.
In September of 1944 The Great Atlantic Hurricane as it became known - no names back then - ripped the resorts along the coastline to shreds and turned towns and boardwalks into piles of kindling.
Pictured here is Ocean City the Day After.

PS This morning in Cape May it is cold, windy and sunny. A nice day for a taking photographs.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Arson? Cape May,NJ Style- 1878

The ancient Ocean House hotel was located on a precious piece of real estate..only one-half block from the beach and near most of Cape May's best cottages and hotels.
Sometime during the early hours of November 9th, 1878, while the city slept and all of the tourists had left months earlier, one or more arsonists entered the vacant Ocean House which had closed for the season.
The fire was first observed by a workman repairing the roof of the Stockton Hotel at approximately 7 AM. Although he noticed smoke emitting from the roof, no alarm was sounded until a few minutes later when, as the local paper would later report, " a lady standing at the corner of Washington Street was remarked by Colonel Sawyer, a member of city council, to be gazing intently in the direction of the Ocean House."
Shortly after the alarm was sounded, flames burst through the Ocean House roof in half-a-dozen places. A thirty-six mile an hour northwest wind fanned the flames and it soon became apparent that the old hotel was lost.
Excited residents wondered if their inadequate fire department could save the city. The local fire fighting equipment consisted of an antiquated hand engine with fifteen feet of rubber hose, three small chemical trucks and one hook and ladder truck.
I document the fire building by building in my book, The Summer City by the Sea, An Illustrated History of Cape May, NJ ( Rutgers University Press ) and it is one hell of a story.
Calls went out to the large cities of Camden and Philadelphia and their fire fighting equipment was loaded on trains headed for the tiny wooden city.
Historians would later erroneously write that the fire did so much damage because there was not enough water at hand. Not true. There were plenty of artesian wells owned by the hotels and a main city well that was 25 feet in diameter and 30 feet deep and they were all full of water.
The problem? Old rotten hoses and pumps that had been shut down by the hotels for the season. Water, water everywhere and no way to bring it to the fire.

When all was said and done the Philadelphia newspapers declared it was the city of Cape May's Greatest Fire. Thirty -five acres of devastation and ruins. Seven major hotels were lost and more than thirty cottages and bathhouses.

If you were going to rid yourself of an old hotel in need of expenive repairs well starting a fire in November was the perfect time. Owner of the Ocean House, Samuel R. Ludlam, was conveniently seen on the early morning train for Philadelphia the day of the fire and was not aware of it until he reached the trains first stop. Ludlam was dragged before the court but was released due to lack of evidence. Very convenient.

The good loss of life and in the end the conflagration created a thirty-five acre blank canvas for the city - still popular with the public and investors - to be rebuilt as a smaller, scaled-down version of its pre-fire self.
The charming buildings that we love Cape May for today were built around the same period of time due to an immoral owner looking for a way out of his repsonsibilites for an aging, once great hotel. Funny how things work out in the end.

The Sindia - Ocean City NJ - treasure ?

In 1901 the brave men of the Ocean City, NJ, U.S. Life-Saving Service were put to the test when the 3,068-ton-, 329-foot, four-masted, steel-hulled bark Sindia was driven ashore by a four day gale that the ship had encountered off the coast of Cape May.

The crew of thirty three, including Captain Allen McKenzie, fought the gale fearlessly until the seventy-mile-per-hour winds and waves drove the Sindia onto to a sand bar off Ocean City and eventually split her hull in two.
The ship, now filling with sand and water, came to rest parallel to 16th and 17th Street. All hands were saved by the U.S.Life-Saving Service. The owners, the principal being oil mogul John D. Rockefeller, sent a salvage crew and security guards immediately to the site.
It is a long story - you can buy my latest book- Jersey Shore-Vintage Images of Bygone Days ( GlobePequot Press) :) :) to read the entire tale but I will say there was thought to be a solid gold statue of Buddha that was never recovered. In 1991 the Ocean City, NJ beach was replenished by the Army Corps of Engineers and the remains of Sindia now lie under the beach where thousands enjoy the sea every beautiful summer day. A small marker on the boardwalk is the only reminder of the doomed ship and indicates the location to those who stop and take a look.
Got a shovel ???

The Abbey- Cape May

Many of you Cape May lovers know this as The Abbey, a popular B&B.
The house was designed by famous Cape May architect Stephen Decatur Button who over three decades designed more than forty buildings in the tiny resort.
Button's influence was even greater because pattern books featured structures that had his imprint and local builders would use pattern books to "design" cottages for those who could not afford an architect. This is one of his surviving masterpieces, the John McCreary House located at Columbia Avenue and Gurney Street. McCreary was a coal baron who resided in Philadelphia and summered in Cape May.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hindenburg Disaster-72 years ago today

Seventy-two years ago, May, 6, 1937, the giant German airship, the Hindenburg, the pride of the Third Reich, met a fiery end as it attempted to dock at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in NJ.
In less than one minute 35 of the ship's 97 passengers perished thus ending the promise of giant, trans-Atlantic, passenger rigid airship travel.
Pictured here is a photo of the Hindenburg with the Nazi Swastika on its fins passing over the seaside town of Atlantic City on its way to a date with destiny.

Seaside - Fun Town - 1967

One of the oldest Seaside Amusement complexes, Freeman U.S.A. ( now Funtown Pier ) was destroyed by a boardwalk inferno in 1955. Beach property was too valuable to remain undeveloped, and in short time Funtown USA emerged from the ashes. Lost in the fire was the hand-carved Dentzel Carousel. This 1967 photo shows the Sky Ride, an elevated monorail that was added to the new amusement center. It also depicts the children's' favorite- the miniature railroad.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Restless Boardwalk - Wildwood

Fans of Wildwood know how long that walk can be at low tide from the boardwalk to the refreshing surf on a hot summer day. Well the wooden walkway did not begin life at its current location. The boardwalk was moved numerous times over the twentieth century and often significant buildings were moved with it. 

To understand the history of the Wildwood boardwalk one needs to know that sections of the walkway were moved quite often as the beach grew because of man-made obstructions to the natural sand flow.  Most people do not know that in the nineteenth century Cape May was known nationally for its massive beach and long, gradual strand that permitted sea-bathers to walk quite a distance into the sea in waist-high water. The local Cape May joke is that if you want to know where Cape May's once beautiful, wide strand disappeared just look north to Wildwood. 

 In 1911, the boardwalk. along with Ocean Pier, was moved closer to the Atlantic. 

Pictured here is a copy of the loser's proposal to move the walkway in 1911. Imagine all that work for just under $16,000.
I am also attaching a photo of the Ocean Pier being moved east with the new boardwalk.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Hotel Train..."Really..."

I always refer to the fact that back in the day "labor was cheaper than wood." Folks in the nineteenth century moved buildings at the drop of a hat if the the sea threatened them. Labor was inexpensive and there were few obstructions such as overhead wires and lines. Most of the homes in my neighborhood in Cape May were moved from what was once South Cape May as the sea claimed more and more homes.
Today the town of South Cape May no longer exists. I was once told by an old timer that some crews were so good they could move a house 10 blocks with the dishes still in a built-in china cabinet and never break a dish or the plaster walls.
I am attaching an illustration of the Brighton Beach Hotel in 1888. It became apparent to the owners of the Coney Island landmark that the sea was undermining their hotel ( see the upper left hand corner ) and it had to be moved. During the winter of 1887-1888 six locomotives slowly pulled the behemoth hotel in specially laid tracks 600 feet to higher ground. ( The newspaper that produced the illustration did it in advance so they showed more locomotives than were actually used.) The move went so well that the hotel was open for business as usual that summer.

The United States Hotel - Long Branch

Most of you have never heard of the Pach Brothers but those of us who love the Jersey Shore owe them a debt of gratitude as they took some of the earliest photographs of the Jersey Shore in existence.
Their specialty was stereographic photography and pictured here is the United States Hotel in Long Branch. This is old school and and dates to the early 1870's. The hotel was built in 1852 and was the quintessential seaside hotel.
Instead of offering the standard fare of the day the owners hired the chef of the noted St. Nicholas Hotel in New York City. There were expansive piazzas with ocean views on three sides of the hotel, a house orchestra for daily serenades and three weekly hops. A well manicured lawn made croquet a favorite of the guests. The proprietor even supplied a life guard for his guests in the era before resorts provided them. All this for $4.00 a night.

Here is some trivia... the hotel had a connection with the Pach Brothers. In the summer of 1866 they traveled to Long Branch to take portraits of the rich and famous and caught the eye of President Ulysses S. Grant, who summered there during and after his presidency. Grant and some of his wealthy buddies funded the Pachs' first Long Branch studio on the grounds of the United States Hotel.


Hi Followers and fans,

I put all of the names in and we have a winner of the autographed set of my three shore books.

The lucky winner is Mark Shusterman.

Mark please email me so we can make contact.

If you did not win fear not..I will be announcing a new contest for a fun NJ gift in the next day or so. Please sign up as a follower on the blog so you can get in the next raffle. Followers only :)


The Great 1917 Asbury Park Fire

Fire was the scourge of wooden resorts built along the sea. A spark, candle, faulty gas light or sometimes arson would be quickly assisted by brisk sea breezes and in a short time... ashes.
In April 5, 1917 a nasty conflagration destroyed four blocks of the old Asbury Park boardwalk including the famous Natatorium. 
Asbury Park was so popular at the time that by 1924 the boardwalk was rebuilt and the Natatorium ( pictured in the right of this image ) was rebuilt. 


The raffle is over ( last night midnight ) for an autographed set of my 3 shore books for registered Followers of the blog.

Today I will remove relatives from the list ( just a few :)  ) and have choose the winner.
Keep an eye out for the winner

If you do not win sign up as a Follower as there will be more contests to follow. We have had over 1000 unique visits (that is 1000 individual IP addresses ) and 6000 page hits to the blog in a short time but only 120 registered followers -thanks followers. 

Sign up--just takes a minute
Have a great day

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cape May - Turn up the volume

Cape May 2008 with sound.
Enjoy..more videos and slide shows to follow.

Thanks to Jay Ungar for the beautiful music.
All photos by Emil Salvini


A 1904 Visit to Asbury Park

Not everyone who visited Asbury Park took the train. While James Bradley forbade trains to stop at his resort on the Sabbath there were other ways to get there.
Pictured here are a group of passengers landing from the schooner; Emma B., in the summer of 1904

Friday, May 1, 2009

Shoot out on the Asbury Park -Ocean Grove Boardwalk :)

Only kidding but for those of you who are new to my blog and FaceBook fan site I thought I would post the story of the Jersey Shore and old Pawnee Bill again. ( f you did see it in FB you can enjoy again it in high-res this time)
It was a bright, summer day in the late 19th century when an interesting event took place on the Jersey Shore.
Gordon "Pawnee Bill" Lille, the founder of Pawnee's Wild West Show, brought his troupe to Asbury Park for a series of performances.
Bill and his motley crew arrived early on a Sunday and having promised to show everyone the Atlantic Ocean, he assembled his crew of cowboys. horses, and Native Americans for a festive march along the sea.
Unaware of the blue laws in adjoining Ocean Grove, Pawnee and his colorful band came face to face with good old Methodist morality as they crossed from Asbury's boardwalk and paraded south onto the Ocean Grove wooden walkway.
The local constable ordered them to STOP, for they were crossing into the Methodist camp resort, where not much of anything with the exception of praying took place on driving, no amusement, no sea bathing and no Wild West parades :)
Ever the showman, Pawnee Bill reached for his trusty six-shooter ( loaded with blanks ) and scared the hell out of the shocked policeman. In the ensuing minutes cooler heads prevailed, and Bill placated his troupe by taking them for a ride on the Asbury Park Electric Trolley. Pictured here on the right is Gordon " Pawnee Bill " Lillie next to his fellow showman, Buckskin Jim.
Now you know :)

Belmar NJ Tsunami - 1938

In 1938 a horrific hurricane chewed up the coast of Long Island and New England.  It was the worst storm to ravage our coastal friends to the north since a monster hurricane paid them a visit in 1821.
The New Jersey resort towns received only a glancing blow but as can be seen by these images of Belmar -that glancing blow and a series of tidal waves or tsunamis tore up the boardwalk like a pile of kindling.