Posts Tagged ‘Recovery of Ocean GRove in the 1990’s’


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Ocean Grove, New Jersey.   Blogfinger photo ©  Re-posted from 2014.


By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger   (We are constantly talking about the Grove and how it is evolving.  This historical review evoked some interesting comments, but now we are 4 years later, and you can bring us up to date if you wish by clicking in comments.)

Ocean Grove, NJ.   July 12, 2014:     We have had some commenters  in the last few days bring up the subject of  who gets credit for the 1990’s turnaround that brought this neglected, rundown shore town back from the abyss to become the trendy, diverse, and popular place that it is today.

The comments were triggered by the Jersey Shore Arts Center’s misunderstanding with the Camp Meeting Association.  Herb Herbst, the President of the JSAC,  is a town hero because of his leadership of the HOA in the ’90’s.

I.M. Radar   (a pseudonym)  brought it up twice in the last two days when he made reference to “the dramatic influx of professional gay homeowners [who] have created the highly valued enclave we live in today. ”   I have heard that claim made on a number of occasions in the past.

But Radar and others offer no  evidence to bolster their contentions. The issue is, if credit is due, then who gets the credit?   As a Grover with an interest in Ocean Grove history, demographics, and social matters, I have found that there has been no scholarly  interest in these topics other than one:

In 2002, Karen Schmelzkopf, a professor at Monmouth University, wrote a paper called “Landscape, Ideology, and Religion: a Geography of Ocean Grove, New Jersey.”

Her 20 page paper with nearly 100 references appeared in the Journal of Historical Geography, 28, 4 (2002) 589 +- 608.  *     She paid great attention to every detail regarding the turnaround of Ocean Grove in the late 1990’s. She gave full credit to Herb Herbst and his Home Owners Association.  He was President of that group during most of the ’90’s.  Prof. Schmelzkopf attributes the rescue of Ocean Grove  entirely to that organization.

I am not going to recite all the  details of her study. You can read her paper yourself on-line.*  However, here are some quotes :

“This, then, was the situation in Ocean Grove by the mid-1980’s: decrepit infrastructure, a meager tourist trade, a year round population made up of predominantly low to moderate income elderly folks and former mental patients, and the diffusion of crime from Asbury Park”

“In response to that challenge, the OGHOA, led by a group of “charismatic leaders” from the community, became an activist “quasi-government.”

“By 1995 the OGHOA became the largest community association in New Jersey and probably the most influential.”

The HOA had over 1,000 members. There were many politically connected people helping Herb including corporate presidents and others who lived in the Grove. The HOA worked with the Chamber of Commerce, the State of New jersey, Neptune Township, and the Camp Meeting Association to accomplish certain goals such as dealing with miserable boarding houses and trying to bring secular and religious tourists back.

Prof. Schmelzkopf said, “By the end of the 1990’s, the OGHOA had fulfilled many of their goals: property values had risen, the number of deinstitutionalized had been dramatically decreased, crime had dropped, and tourists were flocking back to the Grove. Financially comfortable empty-nesters and retirees, along with professionals, academics, and artists in their twenties and thirties including a growing gay population were moving in.”

I urge all of you to read her paper. You can download it by clicking on this link:   (You will have to check your downloads folder to open it.)

Journal of Historical Geography    *

The purpose of this article on Blogfinger is to try to tell an accurate and documented story of how the OG turnaround occurred in the ’90’s.  The facts indicate that a number of diverse segments of the OG community participated then.

The issue today on Blogfinger is historical truth.  So let’s try to keep undocumented assertions out of our community discussions regarding  Ocean Grove’s fascinating history.  We welcome comments from knowledgeable Grovers and,  in particular,  from the Historical Society of Ocean Grove regarding the facts about OG history.

Editor’s note  October, 2018.   There is no doubt about the contribution of OG’s gay community.  Dr. Schmelzkopf acknowledged that during a conversation I had with her at Monmouth University when she spoke to a group of interested Grovers.

But the history of that time suggests that there are multiple factions and people which deserve credit for the turn-around.

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