Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove history’

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. Thus we periodically re-post this timeline.

By Paul Goldfinger, MD, Editor @Blogfinger.net.


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 Historical Society of Ocean Grove 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.  Ocean Grove is, in practice, a theocracy. But that will become a problem for them over 100 years later.

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 land 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, in 1939, “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 theocratic 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 “de-institutionalized” 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 de-institutionalized 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.

2009:  Ocean Grove blog is founded  (Blogfinger.net) by Paul Goldfinger, MD to help fill in the gap created when the OG newspaper closed. It offered a place to voice opinions about Ocean Grove’s many ongoing issues.

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.


2009-2022:  Blogfinger documents ongoing issues in town.  Use the search engine on top right.





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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Bishop Jane’s Tabernacle, a religious historic icon in Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo. April 17, 2021. ©


By Paul Goldfinger, MD,  Editor, Blogfinger.net

Here is a link to an excellent account of OG’s history by a Grover author, Perdita Buchan.  If you read it, I guarantee that you will find out information about our town that you did not know.

What I like about this article is the accurate recognition that we are not only a religious community, something which we have been talking about on Blogfinger and which has been ignored by the travel media such as National Geographic.

Here is a sample paragraph from Perdita’s 2015 review, and below that is a link. The last sentence is most critical.

“Certainly one can’t regret the town’s revival, a vibrant return from its late twentieth century decline. And if the neo-Victorians often miss the mark, no one would want a high rise.

“Still, architectural change marks social change. Just as tents became cottages and cottages grew into houses, so the focus of the town shifted from rustic retreat to “The Queen Of Christian Resorts.” Initially, that change happened as part of the plan of the Camp Meeting’s leaders, so that a certain communal sensibility was maintained.

“There is much less now to link the town to its Methodist roots.”





And here is a link to Perdita’s 2019 novel  the Carousel Carver which we reviewed on Blogfinger.… Click on “Continue reading…”

Ocean Grove author presents her latest novel: “The Carousel Carver” by Perdita Buchan


THE NUTMEGS:     “Story Untold.”


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The Arlington House Hotel in Ocean Grove, NJ. From the Woolman and Rose Atlas of the New Jersey Coast. 1878.

The Arlington House Hotel in Ocean Grove, NJ. From the Woolman and Rose Atlas of the New Jersey Coast. 1878. Click to enlarge.


By Paul Goldfinger, Editor Blogfinger.net

This hotel was formerly known as the Pitman House.  It was the largest hotel in Ocean Grove as it sat on an entire block. The address is not given, but perhaps it is Pitman Avenue.   It had an open view of the ocean and a beautiful park to the west.

This engraving depicts the hotel in 1877 after it had been enlarged due to increased demand.  Gas and water had been introduced.  The gardens in the neighborhood provided the house daily with fresh fruits and vegetables, and the farms excellent milk, chickens, fresh eggs and butter.

The proprietor, Mr. Charles E Howland, was determined to provide his guests with “a bounteous table of the best food, well cooked, and invitingly served.”

The write-up in the Atlas mentions the “bathing” in Ocean Grove as being “excellent due to the absence of undertow.”   They also mention the absence of mosquitoes eliminating fear of malaria.

Nonstop trains to OG “run from New York and Philadelphia,  and boats arrive by way of Sandy Hook.  Tickets sold and baggage checked to all points from the office of the hotel.”

This scan was obtained from a hand-colored engraving from the Woolman and Rose Atlas of the New Jersey Coast dated 1878.

The news clip below from the 1910 Ocean Grove Times was sent by Grover Carol Livingstone. It gives the address for the Arlington as “Auditorium Square.”   You can see the Arlington ad better if you click on the image below:

carol livingston


FROM PAL JOEY:   Jerry Orbach.  Score by Rodgers and Hart.


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This page is from the F.W. Beers Monmouth County Atlas of 1873. It shows portions of Ocean and Shrewsbury Townships. Presented by Paul Goldfinger @Blogfinger.

This page is from the F.W. Beers Monmouth County Atlas of 1873. It shows portions of Ocean and Shrewsbury Townships. Presented by Paul Goldfinger @Blogfinger.  Click to study this map.



By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger


When Ocean Grove was founded in 1869, there were very few towns nearby.  Among the towns that did exist were Long Branch, Shrewsbury,  and Farmingdale.    In 1869, no one lived in what became Asbury Park.  In 1871, Asbury Park was founded.  Shrewsbury Township was subdivided into Ocean Township and Wall Township. Ocean Grove was initially part of Ocean Township. In 1879, Neptune was carved out of Ocean Twp. and was incorporated by the State of NJ;  Ocean Grove was attached to Neptune.

Many places had different names then. For example Wesley Lake was Long Pond, while Fletcher Lake was Goose Pond.  The road that we now call Route 71, ie Main Street, stretched from Long Branch to Squan (now Manasquan) and was called “The Turnpike.”   Bradley Beach was called Ocean Pond, Avon-by-the-sea was still by the sea when it was called Key West, Belmar was Ocean Beach——but all those towns came after OG. Deal Lake was the Great Pond.

Ocean Grove consisted of dunes and trees extending from the Ocean to the Turnpike. The Camp Meeting Association team, led by Rev. Wm. Osborne, bought parcels of land from quite a few families, and it was a big job to stitch together and finance the purchase of  OG since many land owners lived elsewhere, even in other states.

Look at the map to see a large  dune, north to south, towards the southern part of town. Goose Pond  (Fletcher Lake) was partly filled in to make room for more housing.

The first permanent cottage in OG was built in 1870, and by the time this map was made, there were many tents and cottages around town.  *A large park-like area was called “Sea Drift Heights” and within it was “Gentlemen’s Walk.” It bordered Pilgrim Pathway and Main Avenue.  It was near the Tenting Grounds and Church Square.  Nearby was a “Ladies Walk.”  Another large park was near Broadway and was called “Central Park.”  Streets and houses ended at Delaware Avenue. West of there, near the Turnpike, was Evergreen Park which also bordered Wesley Lake.  Stables provided parking outside the western gates. An ice house was also over there.

*The earliest map of Ocean Grove, from 1871, can be found in Ted Bells’ book Images of America–Ocean Grove.  That map is titled Ocean Grove Camp Ground. Other old maps can be seen at the Historical Society of Ocean Grove on Pitman Avenue near Pilgrim Pathway.


HAVANA CARBO.  OG isn’t exactly Paris, but you can substitute the names in your head.  It’s a fine waltz.



Havana Carbo

Havana Carbo

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The original Ocean Grove.  No North End Hotel and no Skill-ball.  c.1869


The Ross Bathing Houses, 1878. North End, Ocean Grove Beach. From the Atlas of the Jersey Coast. Previously posted on Blogfinger.  Do you see any historic condominiums there?


Ocean Avenue, Ocean Grove, NJ, summer 1918. Courtesy of Rich Amole  © Blogfinger staff.


This is not a comprehensive list. Most CMA religious events are not listed here.   Consult the CMA web site for more information:   www.oceangrove.org


July 4 Thursday:  The New Jersey Wind Symphony.   7:30-8:30  AUD

July 5  Friday:  Navy Band Pop Rock concert  7 pm  AUD

July 6 Saturday is Community Day

10:30 am – 12:30 pm:     Independence Day Parade

1-5 pm: Town  Celebration.  Along Pilgrim Pathway and Auditorium Square Park.

9 pm  Fireworks

July 7  Sunday:  3:30 to 4:30   The Quartet:  “America Sings”  TABERNACLE     Don’t miss!



July 27 Saturday  is Victorian Day

10 am – 4 pm:  Mrs. Joseph Thornley’s prayer tent in Founders Park

10 am – 3 pm: History of OG video shown continually in the Great Auditorium

11 am-11:30:  Dedication of the Fountain    (DO NOT MISS THIS)    and Re-enactment of Bishop Fitzgerald by Rev. Dr. Tom Tewell.  Founders Park

Note: from Cindy Bell: “the restored fountain is back in town, and Robinson Iron anticipates the final installation on Tuesday July 9th. Landscaping and final touches will be put in place the week of July 15th.  Dedication ceremony:  Saturday July 27th at 11:00 am. Community members are invited to stop by the park to watch the action.”


12-4 pm Horse and carriage tour

Afternoon tours of Great Auditorium, tours of Historical Society Museum,and walking tours of Ocean Grove


There will be more events on August 10 for Ocean Grove Forever Day.




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A typical Ocean Grove historic neighborhood. Submitted by Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net.  The proposed North End plan will be from the same school of historic design that gave us the Greek Temple on Ocean Avenue. It won’t look like this.


This is what the Master Plan (2011) says about new construction in the historic district:   “…..encouraging new construction that is compatible in scale and design to the physical
character of the surrounding neighborhood.”

And this is what Municipal Land Use Law says:   “The MLUL responds to a generally held belief that those sections of a municipality that still bear the visual imprint of the past should be preserved. The concept is that existing buildings in historic area should be retained, or at least as their exteriors, and that new buildings in such areas should be on the same scale and should have facades compatible with the older buildings.

Does this sound like what those altruistic developers (OGNED), CMA, and Neptune Township have in mind for the over 5 acres at the North End which they allege is being done according to historic principles?

Let’s face it, historic preservation and replication is not what is going on over there.  The idea that bringing back the North End Hotel site is historic is like looking at an archaeologic site in Israel where scientists have their eyes on history going back 3000 years and not on some Ottoman casino which burned down in 1910.

They may get what they want, but it is wrong and is being misrepresented to the Ocean Grove public.

And let’s mention the 2008 ruling that allowed the Township, on the  behalf of WAVE and the CMA, to change the zoning from single family residential to mixed use due to the designation of that area as an area in need of redevelopment.   This is NJ Law as to the criteria for that designation:

“Areas, in excess of five contiguous acres, whereon buildings or improvements have been destroyed, consumed by fire, demolished or altered by the action of storm, fire, cyclone, tornado, earthquake or other casualty in such a way that the aggregate assessed value of the area has been materially depreciated.

The OG North End was misrepresented as an area of over 5 acres.  In addition, the land’s value was not shown to be materially depreciated.  Today it is worth a large sum of money—-no one has released the price tag when the CMA sells to OGNED.  Another excuse was that the land suffered from many Code violations, but those were easily corrected.  There was a law suit which Kevin Chambers lost over this, but that doesn’t mean that he was wrong.

OTIS REDDING    “Wonderful World.”

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Submitted by Rich Amole., Blogfinger staff. Postcard is from August, 3, 1906.   The Auditorium was built in 1894, so it was 12 years old when this postcard was sent.   CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Rich Amole notes the horse and buggy in front.   The white structure seems to be a fountain or a Victorian planter. The big cross is missing.

You can see the adjacent tents on the right, still present. It is not referred to here as the “Great Auditorium,” only the “Auditorium”  (which is often still true today.)

Robin Lamont from the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the 1971 off-Broadway show Godspell.  This folk rock song, “Day by Day,”  by composer Stephen Schwartz was the 3rd song in the show:


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1905 Ocean Grove. Submitted by Rich Amole, Blogfinger staff. Source: Ebay

1905 Ocean Grove. Submitted by Rich Amole, Blogfinger staff. Source: Ebay

Hi Paul:

This post card of Ocean Grove shows some ladies out for a stroll on the plankboard in their Victorian garb accompanied by a gentleman in his finest walking apparel. A sailboat passes by off to the right of the photo with a beach that is not discernible.

Postmarked from 1905 , and a short message indicates that they were staying in that hotel with the X that was marked on the upper left hand of the card.

In that year, Teddy Roosevelt was in office, and the Wright Brothers were still trying to figure out how to keep their  flying invention in the air for longer periods of time. Cabin attendants need not apply just yet.


Editor’s Note:  Rich Amole, thanks.  For perspective, in 1903, the women’s suffrage movement  had a meeting in Ocean Grove, and that same week, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union also had a gathering in the Grove. Those two groups worked hand in hand. Women were very involved in temperance because alcohol was causing widespread damage to families.

Interestingly, if you watch the HBO mini-series called “Parade End,” set in England before and during WWI , you will meet some suffragettes who were fighting for the vote on that side of the pond.    —-Paul


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Undated photograph submitted by Paulie D.

It’s the North End, and the consensus is the hurricane of 1944. Some more information would be helpful. Click on comments below. 



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The old Neptune Township Municipal Building. Undated. Photo hangs on the wall of the Township Committee. Blogfinger photo.

The old Neptune Township Municipal Building. This undated photo hangs on the wall of the Township Committee. It should be an inspiration, but they don’t know much about history over there.

On Jan 1, 2017, a Neptune Twp.government organization ceremony will be held at the Neptune Twp. Municipal Building at noon.

But since things have gotten out of hand at town hall, here’s a modest proposal:   they go back to basics by moving into their old building again and seeking some new (?or old) values and ideas.

M. WARD with a song that finds new ideas in an old composition:


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