Archive for the ‘From the archives of the Historical Society’ Category

By Kathy Arlt, Contributing Writer  @Blogfinger   (2011.  Re-posted 2018)

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve been in Ocean Grove for so long that I can remember when The Sampler Inn cafeteria was still serving up three meals a day. I often took my houseguests there for breakfast, not just for the oatmeal and baked apples, but also for the samplers on the dining room walls.

I wonder what happened to all those samplers…but I know what happened to The Sampler Inn. It was demolished.

Of course, it didn’t look like this when the decision was made to tear it down. By then it had broken windows and holes in the porch floor; the flower boxes were long gone; the awnings, railings and signage had been stripped away. Surprisingly, however, it also didn’t look like this when it was built. In fact, it looked very different. There was no fourth floor or single-story side extension, and the roof wasn’t flat. The windows had shutters, the porch railings were wood, and there was lots of gingerbread. Then it was a hotel called The Aldine, and here’s what it looked like:

The Aldine wasn’t open very long before the owners of Lawrence House took it over, renamed it The Lawrence and started remodeling. Based on advertisements in the 1916 editions of the Ocean Grove Times, we know we can definitely thank them (or not) for the side extension, and perhaps for the addition of a fourth floor, too. But maybe this was the change the owners of The Sampler Inn boasted about in this 1923 ad:


LAWRENCE LEBO AND HER LITTLE BIG BAND:  From her album “Don’t Call Me Larry.”   (music added 2018)

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By Kathy Arlt:  Contributing writer  @Blogfinger  (reposted from 2012 after receiving a January 2016 letter from a former waitress—see comments)

If The Sampler Inn was the most famous cafeteria in Ocean Grove, the Homestead was probably the most famous restaurant. It was in business for a long, long time, as this newspaper advertisement from the May, 1974, Neptune Times shows:

The precise date of its opening is hard to determine. Doing the math from the ad, it would appear to have opened in 1914…except for the fact that the 1973 season-opening announcement boasted that that would be its fifty-eighth season in business. (Somewhere along the line a 59th season got lost.) Ted Bell’s book, Ocean Grove in Vintage Postcards, puts the opening date at 1915, which is what one of the Homestead’s postcards proclaims. But further complicating the story of the Homestead’s very first opening day is a report from the Asbury Park Press in 1979, after the restaurant was closed forever. That newspaper stated that the Homestead began in Ocean Township in 1918 and was subsequently moved to Ocean Grove in 1938.

Whatever the true story is, there’s no doubt that the Homestead was a very popular place (famous for its fruit cup, which came topped with orange ice and a melon ball with a sprig of mint), and there are many people who remember the restaurant. I met one of them two years ago, at—of all places—El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When a docent saw me write “Ocean Grove, NJ” in the guest book, she exclaimed, “Ocean Grove! I worked there as a waitress one summer, at the Homestead restaurant.”

She was too busy to talk to me about her experience, but no problem. I had another source of information, closer to home: my sister-in-law worked at the Homestead during either the 1973 or ’74 season, and she told me all about it.

Now, my sister-in-law is not from New Jersey; she’s from Massachusetts, and she was attending the College of New Rochelle, in New York, at the time. That was where she saw a notice on a bulletin board seeking waitresses for the Homestead restaurant in Ocean Grove during the summer. She took the job, despite knowing nothing about Ocean Grove, and, in her own words, “nothing about making money as a waitress. Because the town was dry, there were no drinks to pump up the bills and improve the generosity of the patrons. The tips were generally quite small.”

And the waitresses had expenses. They had to buy their own uniforms, and weekly rent for their lodgings in “a large, ramshackle Victorian on Seaview Avenue” was deducted from their paychecks. Everyone working at the Homestead was busy from the minute the doors opened in the morning until they closed at night, including the “rowdy eccentric crew” of dishwashers, who were the life of after-hours employee parties.

“At the end of the summer, I ended up with very little money to show for my efforts, so was not inclined to repeat the experience the following summer,” she told me. “The value of the experience was that I think I was one of the few people at Stetson Law School [in Florida] who had even heard of Ocean Grove, much less experienced the rules of ‘no bathing suits anywhere but the beach and on the boardwalk,’ ‘no booze’ and ‘no cars on Sunday.’” This gave her something to talk about when she met my brother.

But she has other memories of her summer working at the Homestead and living in Ocean Grove. She remembers driving around with her friend Pattie looking for a Saturday night parking space that wasn’t too far from the chained-at-midnight gates. And she got her ears pierced that summer, “in a jewelry store on Main Avenue, by a German lady who told me, ‘Once you do this, you can wear earrings always, and wake up looking vonderful.’” And finally, she remembers hanging out with another waitress, named Chantal, from New Mexico.

It would be too much of a coincidence if Chantal was that docent I met two years ago, wouldn’t it? Well, maybe…but then again, maybe not.

And where was the Homestead restaurant, some of you are probably wondering? Well, it was just too hot for me to go take a picture of it last week, but I’m sure you can identify it from this postcard:

I never had the chance to sample the Homestead’s fruit cup. After it closed in 1978, the site became a Perkins Pancake House. I did eat there a couple of times, wondering how and why a chain restaurant came to be located in such a prime beachfront spot: the view over the ocean was spectacular. I’m not sure what replaced Perkins, or what replaced whatever replaced that. I do know that the beach replenishment project of the 1990s put so much sand between the back windows and the ocean that there’s no table-side view of the ocean anymore.

JOE WILLIAMS AND COUNT BASIE    “There Will Never Be Another You.”

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By Kathy Arlt, contributing writer @Blogfinger

Let’s go back seventy-five years, to 1937. Ocean Grove has no Neighborhood Watch or Citizen’s Patrol; it does have its own police force and municipal court. And there is crime, as these reports from the June issues of The Ocean Grove Times demonstrate.

Catching the South End thief was the major headline, but the story of the nighttime bathers battling with the police was certainly interesting.

And those bathers weren’t the only people in the Grove to have a problem with alcohol.

Other police activity included escorting several vagrants and panhandlers out of town, and issuing $1.00 fines to four young women—two from New York, two from East Orange—who violated the Sunday bathing rules. There were no reports of bicycle theft.

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By Kathy Arlt, Contributing writer @Blogfinger

A couple of months ago, when Linda Roberts discovered an assortment of items in the small cottage attached to her main house on Mt. Hermon Way, she wasn’t too surprised. Linda was an old hand at finding things that had been lost or left behind. Tucked away inside the kitchen cabinets at her previous Ocean Grove address, on Asbury Avenue, were these three beer steins. (We can only speculate about why three beer steins would be in any Ocean Grove kitchen, let alone what led to them being left behind.)

It was where she made her next find that surprised her. All the items below were found underneath some of those classic old metal kitchen cabinets. “The cabinets had been flush against the wall and had molding around the tops and bottoms, insuring that nothing could fall down behind them or get swept underneath them,” Linda says. “Perhaps this was someone’s idea of a time capsule?”

For a time capsule, it’s a pretty random selection: a 1961 calendar from Schriever’s Poultry Farm, an invitation to a wedding in Philadelphia in 1959, a letter written in 1961 from Emmina to Lily, two Christian study guides, a page of First Presbyterian Church study items, an Arrow Shirts cardboard insert and a small pressed-wood checkerboard that reads “Made in Sweden” on the back. My favorite item is this 1960 recipe page torn from a 1960 calendar, which raises a couple of questions. Is pizza considered “Foreign Fare” in 2012? Will those meatballs taste like the ones at IKEA? (And don’t they look appetizing.)

The main house, however, was not to be outdone in the discovery department. During the course of a thorough 1998 renovation, Linda demolished an awkwardly placed coat closet that a previous owner had built into a corner of the dining room. Luckily for Linda—and her house—an absolutely perfect replacement for that closet was located right downstairs in her basement. It was the twin of the corner cabinet on the other side of the room, thoughtfully stored away by the closet builder.

“I don’t think I’ll find anything else here,” Linda says. “But who knows?”

Main House, Mt. Hermon Way

Cottage entrance on Benson Ave.

Come on, Blogfinger readers, share your house secrets with us. We’ll happily write up your story of discovery and take photos of your finds. All you have to do is send an e-mail to kathyarlt@hotmail.com.


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By Kathy Arlt, Contributing Writer   @Blogfinger

The 114 tents that exist in Ocean Grove today are only about 25% of the tents that existed at the turn of the 20th century. Then there were four Camp Meeting Association tent grounds; now there are just two. Here are two photos I took showing what tent ground #4 looks like today:

In case you can’t identify the locations: the first picture is Stockton Street at New York Avenue, the second is the intersection of Inskip and New York Avenues; both are facing east. And here are two photographs—the first one very old—taken from roughly the same vantage points as mine, but many, many years ago:

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo of tent ground #4 that includes Fletcher Lake, which these tents faced. And, also unfortunately, these two photos above aren’t dated. (Please, everyone, for the sake of future historians: put dates on your photos!) But the photograph below, showing tent ground #1, was dated, and the date is 1903.

Of course you know where this is: it’s the North End. Wesley Lake takes up most of the frame, and look at all those tents facing it. (Given the great view, it’s no wonder that tents on Lake Pathway commanded a surcharge.) The structure on the right is Ross’s Pavilion. At the far left of the photograph, above the tents, is the steeple of the Great Auditorium.

Next time: Still more tenting.

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By Kathy Arlt, Contributing Writer @Blogfinger

First let’s answer the question: What’s there now? “There” is the foot of Main Avenue, on the beachfront.

But on the 4th of July, 1878, this statue was unveiled.

It was called the Angel of Victory, and it was erected to commemorate the centennial of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Monmouth (which, by the way, is re-enacted every June over in Manalapan). The area around the base of the statute was named Monmouth Place as part of the memorial.

Here’s a side view, looking north:

The July 6, 1878, Ocean Grove Record didn’t report on the unveiling—or even mention the statue’s existence. But fortunately the Asbury Park Journal contains a brief account of the event. “At sunrise the bells rang out their music and Gunner Waters made the windows rattle as he fired thirty-eight guns—one for each State. At 9:30 the procession formed in Woodlawn Park, the McKnight Rifles leading, followed by little boys bearing flags…. Then came the officials of Ocean Grove…. Upon the arrival at the foot of the avenue, the McKnight Rifles formed on the south side of the mound that has been raised…and in the centre of the mound, upon a good solid base of brick and cement a statue had been placed…. It is called the ‘Angel of Victory.’…Dr. Stokes accepted it for the Association in a good solid speech. At the word the statue was unveiled by Major Patterson [Ocean Grove’s first police chief]…the cannon fired, and the ceremony ended.”

Sadly, the statue proved not to be as solid as Dr. Stokes’s speech. Probably made from lead or zinc, it was no match for the elements. Just two years after the unveiling, the Angel of Victory needed to be removed for repairs, and in 1922—just 45 years after its unveiling—it collapsed into itself and was deemed irreparable.

But it’s not irreplaceable. Several years ago the Historical Society established a fund to reproduce the Angel of Victory; the original was also constructed with private donations. If you’ve taken part in one of the Historical Society’s Garden Tours, you’re already a contributor. If not, or if you’d like to donate even more—outdoor statues that are built to last are expensive, after all—the Historical Society (40 Pitman Avenue) will welcome your contribution.

And now, one last picture of the Angel of Victory, a postcard view from behind—in color.

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By Kathy Arlt, Contributing Writer  @Blogfinger

Several weeks ago, Blogfinger reader Frank S asked for information about the small pink structure located in Auditorium Square, at the intersection of Pitman Avenue and Pilgrim Pathway.

Two readers commented. Hobe reported that the tiny building was part of a hotel at 2 Webb Ave. Frank Devine placed it as part of a house owned by the Gannons, and gave them credit for restoring and donating the structure.

Both commenters were partially correct. The cupola did come from a hotel—the Ocean Villa—located at 4 Webb Ave., and it was owned by the Gannons in 1977. Here’s a photo showing the hotel and its address, and, of course, the cupola on the top of the building:

But credit for rescuing the cupola belongs to Robert Green, who was profiled on Blogfinger last June. Mr. Green spearheaded a movement to preserve the cupola when plans were announced to demolish the Ocean Villa in 1985. He started a “Save The Tower” fund, and Ocean Grovers raised $1,000 to renovate the cupola after its removal; the United Crane company donated building-moving services. After a short time in storage while the renovation work was being done, the Ocean Villa cupola was placed in Auditorium Square where it lives on today.

And here, from the pages of the Ocean Grove and Neptune Times, are photos of the moving process.

The cupola is the only part of the Ocean Villa that remains. A completely new building was built in 1986…and if you’d like to see what it is, stroll over to 4 Webb Avenue and take a look.

Editor’s note:  In June 2011, Blogfinger interviewed Bob Green.   Here is a link to that posting.  Robert Green interview link

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By Kathy Arlt, Contributing Writer  @Blogfinger

Way back in September of 2011, I showed you this photograph of the almost-finished North End Hotel. The photo came from an album compiled by the construction foreman Alfred Clark.

This time though, instead of focusing on the hotel, look at the little building in front of it with the curved roof. Mr. Clark noticed that building, too, and one of the captions in his album was a question: What happened to it?

Well, here’s the answer. It was moved. It now resides at 47 Heck Ave., where it’s become a cottage.

Next time: Correcting a Big Mistake

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By Kathy Arlt, Contributing Writer  @Blogfinger

Well, here it is, in all its glory, sometime between 1877 and 1900—one of the oldest hotels in Ocean Grove: The Clarendon.

And this, sadly, is what happened to it on December 5, 1934:

The building on the left side of that second photograph (a partial double exposure, by the way) is still standing. If you start at Main Avenue and walk north on Pilgrim Pathway, you’ll see it—and the business that began operating there in 1936—on your left. And then you’ll see what now exists at the site of the beautiful “old Clarendon building.”

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By Kathy Arlt, Contributing Writer  @Blogfinger

My interest in the Hotel Clarendon began with this undated photograph of a huge sign hanging over one of the entrances. It reads: “Nature’s Own Tonic—Pure Unfermented Grape Juice—Put Up Here by Proprietor of this Place—On Sale in Bottles or at Fountain.”

And here are some very respectable-looking gentlemen seated at the fountain. (Notice the juice distribution area in the upper left of the photo, and the long line of bottled juice on the right. And remember: this photo was probably taken during the summer, in a room without air-conditioning…yet these gentlemen haven’t so much as loosened their ties.)

I wonder if any of them—or anyone else—ever took the juice home and converted it to wine.

Unfermented grape juice and rooms weren’t the only offerings at the Hotel Clarendon, which opened for business as simply “The Clarendon” in 1877. (The name was changed to Hotel Clarendon in 1900.) As the next photo shows, an ice cream parlor and a tea room were also advertised, though less prominently than the grape juice. Undoubtedly, there was also a dining room somewhere inside the hotel, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In 1923, however, the ground floor of the Hotel Clarendon changed completely. It became the first location of…

…which would later move to Main Avenue.

So, where was the Hotel Clarendon? What did it look like? Does the building still exist? If it does still exist, what does it look like today? If it doesn’t still exist, what happened to it, and what replaced it?

Next installment….Part two will appear on Blogfinger Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 8 a.m.

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