Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Freeman Pier Fire- 1955- Seaside

By the 1940s Freeman's Amusements, an early and major competitor of Casino Pier, was acquired by J. Stanley Tunney. a former pier maintenance man who had worked his way to mayor of Seaside Heights. He often said his luck changed when just before the small concession he owned with his wife ran out of money he was walking along the beachfront -during Prohibition - and found a large barrel that had washed ashore. He managed to get it home, bore a hole in it and discovered he had a barrel of "Grade A" Irish whiskey. To his delight he sold the barrel of liquid gold for $300 ( depression era money ) and that seagoing barrel kept his business afloat.

By 1955 Tunney was preparing his successful enterprise - Freeman's Amusements - and his beloved hand-carved carousel for the new season when on June 9th, fire, the scourge of wooden walkways everywhere - paid a visit and in a little more than two hours reduced his carousel and busy pier to memories.

A faulty neon sign is believed to have started the fire. Fifty-mile-per-hour ocean winds encourage the blaze to claim three blocks of boardwalk from Dupont Avenue in Seaside Heights to Stockton Avenue in Seaside Park. The blaze was a crushing blow to the community, but J. Stanley Tunny and his associates began immediately to clear the rubble and rebuild for the next season. They managed to open and eventually created Funtown U.S.A. ( now Funtown Pier ) on the border of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Young's Pier Fire - 1912

Many of you have read my posts on John Lake Young's Million Dollar Pier and the images I have posted of his home, the Italianate villa, Number One Atlantic Ocean, located at the end of his pier.

Before the Million Dollar Pier, Mr. Young had an interesting start in the amusement business. He was a genuine product of the AC Boardwalk and began his career managing a carousel built by master German craftsman Gustav Dentzel. ( I have posted images of the Dentzel family carousels in the past .)

Young assisted the immigrant with the English language, and watched in amazement as he saw Dentzel become wealthy collecting all of those pennies and nickels as Young operated the beautiful, hand-carved carousel.

John Young had dreams and tried his hand at a few boardwalk enterprises but lacked capital. While serving a brief stint as an Atlantic City policeman Young had a chance meeting one evening on the boardwalk that changed his life. While on duty he met and befriended retired, wealthy businessman Stewart McShea and the two discussed Young's ideas for cashing in on the Boardwalk boom.
Young knew the carousel business from his experience with Dentzel. Together with McShea he purchased a beautiful, brand-new, hand-carved carousel. The aggressive Young wanted to operate the carousel seven days a week but McShea was a devote Christian. They compromised and the carousel organ played spiritual songs for the devout audience on Sundays while the carousel took a day off.

Their next enterprise was a big one. They bought the less than successful Applegate's Pier in 1891 and named it Young and McShea's Pier. Young had a talent for the amusement business and the pier was an instant success. Nineteenth-century diva Sarah Bernhardt made her Atlantic City debut at the pier, and Young added one of the boardwalk's first thrill rides, the Flip-Flop Railroad. Somewhere down the line the pier became Young's Ocean Pier and he promoted himself to Captain.

Captain John Lake Young took part of his new fortune and built another larger pier; Young's Million Dollar Pier. It opened in 1906 and the Captain made another fortune.

He was also lucky to have had the vision and funds to build the new pier because on March 29, 1912, Young's Ocean Pier was lost in a mysterious blazing inferno.

The image I am posting is a very rare "photo - postcard" of the fire. I was lucky to find it at a flea market in Cape May this past weekend.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another Sand Artist

A master at work on the beach of Atlantic City in 1904.
As his sign states, "A few grains of sand."

The mariner on the left is amazing. High tide soon and time and tide wait for no man or his sand art :)

Number One Atlantic Ocean

There you are in a village in Tuscany taking in this beautiful view.

The Italianate home, marble statues, manicured lawn, and lovely shrubs and grounds. Nothing like a trip to Europe.

Oops .. sorry wrong country.

You are looking at Number One Atlantic Ocean, the home of Capt. John Lake Young, located at the end of Young's Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The pier was built in 1906 and contained amusements that ranged from a giant aquarium to a massive ballroom and games galore.
Young knew the value of publicity so he built his own home at the very end of his pier, one thousand feet over the Atlantic Ocean, and called it Number One Atlantic Ocean. The villa, appointed with furniture commissioned in Europe, was featured in newspapers around the country. The home and formal gardens were outlined with thousands of miniature electric lights, a display designed by Young's fishing buddy, Thomas Edison , a frequent house guest. Many major celebrities were entertained in the home including President William Taft.

Sand Artist Early 1900's

Another busy sand artist working along one of the original boardwalks at Atlantic City. These guys were skilled and most Italian artisan immigrants.
They made a living from the loose change tossed on a blanket from appreciate patrons.
They would build close to the boardwalk to save their work from high tide and to be close to the money.
The problem was a few rotten apples began mixing mortar in the sand, and that along with aggressive panhandling forced the city to ban the practice.
This image dates to circa 1905

Friday, June 26, 2009

Move We Must- Wildwood Ocean Pier

The first major pier to be opened in Wildwood was christened the Ocean Pier ( opened for the 1905-1906 season.)

It was located between Poplar and Juniper and was over 1,ooo feet-long. The pier offered bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, a dance floor, a hand-carved carousel and numerous other amusements. I ran a post on it not too long ago.

What is great about this image is that as all fans of Wildwood know the beach is expanding annually and at low tide the refreshing ocean can be quite a distance from the boardwalk. The town officials were forced to move the boardwalk closer to the Atlantic on several occasions and pictured here is an early image ( circa 1920 ) of the Ocean Pier during one of the moves. Remember labor was less expensive than lumber back in the day so key buildings and cottages were often moved.

Emil R. Salvini

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ye Old Mill, Jack Rabbit and Carousel, Wildwood NJ

Very old image of the Cedar Avenue entrance to the wooden roller coaster called the Jack Rabbit constructed by Wildwood entrepreneur Edward E. Rhoads in 1919.  It also served as the entrance to Ye Old Mill boat ride, a dark, early-twentieth-century version of a tunnel of love. Rhoads contracted with the famed Philadelphia Toboggan Company to construct a hand-carved carousel to match and compete with the Dentzel masterpiece carousel built for the boardwalk pavilion known as the Casino that opened in 1897. 
I am also including an aerial view of the Rhoad's carousel building ( flag on top ) and the monstrous Jack Rabbit coaster in the center left/background.
Third there is an amazing image of the Dentzel steam-powered carousel that brought fame to the Casino. ( from my book Boardwalk Memories, Tales of the Jersey Shore - Globe Pequot Press .) Click on the images for more detail and you can see the Dentzel trademark panel in the upper right of the carousel.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bob Hope and AC

When Atlantic City was America's Playground all of the major stars visited.

Publicity was the name of the game as it is today and in this vintage image a very young Bob Hope playfully challenges the regulation that men must wear bathing tops on Atlantic City beaches. 

Great piece of nostalgia.

From: Jersey Shore, Vintage Images of Bygone Days - Emil Salvini ( Globe Pequot Press )

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cape May Point - 1919 Amazing View

Just like the image I posted of Asbury Park this is a circa 1919 aerial view of Cape May Point.
The US military did a survey of the entire Jersey Shore after World War One for security.
The detail is wonderful and I have every resort and will post from time to time. Look at how much has been lost to erosion.


Morro Castle - Asbury Park

Some new fans have been asking me about the Morrow Castle and if I had any images.
I posted a few awhile back but here is my favorite.

The luxury liner ran aground on the beach resort on September 8, 1934 when it caught fire at sea. More than a third of the 455 people on board lost their lives in the tragedy. The massive ship beached adjacent to Convention Hall, Asbury Park and the boardwalk, presenting a surreal spectacle. The cause of the fire that doomed the popular cruise liner has remained a mystery for more than seventy years but arson is suspected. The Morrow Castle eventually burned to a gutted shell and was quite a people magnet for months before being hauled away to the scrap yard.