Archive for the ‘Ocean Grove history by Blogfinger’ Category



By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

The New Jersey Site Improvement Advisory Board (SIAB) will meet briefly on Thursday, December 17, 2015 in Room 129 of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.  The meeting will begin at 10:AM and should be over by 10:30 AM.  The agenda is attached.

Immediately following, the streets and parking committee will discuss the special area application for the Ocean Grove neighborhood in Neptune Township, Monmouth County.  This meeting should end by noon.  If more time is needed for testimony, the committee will meet at a later date.  Note that there will be an opportunity for public comments.

This is a chance for citizen activists to voice their concerns that an approval of the Neptune application might make it easier for condo conversions without parking to continue in Ocean Grove.

And,incidentally, Blogfinger will attend the meeting, and jack Bredin, our researcher will present a novel idea to the sub-committee.  Some of you should come just for the shear spectacle of it all. Maybe the Home Groaners will show up along with other do-nothing representatives of OG’s citizens including the Township Committee.



Meeting Agenda for Thursday, December 17, 2015





  1. Ocean Grove proposed standards to be discussed by streets & parking committee





BF link “secretive Neptune Twp”

BF link on special standard part 2

BF article Nov. 21, 2015

Take a look at the link below and pay attention to the permitted uses in the historic district, especially the ocean front area. This is what was submitted to the Federal Government  in the 1970’s  when permission was requested for the historic designation. What would they think now  if they saw the NERP plan and the condos in that area?

OG special area app appdx part B

Below is a portion of the above document (screen shot)  which describes how the North End was when Ocean Grove was first developed—-this is the true OG history which should be emulated with the same spirit, including nothing residential east of the boardwalk and nothing west either, although a hotel was later built over there to the west.

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 11.33.18 AM


Do you believe that “anything goes” when it comes to Ocean Grove zoning issues?    Well, most Grovers do not trust the Township to do what’s best for OG.  You might consider going to this meeting.

As Frank Sinatra once said, “Anything Goes.”



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fig 22   By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger.

Around 1912 Teddy Roosevelt was a hero in Ocean Grove. He had visited the Grove in 1899 and 1905.  “He epitomized the ideal of muscular Christianity….someone who became a skilled leader and protector of the nation.”  *  As President he spoke in the Great Auditorium, and he appeared on parade with his Rough Riders on the Ocean Pathway.

There was a major youth movement in the Grove back then including a militaristic version for boys called the Young Rough Riders. Boys in the Grove received militaristic training from the age of eight.

Regarding the photograph above, Troy Messenger *said, “A boy innocently playing soldier on the beach actually represented an important performance of gender identity within the perfectionism of Ocean Grove.”

Many of those boys went on to serve in the US Army during WW I.

* From Troy Messenger’s book “Holy Leisure: Recreation and Religion in God’s Square Mile.”  University of Minnesota Press, 1999.


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Heading through the OG North End, near the Asbury line.  Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

Wide open spaces.  Heading through the OG North End, near the Asbury line. June, 2014. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

This is Part V of a series of articles about the North End Redevelopment Plan in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.

Since the OGCMA would have been able to develop the North End on its own, and since the North End was no blighted, crime-ridden, disease-laden, drug selling, rat-hole dilapidated slum in need of immediate rescue by government, why did the Neptune Township Planning Board fudge its way through the criteria in order to enable the North End to become a congested, money-making, commercial zone—-an “area in need of redevelopment,”—- which was not in the best interest of the people of Ocean Grove?

In the Resolution document they listed everything that was wrong over there that justified the creation of a redevelopment zone.   Those were code violations which were corrected as soon as the CMA was cautioned by Code Enforcement. Thus the result was no code violations and thus no valid reason to declare the North End property an “area in need of redevelopment.”  The CMA was perfectly able to work on that property itself.

To argue, as the Planning Board did, that there was some sort of emergency in 2007 is a joke. The North End in 2015 is no different than it was in 2007 except for some 2012 Sandy damage and a burned out storage shed from a few years ago.

Surely the Planning Board realized that the reasons they gave (including a few crummy abandoned unsafe buildings, a wreck of a swimming pool, over growth of vegetation, lack of utilization etc) were a joke and that the real purpose for the Township’s request was to achieve a dramatic change in zoning.

The Planning Board said that redevelopment at the North End was “necessary and overdue.” OK, why not tell that to the owners in 2007 and skip all the rest?  Is the project still “overdue” or is it not convenient now to say “overdue?”

Whether there were hidden financial motives, we cannot say, but for the Planning Board to conclude that the positives outweighed the negatives; that a hotel and condos would be better for the whole town than single family homes, is clearly, to any objective observer, a hoax.

On February 28, 2007, at a meeting of the Township of Neptune Planning Board, the Resolution 07-12 was presented, and a motion to approve was offered, and a vote was taken.

Resolution 07-12 is a “Resolution recommending that the Township Committee of the Township of Neptune designate certain properties as being in need of redevelopment (North End Ocean Grove.”)

That 22 page document mentions all the experts and citizens who spoke either for or against the plan, all the dotted i’s and crossed t’s, all the photos that showed how crummy conditions were at the North End, all the lawyers who weighed in, and the sworn witnesses which included Peter Avakian, the Township engineer.

The Resolution papers also mentioned that there were those who submitted written objections to the Resolution including former Mayor Joseph Krimko (now deceased,) Richard Seltzer, Esq., and Edward V. Kolling, PP, AICP (professional planner.)

The motion to approve the resolution was offered and then 5 Board members voted “Yes” including D. McCarthy, M. Hood, J. Shafto, W. Lapp and M. Golub. The Resolution needed 5 out of the 11 Board members for a legal vote.

No one voted “No” but there were six members of the Planning Board who were absent: R. Ambrosio, L. Berardi, A. Cardinale, W. Gizzi, J. Kortenhaus and I. Calderon. Why were so many board members absent for this vote? Can you guess?

If Dennis McCarthy, a Trustee of the OGHOA had voted “no” or even, along with the six others, had not shown up,  the Resolution would have gone down to defeat.

Finally, on page 19 of the Resolution, we have this quote:

“The Planning Board is of the unanimous belief that there is an immediate need for appropriate development in the subject North End/Ocean Grove (as referenced herein)— and that appropriate redevelopment is beneficial to the Township as a whole, and the residents of Ocean Grove.”

Editor’s Note:     Here is a quote from an October 2012 editorial by Blogfinger:   We urge the people of Ocean Grove who care about preserving the charm, character and livability of this community to start paying attention to this process now…”

The Planning Board vote described above was borderline and was suspicious. Most members of the Board did not even vote. Eight years have gone by, and the current NERP should be trashed now, and the process, beginning with the Planning Board vote, should begin again—-this time with hundreds of Grovers attending the meeting.

Maybe this time we can get that “old black magic” working for the people of OG:

MICHELLE WILLIAMS.   From the movie My Week With Marilyn

Credit:  Mr. Jack Bredin of Ocean Grove for his invaluable research.

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Condolandia  at the OG North End  (As seen from Surf Ave.)  Blogfinger photo. March, 2015.

Condolandia at the OG North End (As seen from Surf Ave.) Blogfinger photo. March, 2015.

By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger

For years the North End of Ocean Grove remained undeveloped by the OG Camp Meeting Association, the owners of the property. The land there was zoned for single family homes, and that seemed to be appropriate considering the Master Plan’s sympathetic attitude regarding the historic district.

In 2007, the Neptune Township Planning Board agreed that the Township should establish a “zone in need of redevelopment” at the North End, but they did not argue for a change in zoning.  The Township then ordered a redevelopment plan to be drawn up.

It was the Township Committee which decided that the existing zoning should be changed to accommodate the new North End Redevelopment Plan (NERP) which would permit multiple uses for those 5+ acres including condominiums, single family homes, a hotel, commercial components and an underground parking garage.

Overriding the existing single family zoning was allowed under state law* when a “zone in need of redevelopment” has been declared. The goal of such zones is to bring back portions of New Jersey cities and towns which were considered to be so blighted that only government could restore those areas for the good of the city/town.

What did the Neptune Township Planning Board find that would justify the new designation? If you read the NERP plan, you will see a tortuous explanation to justify the new zone as something good for the town, with advantages outweighing disadvantages.

Whatever the rationalizations were, they led to a plan (NERP) that was turned into Neptune law in 2008 and which was supported by the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association, the Historic Preservation Commission and the Camp Meeting Association.

Once that happened, it was supposed to set in motion a sequence of events beginning with the formal choice of a redeveloper by the governing body (Neptune Committee.) That redeveloper was to sign a contract which detailed his obligations. We don’t know if such a contract actually exists.

We know that the redevelopers were chosen, not by the Township, but by the CMA who owns the property. The redevelopers who were named in 2008 consisted of the CMA itself and a group called “WAVE.” The Gannon company has been revealed as part of WAVE, but no other names have been disclosed.

We plan to post a series of articles on how this plan evolved, and the next one will be a review of what happened when the Township approved the redevelopers at a Committee meeting in June, 2008.

Our purpose is to inform the citizens of Ocean Grove as to what happened to bring us to 2015 and to figure out exactly where we stand now.

And then maybe some way can be found to block the commercialization of the North End.

We will also take a look at the Master Plan to see how it compares to the NERP.

By way of introduction, here is a quote from the Neptune Township Master Plan of 2011 regarding Ocean Grove–the “historic district:”

Goal: “To preserve the historic character, livability and property values of historic structures and neighborhoods by maintaining and rehabilitating historic housing, preventing the deterioration and demolition of historic structures, and encouraging new construction that is compatible in scale and design to the physical character of the surrounding neighborhood.”

*   HillWallak.com notes on NJ redevelopment law:     “As part of the plan, the municipality has the power to enact a redevelopment ordinance which can override the existing zoning for the area.”

KATHY BRIER.   This song is dedicated to the OG Home Groaners Association that wanted the NERP in 2008, and now they say otherwise. What a shame they didn’t have the courage to oppose this plan when they had a chance to mobilize the citizens of OG and stand strong.

From Boardwalk Empire, HBO hit series.  Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks won a Grammy for the soundtrack.


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Ocean Grove. March 11, 2011. Surf Avenue.  By Ted Aanensen, Blogfinger staff photographer   ©

Ocean Grove. March 11, 2011. Surf Avenue. By Ted Aanensen, Blogfinger staff photographer ©


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F.W. Beers map dated 1873, 4 years after OG founding.  From the Blogfinger archives.

F.W. Beers map dated 1873, 4 years after OG founding. From the Blogfinger archives. Click to enlarge.

This F.W. Beer’s map segment is dated 1873.  It is from an atlas of Monmouth County and it covers parts of  Ocean and Shrewsbury Townships. The scale is 160 rods to the inch.  How many of you are interested in the history and geography of this area?  Let’s all send in comments based on your observations of this map or related bits of history that you know..  Please keep it brief, and we can form a sort of mosaic of information to go with the map.

Here is a useful tool:  Click on the image, and the map gets a bit bigger.  But then, run your cursor over the map and you will see a plus sign.  Put that over an area of interest and click again. —P.G.

HISTORICAL COMMITTEE FINDINGS:   (send your observations by commenting below or email to blogfinger@verizon.net)

1.  Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger:     In 1873, Ocean Grove was part of Ocean Township.  Note that there is no Avon, Bradley Beach, Spring Lake or Neptune.  Deal Lake is called Boyleston Great Pond, and there is no Allenhurst.  Instead, north of Boyleston Pond, there is the Allen House owned by A. Allen.

2. Lee Morgan:     Paul, Just to the south of Greens Pond, around where Deal or Long Branch would be today, is a reference to US Grant.   Did he live or vacation at that spot??Lee 

3.   BeZee:      Well, look at Wesley Lake! Washed by the ocean, fed by a freshwater stream that ran all the way out to Whitesville, (later called Wesley Brook). People actually used to drink the water. Nice while it lasted. But the ocean outlet was plugged by the CMA early on to provide a reliable source of aquatic recreation. Then the area surrounding the brook became populated by a “careless population” that used it to dispose of all sorts of crap (literally). Which created a “disgusting” situation that the town fathers thought to address by means of a “catch basin” at the head of the Lake. Not sure that ever happened. But a constant source of complaints in the OG Annual Reports 1900-1910 or so. So when there are complaints about the condition of the Lake now, just know that it used to be worse…

4.  Paul @Blogfinger:  Lee. I know that a number of US Presidents did visit Long Branch.  They have the 7 Presidents Park there today, and one of those 7 who visited there was Grant.    Grant also visited Ocean Grove. He parked his horse outside the gates and walked over to drink tea at a woman’s house on Wesley Lake. She supposedly was his sister.

5. NJ Commenter:      To Lee Morgan: US Grant owned a cottage at 995 Ocean Ave in the Elberon section of Long Branch.   It was the summer White House from 1869 to 1876. The cottage was demolished in 1963;  it stood on the property now adjacent to the Stella Maris Retreat House. There are several photos available online with President and Mrs. Grant relaxing on their porch with family and friends.

6. Focused:   The only significant interesting thing about this map is the center of Ocean Grove where a huge pile of earth that has never been dealt with still divides a number of east and west running streets in the Grove. So those streets ended up having different names depending on which side of this pile of earth you lived on.

7. Paul @Blogfinger:     Notice the unnamed north-south roadway to the immediate west of OG. Undoubtedly that became Rt. 71 later. The houses out there belonged to pre-existing families having nothing to do with the Camp Meeting, including names like White, Bennet, Youman. The Bennet name is all over that area. Some of those families probably sold land to the OGCMA as they bought up quite a few small properties  in 1869 to stitch together the town of Ocean Grove.

Note the lumber yard and the toll house (maybe where the cookies were first baked.),

Also, at the north end of Asbury Park is a lake (probably Sunset Lake) with a road running west to Wegmans—not shown on this map.


Please keep the history comments coming in. The music will post below


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This photograph is the first in Ted Bell's Images of America: Ocean Grove.

This photograph  (with permission)  is the first in Ted Bell’s ” Images of America: Ocean Grove.”  CLICK TO ENLARGE

BLOGFINGER RE-RUN FROM 2010.  It’s important that more people other than tourists learn OG history.  This timeline gives some perspective for new Grovers and others who ought to educate themselves to this sequence of events.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Ocean Grove’s history is a fascinating saga about how a Methodist summer community founded in 1869 eventually evolved into a historic and diverse year-round tourist town, while preserving its religious and architectural characteristics. Sure it’s about the Camp Meeting Association (CMA), the Great Auditorium, the tents, and the famous religious figures who took center stage since the founding.

But there is so much more to tell,  particularly about the town’s secular history including:  its governance; the multiple attempts to secede from Neptune;  the successful but temporary creation of  an independent secular Borough of Ocean Grove in 1920; opening of the gates in 1979; loss of governance by the CMA in 1980; the decline of the “blue laws”;  the extraordinary  successes of the Ocean Grove Homeowner’s Association as they transform OG from shabbiness to renaissance by the 1990’s; the remarkable demographic changes of the 1990’s including the growth of the gay community;  the amazing musical heritage, the fights over taxes; and there is so much more.

The Ocean Grove Historical Society has offered wonderful exhibits about such topics as the women’s suffrage movement and the African American “history trail” here, and we at Blogfinger  have run two pieces about John Phillip Sousa in Ocean Grove as well as the account of Paul Robeson’s 1925 concert in the Great Auditorium. We plan to continue our series of articles on some of the less well known accounts in Ocean Grove’s history, especially focusing on secular events. We will begin the process of digging into Ocean Grove’s fascinating past with a time-line. It’s important for Grovers to know this history.  You may be surprised by some of the items below:

1869: Ocean Grove is founded by the Rev. William Osborne and his colleagues. They form the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church (CMA) and begin purchasing land. The town is part of Ocean Township. The CMA’s goal is to provide and maintain a Christian seaside resort.

1870: The New Jersey Legislature grants a charter to CMA which allows them to govern in Ocean Grove. They can make ordinances, establish a police department and a court of law, and administer all infrastructure and services including schools, sanitation and library.  The town is designed “from scratch,” becoming one of the first planned communities in the US. The first lots are “sold” (i.e. leased) from the CMA which retains ownership of all the land. The first cottage is built in 1870.

1872:  Over 300 cottages have been built.

1875: Rev Adam Wallace founds the Ocean Grove Record, the town’s first newspaper. Rev. E. H. Stokes, the first CMA President says, regarding the gate closure on Sunday, that “there is no human probability that these rules will ever be revoked.” The first train from New York arrives in OG. People begin to stay year round.

1879:  The NJ Legislature creates Neptune Township by carving it out of Ocean Township and incorporates Ocean Grove’s boundaries as part of Neptune. Ocean Grove CMA and lot/home owners pay taxes to Neptune. Leaseholders (“lessees”) must continue to pay “ground rent” to the CMA.  The CMA refuses all services from Neptune and continues to function as the “governing authority,” maintaining rigid control in OG.   Physical isolation within its boundaries, “blue laws,” land ownership and a homogeneous population of Methodists contribute to the sustained CMA rule.

1897: The first mention of tax discontentment appears as CMA President Bishop Fitzgerald speaks publicly about Neptune’s tax bill and says, “Of the discrimination against us in the matter of taxation does not as yet seem to admit of remedy.”

1898:  Ocean Grove’s “lessees,” who pay property taxes to Neptune Township, want the CMA to pay the taxes to Neptune. A suit is brought by the homeowners, but in 1900 the NJ Supreme Court sides with the CMA.

1912: Ocean Grove’s citizens want to participate in the town’s governance, so they elect a Board of Representative Lessees to join with the CMA in managing the town’s affairs.  There was unrest, with many citizens disliking this peculiar arrangement and wanting Ocean Grove to be a regular town with an elected secular government

1915: the Ocean Grove Taxpayers and Protective League is formed.

1918: CMA has financial problems and asks Neptune to take over police, garbage and sanitation functions. Neptune refuses.

1920. The Lessee Board is dissolved, and the Civic Betterment League is formed. Its goal is the creation of an independent Ocean Grove Borough.  The CMA supports the idea, and the NJ Legislature passes an Ocean Grove Borough bill which creates an incorporated borough, apart from Neptune.  Governor Edwards signs it into law, a referendum in town receives wide support, and local elections are held.

The new Borough of Ocean Grove operates for one year, but they retain the CMA “blue laws”. Opponents in town want things the old way and they form the “Lessees Association” They sue in State Supreme Court.

1921: The NJ Court of Errors and Appeals finds the Borough bill to be unconstitutional, because the Borough has allowed religious ordinances to stand. The Borough bill might have been upheld if the “blue laws” were discarded, but the CMA and its supporters refuse. The Borough is dissolved, and governance goes back to Neptune and the CMA. This was not the first attempt to gain secular control of OG, but this one came the closest.

1923: A bill to make Ocean Grove a separate tax district with its own tax rates gets “lost in the legislature.”

1924:  A big battle ensues as Neptune tries to substantially increase the CMA’s taxes, including high taxes on the beach, Auditorium, streets, sewers, etc. CMA wins in 1925 at the NJ Tax Board, and most of their holdings are not taxed.

1925-1960:  The town is a popular summer resort and is known internationally.  Huge crowds visit along with US Presidents and many celebrities. As for the ongoing arguments in Ocean Grove, the historian Gibbon says, in1939, “Many times residents and land lessees of the town have voiced their objection to the local rules, to the tax situation or to the form of government, especially from 1900-1925, and there have been many court fights.” For the most part, things stay the same.

1960-1980: Ocean Grove declines, along with much of the Jersey shore. (See below)

1975:   A group of dedicated citizens led by Mr. Ted Bell and his colleagues obtain approval for OG’s designation as a State and National historic district. It is a complicated process.  Formation of Board of Architectural Review (BAR) happens in 1984.  (Later re-named the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC.)

1975:  A newspaper service sues over Sunday’s gate closures, which had been permitted by town ordinance.  The NJ Supreme Court strikes down the ordinance on grounds that it violates the first amendment to the Constitution (freedom of the press). The gates are opened for the news service only, but the CMA is allowed to continue its governance of Ocean Grove and the enforcement of other “blue laws”. Many people in Ocean Grove view the gates’ opening as an unhappy event.

1977:  A lawsuit stemming from a drunk-driving conviction challenges the authority of Ocean Grove’s municipal court. The NJ Supreme Court widens the scope of the case and decides in June, 1979 that CMA governance in Ocean Grove is in violation of the Constitutional separation of church and state. Appeals are filed. This marks the beginning of the end for CMA governance in OG.

1980: The US Supreme Court would not hear the appeal, so governance of OG is transferred from the CMA to Neptune Township. Neptune eventually eliminates most of the blue laws. Only the Sunday morning beach closure and the ban on alcohol sales remain.

1980’s:   By the 1980’s, the town is characterized by an overall “decrepitude,” including deterioration of buildings, declining tourism, crime, and a growing poor elderly population. (2)  Deinstitutionalized mental patients are housed in empty old hotels and rooming houses in Ocean Grove. The town becomes a “psychiatric ghetto” (NY Times, October 1988), and, by the 1980’s, 10% of the town’s population are mental cases who are not receiving appropriate services and are sometimes abused by landlords. The prognosis for Ocean Grove is dire.

During this period, the Ocean Grove Homeowner’s Association (OGHOA) develops as a political and activist force that successfully begins the process of converting the town from decay to renaissance. (2f)

1990’s:  OGHOA, led by Mr. Herb Herbst, Fran Paladino and others, fight for fair treatment in the allotment of the mentally ill around the state. The group’s political contacts and influence are considerable. The process is complex and difficult, but the numbers of “deinstitutionalized” in OG drops considerably.  The group also saw to the closing of many substandard boarding and rooming houses. The HOA presents Neptune with a “master plan” to protect the historic nature of OG and to rezone for the promotion of single family houses. OGHOA promotes secular tourism while working with CMA to increase religious tourism.  New people come into town to buy homes and invest in businesses.


The historic Neptune High School is saved from becoming low income housing by a group of Ocean Grove homeowners led by Mr. Herb Herbst and with the assistance of State Senator Joseph Palaia and others. (3, 4)  The Jersey Shore Arts Center is owned and run today by a nonprofit tax exempt organization: The Ocean Grove Historic Preservation Society.

2000:  Secular goals achieved as of 2000: increased property values, increased upgrading of houses, improved relations with Neptune, improved downtown with quaint shops, art galleries, cafes, etc., reduced crime, increased tourism, reduced deinstitutionalized patients, demographic changes (increased gays, empty nesters, retirees, professionals, academics, young artists, and middle class families).

2005: House prices peak.

2007:  New topics emerge:  North end development, ocean pavilion dispute (gays vs. CMA), evolving demographics including more second home purchases, significant increases in property taxes, parking problems, Asbury Park development stalls, and home prices decline.

October 29, 2012.  super-storm Sandy hits the Jersey Shore and destroys the Ocean Grove beachfront, part of the Great Auditorium roof, and floods the south side of town.




1.  R. Gibbons, History of Ocean Grove: 1869-1939 (Ocean Grove Times, 1939)

2.  K. Schmelzkopf, Landscape, ideology, and religion: a geography of Ocean Grove, New Jersey, Journal of Historical Geography, 28, 4 (2002) 589-608

3. Kevin  Chambers, Herb Herbst, and Wayne T. Bell, personal communication,( 2008)

4. Archives, Asbury Park Press, (Feb 19, 1997.)

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