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.


  1. great pictures, I was born in 1955, grew up in in west belmar, visited point pleasant & seaside heights boardwalks many times over the years, never knew the history about the fire, interesting.

  2. I was born in '50. Went to these places often as a child. Breat memories. I'll have to ask my Mom if she remembers this. Great pics by the way..love the site.

  3. Laurie SheffieldJuly 24, 2009 at 7:22 PM

    Well, in the summer of '55 I was 12.....lived about an hour or so away from Seaside Heights in Fallsington, PA. ( across the Delaware from Trenton). I remember every summer we spent a week for sure and lots of day trips. I haven't seen the Jersey shore for almost 40 years.....and sure do miss it. Thanks for the memories!

  4. The fifth picture above is not of the 1955 Freeman's fire; it is of a fire 10 years later, in 1965, that consumed the oceanward end of Casino Pier (7 blocks north of Freeman's Carousel and what emerged, after the 1955 fire, as Funtown USA Pier). That's Thelen's "Globus Fleiger"--the swing ride on the upper deck that used to provide thrills by swinging riders in chairs out over the ocean. The surviving part of the pier operated that summer (1965) and everything was back in full swing the year later. The Casino Pier carousel, on the landward side of the pier, was not effected.
    Floyd L. Moreland
    The Dr. Floyd L. Moreland Carousel at Casino Pier

  5. Neat site.........When I was a youngster, we lived in Fallsington, Pa. Every single summer we spent many days at the Jersey Shore....Most often Seaside Heights. I absolutely loved it there. My grandparents history started there, and I wanted to thank you for the memories......
    Laurie Sheffield