Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
Written by NJ Historian
Asbury Park, a 1.4 square mile city bordered by Deal Lake to the north and Wesley Lake to the south, is located within Monmouth County, New Jersey. It is most famously known for being home to the legendary Bruce Springsteen and the Paramount theater, where he often will still rehearse for shows. Asbury Park was developed in 1871 when James A. Bradley, originally of New York, purchased 500 acres from Ocean Township. However, instead of naming the area after himself he chose to name it after the first American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Francis Asbury.
|The Carousel House, Asbury Park.|
Bradley fulfilled his primary intent - to create a white, middle-class resort with gardens, parks and lakes. Bradley installed a boardwalk which became widely successful in attracting visitors to Asbury Park’s beaches. The boardwalk sparked the addition of attractions and hotels. In 1888, Ernest Schnitzler built the Palace Merry-Go-Round, the cornerstone of what would become the Palace Amusements complex; other attractions followed. During these early decades in Asbury Park, a number of grand hotels were built, including the Plaza Hotel. With the 1920s came even more development. The Paramount Theater, Casino Arena and Carousel House were erected during this time. More than 600,000 people a year vacationed in Asbury during the summer season in the early years, riding the New York and Long Branch Railroad from New York City and from Philadelphia to enjoy the mile-and-a-quarter stretch of oceanfront Asbury.
|The Casino, Asbury Park, NJ.|
Asbury Park remained a popular tourist attraction and vacation spot until around the 1960s. The opening of the Garden State Parkway in the 1950s allowed visitors to travel to other seashore towns as far south as Cape May and the trains became a less desirable mode of transportation. By the mid-nineteenth century, a distinct and growing African American and working-class district developed across the railroad tracks in West Park, where residents were confined to segregated housing. They were welcomed as hotel staff but were excluded from the resort's amusement district and beach. In 1970, a riot and racial tensions led to destruction of a number of downtown buildings. The opening of Six Flags Great Adventure in 1974 became fierce competition for this once-grand place. Hotels and businesses slowly made an exodus from Asbury Park, as it no longer possessed the grandeur it once did. Finally in 1988, the last nail was put in the coffin and Palace Amusements, home of Tillie, closed.
|The Paramount Theater, Asbury Park, NJ.|
Asbury Park is considered a destination for musicians, particularly a subgenre of rock and roll known as the Jersey Shore sound, which is infused with R&B. Musicians and bands with strong ties to Asbury Park include Bruce Springsteen, the late Clarence Clemons, the E Street Band, Jon Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Patti Smith, Arthur Pryor, Count Basie, Gary U.S. Bonds, along with many more.
Since 2002, Asbury Park has been in the midst of a cultural, political, and economic revival, led by a burgeoning industry of local and national artists. Its dilapidated downtown district is undergoing revitalization while most of the nearly empty blocks that overlook the beach and boardwalk are slated for massive reconstruction. In 2005, the Casino's walkway reopened, as did many of the boardwalk pavilions. Asbury Park is continuing to attempt its rebranding as the family shore destination it once was.
|Looking through the abandoned Casino at Asbury Park, NJ.|
|Former Howard Johnson's Restaurant at Asbury Park, NJ.|
Asbury Park Podcast (right click and choose "save target/link as" to save to your hard drive)
For More Information:
Asbury Park Historical Society