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Posts Tagged ‘Bridging the gap between Ocean Grove and Asbury Park’

Image courtesy of Ted Bell's book "Images of America--Ocean Grove."

Image courtesy of Ted Bell’s book “Images of America–Ocean Grove.”  This 1878 view is of the OG side of Wesley Lake.  Two ferry boats carried people to and fro.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger  Re-post now from April, 2013.

We have reported on a recent north-south clash where the Asbury Park Council would not initially support the Ocean Grove bid for a FEMA appeal to help pay for the Grove’s oceanfront renewal following the Sandy destruction .  Later the Council changed its mind, but some lingering bitterness exists on both sides of the Casino, especially after a councilman called Ocean Grovers “riff raff.”

However, this clash has provided a small opportunity to consider the relationship between the two towns and it provoked some debate by Blogfinger commenters.  The basics are that the two towns are geographically neighbors, but are not “sister cities” in the true sense of the word.  Instead, the two towns are as opposite as you can get. Maybe “complimentary” would be a good adjective, but there is much at stake in this relationship, which we will cover later.

Ocean Grove, founded in 1869 by Methodist ministers from the Holiness movement, developed as a summer religious community.  Asbury Park, founded in 1871, by James A Bradley, named their town after a Methodist bishop, but went on to become a very secular place with a gay community going back to 1950 and a popular summer boardwalk and music scene going back to the turn of the 20th century.

In 1888, James Bradley, recognizing the growing population in AP, entered into an agreement with the OG Camp Meeting Association to provide a way for large numbers of summer visitors to cross Wesley Lake and get to the campgrounds. Up to that point, there were ferries and boats which would carry people back and forth for one cent per ride.

The two towns agreed that two iron bridges would be constructed.  One at the foot of New Jersey Avenue and the other at the foot of Pilgrim Pathway.  Little toll houses at the OG side would collect the one cent toll, and a policeman would be stationed there. AP borrowed $10,000 from the CMA to help build the bridges, and the two communities shared the income.  Interestingly, both sides agreed to post signs that said, “This bridge is private property and is not dedicated to the public.”  The reason for that proviso is unclear. Maybe it is to justify the toll.

Two iron bridges were built in 1888. This is the view of the AP side

Two iron bridges were built in 1888. This is the view from  the AP side. Click left for larger view.    Courtesy Ted Bell.

In 1899, a group of Ocean Grove residents and business owners petitioned the CMA to construct a “drive bridge” across Wesley Lake and Fletcher Lake as a way to help the commercial interests in town drive their wagons back and forth.  The goal was to have these bridges near the ocean.  In retrospect, the CMA saved the day when they would not allow those bridges to be built—for religious reasons.

In 1932, the iron foot bridges were replaced by the two concrete structures that we see today.  The bridges across Wesely Lake have provided a way to get across the water from one town to the other and have benefitted both sides for nearly 125 years.  Asbury Park has especially enjoyed these bridges because their boardwalk scene has been hugely popular for years. In the late 1800’s, about 600,000 people visited AP each summer.  Of course it went into decline for many years and is now making an impressive comeback.

About 15 years ago, a decision was made to lock those bridges on the OG side at midnight each evening as a crime-fighting measure. That is done at midnight by the Neptune Twp. Police Department.   It was a big success in that regard, but some controversy has now  surfaced regarding the continued locking practices.   In Part II we will talk amongst ourselves about this issue.  Stay tuned.

March, 2013 view from the OG side. By Michael Goldfinger. Left click for larger view

March, 2013.  view of Wesley Lake  from the OG side. By Moe Demby, Blogfinger.net. Click for larger view

SOUNDTRACK  “THE BRIDGES OF MONMOUTH COUNTY.”   Oh, sorry, The Bridges of Madison County.  It’s Johnny Hartman whose voice is deeper than the water in Wesley Lake.  Clint Eastwood did a fabulous job with the jazz soundtrack for that movie which starred Clint and Meryl. By the way, Clint and Meryl will be at the Blogfinger Film Festival, so get your tickets.  Here is Johnny with “It Was Almost Like a Song.”  (Is this about Springsteen?)

CREDITS:

WAYNE T. BELL  (“TED”)  gave us permission to publish the two top  images from his book , one of the Images of America series, Ocean Grove.  This is a wonderful history of the Grove which everyone who lives here should own.  It is full of terrific photographs, magazine images, postcards, and documents. Ted’s book is still in print and can be purchased on line or at the Historical Society of Ocean Grove for $19.99.  Ted also wrote a similar book with vintage postcards of the Grove—also available at the HSOG.

GIBBONS : History of Ocean Grove  1869-1939

MICHAEL GOLDFINGER, photographer:  Lives in Tampa, but he used to live in the Grove and he visits here often.  (He looks in on his parents in case he has to drive us to the home.)  Michael is a former  staff photographer at the Asbury Park Press.  We have occasionally published his photos on BF  (the family business.)

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