Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove Historical Society’

10 Main Avenue. Some questions are now answered. Photo courtesy of HSOG

10 Main Avenue. 1896.  Some questions are now answered. Photo courtesy of HSOG. Click left to see the details.

Detail: verso (back of the image)

Detail: verso (back of the image)

10 Main Avenue today. Blogfinger photo

10 Main Avenue today. 2013.  Blogfinger photo

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger  (Originally posted on BF November 2013)

The Historical Society of Ocean Grove was recently presented with a sepia-colored photograph of an OG house dated “1896”. The image was donated by relatives of a man who had settled the estate of a Dorothy Quinn.

The image shows  “a two story stick-style house with Victorian trim including arches, square posts, shutters, a gull-wing roof, two wrap-around porches and a third floor balcony. Also shown in the photo are five people with bikes and a baby in a buggy, identified as possibly being a young Dorothy Quinn.”*

“On the right side, the building is cut off, but another gull-wing is suspected; although some houses in the Grove have a  single-gull-wing.  The square posts are said to be unusual.”*

The back of the photo is captioned in pencil with “House of La Vogt, Ocean Pathway. Mrs. PM Day (with buggy) and Dorothy in carriage. Ocean Grove Sept 1896.”

Ted Bell, HSOG historian, sent Blogfinger the photo for scanning and presentation on the blog.  He said that his people would call my people when more research had been done regarding the image.  Knowing that Ted took many years to complete his book on the Great Auditorium and knowing how meticulous he is, I thought that I should grow a beard and swear not to cut it off until I hear from him.

Well, la-dee-dah— a short while later I receive an email from someone I never heard of before:  Roxanne Greco, “HSOG history intern.”  It seems that Ms. Greco had done some original research on the photo with the encouragement of Mr. Bell. Voila!  Ted had found a researcher to help him, and we thank Ms. Greco for the quick turn around.

She tells us that the building in the photo was probably at 10 Main Avenue rather than the Ocean Pathway and that it was likely a boarding house owned by Louis A. Vogt. Ms. Greco found old records that multiple families lived there “at once and in short periods throughout the late 19th century as found in the Ocean Grove House Occupancy Directory by David H. Fox.” She also found  Mr. Vogt listed at 10 Main Avenue, when checking another source.

In 1939 the Pine Tree Inn was listed at 10 Main Avenue.  Mrs. John Shafer proprietor.  Greco’s research found nothing else about Louis A. Vogt, and one of the goals is to find out more about him.   Ms. Greco says, “The mystery continues into the 20th century when the house was converted into the Pine Tree Inn (aka The Arsdale,) with many of the Victorian features removed.”*  That building was recently changed from a small hotel into a private home.

The photo above doesn’t look much like the current structure at that Main Avenue location, but Ted and Roxanne see similarities in the windows and a suggestion that the earlier wrap around-porches had been removed. They would like to evaluate the interior of the building to check certain details such as the width of the floor boards. The idea that the building in the photo was on Main Avenue and not Ocean Pathway is strongly suggested by the information at hand, but it is not certain. The “Ocean Pathway” address on the back is not explainable so far.

Roxanne says that the history of 10 Main Avenue remains a mystery due to “several gaps in the timeline of our resources.”  “Further investigation is necessary,”

She says, “Normally we prefer to confirm our research from more than one source. We need a solid timeline.”    She and Ted will continue researching those gaps.  “This photo is now part of the known history of 10 Main Avenue, and we look forward to filling in in the existing gaps.”

She says that the HSOG is “currently soliciting donations to install a word/phrase search feature on the recently completely digitized Ocean Grove Record/Times newspaper. This search feature will enable those interested to perform a more efficient and quicker inquiry as to their house’s history.” and the people who lived there.

Here is a link to the BF post about a wedding in 2014 at 10 Main Ave:


Blogfinger has been interested in OG history since the birth of the blog  (which is after the birth of the blues)  and we welcome information that helps our citizens understand the history of our town—religious and secular. Contact us if you have a story to tell.

*All quotes are by Roxanne Greco, HSOG history intern, who provided the research results for this article with the assistance of Ted Bell.   You can see how tough the process can be. —PG

FRANK SINATRA    (from the movie  Pal Joey)  Can you see that steeple?

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Anna settles in at her new work place. Photo by Mary Walton

Anna settles in at her new workplace. Photo by Mary Walton

By Mary Walton

Around the time that Susan Roach gave notice that she was retiring after 12 years from her post as administrative assistant at the Historical Society of Ocean Grove, an email arrived from a young woman offering to volunteer.

Her name was Anna Critelli and she was a freshly minted Ph.D. who had specialized in historic preservation. Newly married to a physical education teacher in Long Branch middle school, she had recently moved with her husband to Ocean Grove and discovered the Historical Society.

Society president Gail Shaffer suggested that Critelli apply for the vacant job. Says Shaffer, “Then we got her resumé and we were blown away.” Not only had Critelli earned a doctorate from West Virginia University with a 4.0 average, and not only did her list of awards and honors contain 11 entries, but she had work experience as a teaching assistant and also in West Virginia’s State Historic Preservation Office, where she wrote regional architectural histories and even a brochure on historic wood windows.

Critelli quickly rose to the top of the list of 10 people being interviewed, culled from the 20-plus applications the Society had received.

It was no contest. She started work on Monday. Said Shaffer, “Nobody had everything that she had. We’re going to miss Susan very much, but we’re delighted to have Anna.”

Add to her qualifications an outgoing personality and computer skills. Repeat that: computer skills, as in Omeka, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office Suite. “We’re thrilled she knows computers,” Shaffer said.

Critelli, 26, grew up in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, a small community near West Virginia’s state capital, Charleston. “Where I grew up in Cross Lanes, there’s no history,” she said in a voice that contains nary a vowel of hillbilly twang. “Everything’s very generic. I never felt connected.”

When she and her husband, Andrew, visited his family in Long Branch, they talked about living here. When they married this past summer, Anna Critelli said, “We thought why not?”

The rest is history.

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Historian Lyndell O’Hara explores women’s role in Ocean Grove from 1870 to 1900.

By Mary Walton

The year is 1858. Margaret Coleman is awarded a medical degree, becoming one of the country’s tiny number of female physicians. But in Ocean Grove their numbers are swelling. By 1900 five of the town’s 10 doctors are women. Nationwide, the figure is just 5 percent.

And by 1880 one of those Ocean Grove doctors is Coleman, who has moved here after practicing 20 years in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. She purchased what was known as “Block House” at 40 Pitman Avenue and turned it into a treatment center that offered “first class accommodations to patients.”

Block House likely featured the therapeutic salt baths spiked with electricity — sometimes too much electricity — that were popular in those days. “Occasionally they lost a few people,” Lyndell O’Hara tells a rapt audience of 29 people, who have signed up for her women’s history tour sponsored by the Historical Society of Ocean Grove. The group is standing in the shade of a stately sycamore across the street from 40 Pitman, now the Allenhurst apartments. O’Hara gleaned the news of salt bath casualties from the Ocean Grove Record for that period.

A history professor at the Manhattan campus of Nyack College and an Ocean Grove resident for the past decade, O’Hara has spent three years exploring the role of women in Ocean Grove from 1870 to 1900. From census records, newspapers, Camp Meeting Association yearbooks, biographies and other materials she has painstakingly assembled a surprising portrait of a feminist haven.

During those three decades the Grove was both a center of the Holiness movement, which allowed women to develop as religious leaders, and a stronghold of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. “Because of the Holiness movement and temperance, women gathered here every summer,” O’Hara said. By 1900, 64 percent of the Grove’s population was female. In Asbury Park it was 56 percent, in Long Branch 51 percent.

Among the boldface names who spent considerable time in Ocean Grove were Phoebe Palmer, known as “the Mother of Holiness;” Frances Willard, president of the WCTU, and Amanda Berry Smith, a world-famous African American evangelist.

Not only did women flock to the Grove, they put down roots and prospered in business. “Ninety percent of the tourist business was run by women,” O’Hara told the group. Many of them were single or widowed. They owned and operated boardinghouses and cottages, or they rented boardinghouses from owners and rented out rooms. The industrious Carolyn Sissom somehow managed to lease 14 lots from the Camp Meeting Association when two were the limit and turned herself into a real estate maven.

Women dominated the tourism business in the 19th century, O”Hara says. OG women were also active in important religious movements. Photos by Mary Walton

Forty Pitman was the first of nine stops on O’Hara’s recent tour. Another was the site of the Manchester on Ocean Pathway, which was destroyed by fire in 2010. It was owned in the 19th century by Kate Kellogg, who had lived in Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters. After her husband’s death she moved to the Grove and supported herself by taking in boarders until she was in her early 90’s.

At 6 Atlantic (also 5 Surf), today’s four-story olive green Aurora is “exactly the same” as when the three Bull sisters ran it, O’Hara said. Raised in a family of 11 children in Bradford, Pennsylvania, the sisters later moved to Newark, where they did piecework in the textile industry. Around 1879, the eldest, Matilda, rented “Shadyside Cottage” in Ocean Grove. By 1884, she owned the Aurora. And some five years later the enterprising Matilda opened the first hotel in Dunedin on the west coast of Florida and ran it during the winters. One of her visitors was Camp Meeting Association president Ellwood H. Stokes, who was quoted in the Ocean Grove Record as saying that it was “a real joy to be greeted at our place of entertainment, the ‘Dunedin House,’ by the courteous proprietor Miss M. A. Bull and her sister Lydia.”

Throughout O’Hara’s tour, Esther Dajnowski of New York City took copious notes and photographs. “I knew this was a place where a lot of women movers and shakers were,” she said. “But I’m glad to get more information and specific examples.” She said she would “type it up and share it with people who have similar interests.”

Thus far this summer O’Hara has led two tours, with a third scheduled for 1 p.m. August 30. The cost is $8 and reservations are advised.

Gail Shaffer, president of the Historical Society, said O’Hara’s research will be the basis of an exhibit next year at the Society’s museum, and O’Hara says a book is in the works. She will continue to lead tours next summer to different addresses. Ocean Grove is so rich with stories of women’s accomplishments linked to various locations, she said, that “I can do it anywhere.”

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Aerial view showing "flared setbacks," which Ocean Grove groups hope to protect in the new Master Plan. Photo by Tracey James, Blogfinger photographer

By Charles Layton

This Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting will mark the first time Ocean Grove’s various civic groups have had a chance to air their concerns about the Board’s proposed new Master Plan.

Those concerns – by the Home Owners Association, the Historical Society of Ocean Grove and the Historic Preservation Commission – mainly have to do with protecting Ocean Grove’s unique historic character from developers or others who would undermine it.

Leaders of those three organizations showed up at the Planning Board’s September 14 meeting hoping to make themselves heard. To their disappointment, no one in the audience was allowed to speak. Although all three organizations have written letters to the Planning Board detailing their concerns, the Planning Board has not responded to those letters. And in recent weeks, when Blogfinger offered the Planning Board a chance to address these groups’ concerns on our website, the offer was declined.

It is fair to say that a growing number of people believe the Neptune Planning Board has distanced itself from the public – on issues of heartfelt concern to Ocean Grovers.

Here are a few of the issues raised by the Ocean Grove organizations:

All three groups are troubled by the scores of vague passages throughout the new Master Plan draft calling for regulations to be “reviewed” or “redrafted” or “reconstituted” or “updated” without further explanation. The Historical Society, in its letter to the Planning Board, speaks of these passages as “weakly defined language that urges sweeping changes to the present regulations.” The Home Owners, in a letter approved by members at its October meeting, describes “a lack of clarity in important passages regarding zoning regulations, density limits, the flared setback and other crucial matters. Our fear is that [the language in these passages] would give present and future administrations too much discretion making changes to the zoning regulations. We fear that this draft opens the door to a weakening of existing protections.”

The Home Owners Association strongly opposes a proposal in the draft to create a new Land Use Advisory Committee within the Township government. “Such a body,” the Home Owners letter says, “would usurp the authority of the existing citizen boards [meaning the Zoning Board and Planning Board], replacing their judgments with the judgments of various executives of the Township. This would potentially allow for more decisions to be made outside the public’s view, and would be an invitation to more political influence and insider dealing.”

Gail Shaffer, the Historical Society’s president, said in an interview, “We are very concerned that they would be making a board of officials who can make decisions without any input from the public, and we are worried about the decisions that they might make for Ocean Grove, and its history and its traditions.”

The HPC has similar concerns. The Planning Board’s document says that the proposed new committee would only be empowered to approve “minor changes that have been found to be di-minimus” [sic]. Critics wonder why a new layer of governmental authority is needed for matters that are de minimis (that is, of negligible importance). They also question who, within the recesses of the Township government, would decide what is or isn’t de minimis. “A small change to zoning can be a humongous change to historic preservation,” said Deborah Osepchuk, who chairs the HPC.

The Home Owners Association is also urging that existing zoning limits be maintained on building heights and number of stories. “We, like many other Ocean Grovers, are concerned about recent trends toward greater height and greater density,” the group wrote in its letter.

The HPC and the Historical Society have a range of concerns about a part of the new Master Plan draft called the Historic Preservation Element, which is especially important to Ocean Grove. Both organizations think the new draft should do a better job of explaining why Ocean Grove was named as a State and National Historic District, as an example of a 19th century planned urban community. The previous Master Plan went into eloquent detail about those characteristics that make Ocean Grove historically unique and in need of protection. Omitting or abbreviating that information, says Osepchuk, weakens Ocean Grove’s ability to protect those cherished characteristics. It might also affect the town’s ability to get grant money for certain restoration projects.

As an example, the new Master Plan draft fails to explain the importance of the flared setback. (In fact, it hardly mentions it except in the “Land Use Element,” where it recommends allowing porches to encroach into the flare in certain cases.)

The previous Master Plan contained a list of some of Ocean Grove’s so-called “key structures,” i.e., structures most in need of preservation due to their exceptional importance architecturally and historically. The Planning Board’s rewrite omits that list. Having the list in the Master Plan, according to the HPC, bolsters the validity of Ocean Grove’s historic status. The HPC often refers to that list of structures in its deliberations and decisions.

The present dispute over the Master Plan is unusual in that all three of these local organizations have voiced such strong objections almost in concert. The Historical Society, in particular, has a long history of avoiding political involvement. When I asked Gail Shaffer, the Society’s president, whether the Society had taken such an activist stand before on a public issue, she said, “Never. As far as I know we have never done it, not in recent history, certainly.” When I asked why they were doing it now, she said, “When you read the new Master Plan, Ocean Grove is almost left out.”

The Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 9, at 7 p.m. in the Township Committee Meeting Room, 2nd floor of the Municipal Building. Between now and then, here’s some background:

  • To read the Home Owners Association’s letter to the Planning Board, go here.
  • To read the Historical Society of Ocean Grove’s letter to the Planning Board, go here.
  • To read the Planning Board’s proposed new Master Plan on the Neptune Township website, go here. Then scroll down to “Draft Elements of the Master Plan.” The elements of most concern to Ocean Grovers are those on “land use” and “historic preservation.” You can click on each of those separately.

Editor’ note: Because there’s more than one side to every story, our offer remains open to anyone on the Planning Board who wants to address any of the above concerns, either before or after Wednesday night’s meeting.

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Founders Fountain in its glory days. Photo courtesy of Historical Society of Ocean Grove

By Mary Walton

What was once a handsome four-tier fountain, the centerpiece of Founder’s Park, today is a forlorn structure half its original size, surrounded by ugly orange plastic netting.

Constructed in 1907 by the J.W. Fiske Iron Works of New York, the fountain was already in disrepair when a vandal threw soap into it in the 1970s, clogging its plumbing forever. Gone are the top three tiers, the four urns that perched on its water-filled base and the pipe railing that surrounded it. The design on its pedestal featuring scallop shells, drills and tulips is barely visible, and the pedestal itself is deeply cracked and corroded. A ragged fringe of cannas and pink vinca encircle what’s left, representing a valiant attempt by Ocean Grove Beautification to improve its appearance. Grass sprouts from the top basin.

The netting was put in place lest the fountain topple over onto children who play in the park and might be tempted to climb it. Truth to tell, says Ocean Grove historian Ted Bell, the fountain sits in a solid cement base. “Two of us could not even budge it.”

But help for the fountain, says Bell, may be on the way.

Ted Bell at the fountain he hopes can be restored. Photo by Mary Walton

In his research, Bell discovered that a company in Alabama called Robinson Ironworks had purchased Fiske. From Luke Robinson, of the iron works, he learned that the company still had the original molds used to cast the fountain. And on Wednesday Robinson is arriving in Ocean Grove to evaluate the fountain for possible restoration. Under Bell’s leadership a committee of the Historical Society of Ocean Grove plans to explore the availability of federal, state and county funds. The other committee members are Society president Gail Shaffer, Liz Ogden, Phillis Keutgen, Darrell Dufresne and Rose Myers.

Founder’s Park is the most historic site in Ocean Grove, the very place where Methodist elders gathered in 1869 and decided to establish a religious community. Several trees that shaded that august gathering still cast their shadows over the lawn.

Fountains are in short supply in this corner of New Jersey. In a voice filled with optimism, Bell says the one in Founder’s Park is “the only soon-to-be-working fountain in Monmouth County.”

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