Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Keyport Historical Society: Preserving Keyport's Rich History

The Keyport Historical Society: Preserving Keyport's Rich History
Written by the Keyport Historical Society

The Keyport Historical Society is an organization made up of Keyport residents and non residents working together to preserve Keyport's history. The Society currently meets at the historic Keyport Senior Center located on Second Street on the first and third Monday of each month. The first Monday is usually a historic presentation and the third is a board meeting.

Photo Credit: KHS
Their two biggest fundraisers are an annual Tea and Fashion Show held at the Keyport Yacht Club in October and a Candlelight House Tour in December. Keyport Historical Society members are very active throughout the year volunteering their time at various town functions. 

About Keyport
The area now known as Keyport started as an 800 acre plantation settled by the Kearney family in 1714. It was called Key Grove Farms and farming, timber, shipping and oystering were the main sources of income. In 1829, the Kearney Estate was partitioned and sold at auction and the sale was the foundation of the soon-to-be town of Keyport.

Broad Street, Keyport, New Jersey circa 1920s.
In 1830, Keyport became the major funnel for county produce and other items shipped to New York. In 1850, Benjamin Terry opened a boat yard and began making steamboats for the Civil War. The most famous was The River Queen used in the Civil War by President Lincoln and General Grant. Keyport continued to thrive as a major shipping and oystering area until the early 1900s.

In 1917, the Aeromarine Plane & Motor Corporation purchased buildings in the Lockport section of Keyport and began making training planes for WWI pilots and seaplanes called flying boats. Aeromarine was in operation until 1937 and they produced many ‘firsts” in aviation. 

The Keyport Historical Society’s Origins
The Kearney Mansion’s ownership changed over the years until it was abandoned and left neglected. In 1972, a group of Keyport residents formed the Keyport Historical Society after salvaging some items from the Mansion before it was demolished. These salvaged artifacts created a need for a location where they could be kept and displayed along with other Keyport memorabilia to keep Keyport’s rich history alive.

Interior of the former Steamboat Dock Museum in Keyport, NJ. Photo Credit: KHS
In 1976, the Steamboat Dock Museum opened. It was located at the foot of Broad Street at American Legion Drive. It was originally owned by the Keansburg Steamboat Company. It was built in 1948 and used as a machine shop, tool storage, and sleeping quarters to support steamboat operations before it was left unattended for years. In the mid 1970s the Keyport Historical Society was able to rent the building from Keyport Borough for $1.00 per year. The members of the society toiled to renovate the structure. including removing dirt and sand that had accumulated inside the building and make it into a place where artifacts could be displayed and admired by the public.

In October of 2012, Sandy destroyed the museum. Members were able to save and salvage many items from the museum. Although some items were lost, many Keyport residents have donated historic items from their own personal collections. After the storm, items from the museum washed up on the waterfront several towns away. Although the Society cannot rebuild on the property where the museum once stood, they are currently looking for a new place to call home.

The Steamboat Dock Museum after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Photo Credit: KHS
The Museum was home to over 4,000 Keyport historical artifacts and was a meeting place for Keyport Historical Society events, such as their annual Yard Sale, annual Art & Craft Show and Sale, and monthly free historical presentations which are open to the public.

Upcoming Event
The Keyport Historical Society's annual Candlelight House Tour will take place on Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 4:00 - 9:00 pm. Tickets will be on sale soon for the cost of $18 in advance or $20 the day of the tour. Tickets will be available for purchase at Keyport IHOP, Espresso Joes, and the Keyport Public Library.

The former Steamboat Dock Museum in Keyport, NJ. Photo Credit: KHS

For More Information
Keyport Historical Society
Keyport Historical Society on Facebook

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My uncle was a lifetime resident of keyport an union beach. We were looking at pictures recently of steamships that broke loose during a storm and came on shore in keyport. Can u tell us year and name of storm?

Any pictures of the Boggs, Kearny Mansion that was on Beers Street, Keyport?

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