New Jersey Coast Resorts
( Originally Published 1900 )
The Delaware River divides Pennsylvania from New Jersey, and at Camden, opposite Philadelphia, there has grown another large city from the over-flow of its population. Ferries, and at the northern end of Philadelphia harbor an elevated railway bridge, cross over to Camden, while for miles the almost level surface of New Jersey has suburban towns and villas, the homes of thousands whose business is in Philadelphia. The New Jersey seacoast also is a succession of watering-places where the population goes to cool off in the summer. The whole New Jersey coast of the Atlantic Ocean is a series of sand beaches, interspersed with bays, sounds and inlets, a broad belt of pine lands behind them separating the sea and its bordering sounds and meadows from the farming region. This coast has become an almost unbroken chain of summer resorts from Cape May, at the southern extremity of New Jersey, northeastward through Sea Isle City, Avalon, Ocean City, Atlantic City, Brigantine, Beach Haven, Sea Girt, Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Long Branch, Seabright, etc., to Sandy Hook, where the long sand-strip terminates at the entrance to New York harbor. To these many attractive places the summer exodus takes the people by the hundreds of thousands. The chief resort of all is Atlantic City, which has come to be the most popular sea-bathing place of the country, the railroads running excursion trains to it even from the Mississippi Valley. Three railroads lead over from Philadelphia across the level Jersey surface, and their fast trains compass the distance, fifty-six miles, in an hour. The town is built on a narrow sand-strip known as Absecon Island, which is separated from the mainland by a broad stretch of water and salt meadows. Absecon is an Indian word meaning " the place of the swans.' The beach is one of the finest on the coast, and along its inner edge is the famous "Board Walk" of Atlantic City, an elevated promenade mostly forty feet wide, and four miles long. On the land side this walk is bordered by shops, bathing establishments and all kinds of amusement resorts, while the town of hotels, lodging-houses and cottages, almost all built of wood, stretches inland. The population come out on the "Board Walk" and the great piers, which stretch for a long distance over the sea. It is the greatest bathing-place in existence, and in the height of the season, July and August, fifty thousand bathers are often seen in the surf on a fine day, with three times as many people watching them. Enormous crowds of daily excursionists are carried down there by the railways. The permanent population is about twenty thousand, swollen in summer often fifteen- or twenty-fold. Atlantic City is also a popular resort in winter and spring, and is usually well filled at Eastertide.
The other New Jersey resorts are somewhat similar, though smaller. Cape May, on the southern extremity of the Cape, is popular, and has a fine beach five miles long. The coast for many miles north-eastward has cottage settlements, the beaches having similar characteristics. Many of these settlements also cluster around Great Egg Harbor and Barnegat Bay, both favorite resorts of sportsmen for fishing and shooting. Asbury Park and Ocean Grove are twin watering-places on the northern Jersey coast which have large crowds of visitors. The former is usually filled by the overflow from the latter, who object to the Ocean Grove restrictions. Ocean Grove is unique, and was established in 1870 by a Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Here many thousands, both young and old, voluntarily spend their summer vacations under a religious autocracy and obey the strict rules. It is bounded by the sea, by lakes on the north and south, and by a high fence on the land side, and the gates are closed at ten o'clock at night, and all day Sunday. The drinking of alcoholic beverages and sale of tobacco are strictly prohibited, and no theatrical performances of any kind are allowed. No bathing, riding or driving are permitted on Sunday, and at other times the character of the bathing-dresses is carefully regulated. There is a large Auditorium, accommodating ten thousand people, and here are held innumerable religious meetings of all kinds. The annual Camp Meeting is the great event of the season, and among the attractions is an extensive and most complete model of the City of Jerusalem.
To the northward is Long Branch, the most fashionable and exclusive of the New Jersey coast resorts, being mainly a succession of grand villas and elaborate hotels, stretching for about four miles along a bluff which here makes the coast, and has grass growing down to its outer edge almost over the water. In the three sections of the West End, Elberon and Long Branch proper, the latter getting its name from the " Long branch " of the Shrews-bury River, there are about eight thousand regular inhabitants, and there come here about fifty thousand summer visitors, largely from New York, The great highway is Ocean Avenue, running for five miles just inside the edge of the bluff, which, in the season, is a most animated and attractive roadway. The hotels and cottages generally face this avenue. The most noted cottages are the one which General Grant occupied for many years, and where, during his Presidency in 1869-77, he held " the summer capital of the United States," and the Franklyn Cottage, where President Garfield, after being shot in Washington, was brought to die in 1881. The most famous show place at Long Branch is Hollywood, the estate of the late John Hoey, of Adams Express Company, who died there in 1892, its elaborate floral decorations being much admired.