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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

BLOSSOM DEARIE:

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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.

1995:

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.

SAM AND DAVE:

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

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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Currently, Rev. Stokes sits near the Great Auditorium. He gets to listen to the Doo Wops and on October 29, 2012he nearly got wacked by Hurricane Sandy.  PG photo

Currently, Rev. Stokes sits near the Great Auditorium. He gets to listen to the Doo Wops and on October 29, 2012, he nearly got wacked by Hurricane Sandy. PG photo

We invite all you historians, amateur or professional, to send us some OG historic anecdotes. Maybe your family has been in town for generations and perhaps you have something interesting tucked away among your souvenirs. Or perhaps the Historical Society will help us out as we endeavor to educate Grovers about their town’s history.

This item was published in the New York Times as part of their reporting called  “The Day in New Jersey” on July 6, 1875.

” The citizens of Ocean Grove, N.J. joined by many of Ashbury (sic) Park, celebrated the national birth-day at 8 o’clock, A.M. Dr. E.H. Stokes, President of the village association, was the local orator elected, and was followed by Col. T.B. Thorpe of New York. 

“After the addresses were ended, Gen. Grant, who rode up from Long Branch to attend the meeting, was formally presented to the audience. The day closed with boat races on the lake, and, a magnificent display of fire-works in the evening.”

BLOGFINGER COMMENTARY:

It’s interesting that they did not refer to the fact that Stokes was a minister in the Methodist Church. Nor did they refer to the governing body as the Camp Meeting Association.

The reference to Ashbury Park is probably a typo. AP was developed in 1871 as a resort by James Bradley, a brush manufacturer from New York. He placed a boardwalk along the ocean. Whose boardwalk came first–Ocean Grove’s or Asbury’s?

When Stokes died at the age of 84, in 1897, he received credit for the building of the Great Auditorium.  His obituary’s headline in the NYT referred to him as the “President of the OG Camp Meeting Association.”  In another article about Stokes they made reference to the Ocean Grove Association or The Association.

As for Grant, I guess they should have said that he rode “down” to Ocean Grove.  He did have a sister in town who lived by Wesley Lake.  He left his horse and carriage at the gates when he came to visit her and he walked the rest of the way. He was a huge celebrity in 1875.

Spectacular boating and fireworks displays at Wesley Lake were frequent in the early days of the Grove and attracted thousands of people.

—Paul Goldfinger

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OGHOA logo

Candidates meeting of the OGHOA on October 27, 2012.  PG photo

Candidates meeting of the OGHOA on October 27, 2012. PG photo

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor

In a recent letter, President Ann Horan of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association encouraged nonmembers to join.  She pointed out  that the group has become very active in a number of important areas including derelict housing, emergency management, North End redevelopment and Sandy recovery.  The dues are only $10.00 per year. You can go to the web site for more information:  OGHOA web link

The OGHOA has been  revitalized by a number of new officers and members.  Pres. Horan and her activist team have formed committees to stay on top of important issues.  The organization has begun  to flex its muscles in town, such as their submission of a North End proposal as seen through the eyes of homeowners.  The OGHOA has potential clout by virtue of its large membership.  It has been difficult to get the exact numbers, but each home gets one vote, even though there may be more than one member in a home.  A conservative estimate is that they have over 500 members at this time.  The exact count is unclear because they  sometimes count the members who are not up-to-date on dues.

But regardless of the precise count, they could have even more influence if they were to  increase the membership.  Ideally every homeowner should belong to this advocacy group, and that could mean a membership of well over 1,000. Don’t forget how powerful they were in the ’80’s and ’90’s when they had their largest historic membership and when their political reach extended to Trenton.  You can read about that era in the Blogfinger timeline. *

The HOA meets on the 4th Saturday of each month in the Community Room.  They get about 60 Grovers at their meetings which are open to the public, but they will have to  change the venue if they want to get better attendance.  At the meetings, the policy has been to have a  guest speaker go on first,  leaving the business for the end.  It is the business component that tends to produce discussion about issues that concern the members, and sometimes people walk out just as those  debates begin.  Maybe they should skip the opening act and get on to the main course, or just reverse the order.

The HOA has a new web site which is still a work in progress in terms of content.   The President’s report, which was recently issued, is still not posted on their site. Because the members who come to meetings are relatively few, the group needs to work harder at disseminating their information including the workings of their board , which used to behave like a secret society.   There is an email list which you can join at their web site.

It seems clear that we are going to hear a great deal of constructive outrage and productive ideas coming out of the “new and improved” OGHOA v. 2.0.  That is good news for the Grove.

* NOTE: This excerpt from the BF Historic Timeline focuses on the part of our history where the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association, on steroids, made things happen to save the town of Ocean Grove:    timeline link

“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 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.”

PAUL McCARTNEY:

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Downtown Ocean Grove. 2003. By Paul Goldfinger

Downtown Ocean Grove, morning.  2003. By Paul Goldfinger

By Charles Layton

It was right around this time of year, 15 winters ago, that Mary and I moved to Ocean Grove. The weather was similar to now – gray, overcast skies and chilly temps. We didn’t know a soul in town except for Janet, the realtor who had sold us our house, and Dick, the contractor who was renovating it. We were living in a construction zone. While Dick tore down walls and sawed and hammered and refinished floors in one part of the house, we’d take shelter in another part. Then we and Dick would switch places. For a time we had no functioning kitchen.

We were both freelance writers during that period, operating out of a single, cramped home office, so we had no work colleagues other than two or three editors with whom we talked on the phone. It was a season of isolation.

Ocean Grove was much different then; it felt half-abandoned in winter. Nagle’s had closed as a pharmacy and hadn’t yet reopened as a restaurant. The Starving Artist was also closed during the dead of winter. There was no Pizza Shoppe on Main, no Devil’s Food, no Bia, no Seagrass.

Asbury was in ruins. Nothing was open on the boardwalk, it was a slum. The Cookman Avenue renaissance hadn’t happened yet. The housing renaissance had barely begun. Except for a gay bar or two, there was almost nothing commercial anywhere near the ocean in Asbury, unless you counted the crack trade. I remember seeing grafitti on a wall that read, “Asbury Park: Where Debris Meets the Sea.”

Ocean Grove was somewhat blighted. On any given block you might see a derelict house. A huge corner house on our block was empty and in apparent danger of collapse. (Then two guys from New York bought it and turned it into a showplace.)

What always lifted my spirits during that first winter was a trip to The Daily Grind, a tiny coffee shop with a few chairs and about three extremely small, cramped tables. It was on Main Avenue in the small room that’s off to the right-hand side of what’s now The Barbaric Bean.

The Daily Grind was a refuge. The woman who ran it turned out wonderful scones – as good as I’ve ever eaten. She would haul out big pans of them from her little kitchen. She baked muffins, too. She always had a pot of chili on the counter, and one or two pots of soup. All of it was delicious. She was open seven days a week, except maybe for Christmas day. It was the coziest little joint I’ve ever seen, the ideal place to drop into on a cold, raw day.

Of course I prefer today’s version of Ocean Grove, with all its activities and amenities. There’s no comparison. But bleak gray days like we’re having now always remind me of that first winter here, when I would squeeze up to one of those little round tables in The Grind, read the letters to the editor in The Coaster, drink my coffee and spoon down a hot bowl of chili. Sheltered and snug as a clam.

MUSIC by Nat King Cole:

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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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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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