The Jersey Shore is home to a wide range of communities catering to the interests of a wide range of visitors. One example of these communities is Asbury Park, which has been serving as something of a resort city since it was founded in the 1870s. Now as then, it remains a popular choice for people who are interested in spending some time by the sea, whether for fun and excitement or rest and relaxation. However, it is interesting to note that Asbury Park has been more popular in some periods than others, which in turn, means that its fortunes have both waxed and waned over the decades since its foundation.
Here are 20 things that you may or may not have known about Asbury Park:
1. Ranked the 6th Best Beach in New Jersey
In 2008, the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium sponsored the Top 10 Beaches Contest, which sought to see which beaches were considered to be the best in the state of New Jersey. Asbury Park managed to come away with a sixth place finish. While this was far from the top, it was also not particularly bad because the Jersey Shore is home to such an enormous number of beaches.
2. Developed As a Residential Resort
Asbury Park would not have come into existence without James A. Bradley, who was not just a successful businessman who had made a fortune by making brushes but also a financier, a real estate developer, and even a state senator. It was he who bought the about 500 acres of land between Deal Lake and Wesley Lake that became the core of Asbury Park in 1871. Furthermore, it was he who started developing it as a residential resort, which has left an indelible mark on the character of the city as a whole.
3. Named For a Bishop
To be precise, Asbury Park was named for Francis Asbury, who had the honor of being one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He had a pivotal role in spreading Methodism throughout the United States during the Second Great Awakening, which saw him traveling thousands and thousands of miles in order to minister to people out on the frontier while also engaging in other activities such as founding schools and recording his thoughts in his rather extensive journals.
4. Benefited From the Developer’s Forward Thinking
Sometimes, a bit of forward thinking can produce big benefits. For example, even though Bradley preferred gas lights to their electric counterparts, he was willing to allow a predecessor of Jersey Central Power & Light Co. to provide electric service to those who wanted it as well. As a result, Asbury Park was in an excellent position in regards to the eventual total switch-over from gas lights to electric lights, thus contributing to a smooth and uninterrupted image that did much to bring in other interested individuals to develop the residential resort.
5. Saw Estimated Summer Populations of 200,000 by 1912
Since Asbury Park was a residential resort, it should come as no surprise to learn that it had a much larger summer population than year-round population. In fact, the New York Times estimated that it served as a home to about 200,000 people in the summertime, which was a remarkable figure considering all of the competition that it faced from its neighbors as well as its competitors throughout the United States. This figure fits with what is thought to have been up to 600,000 people who visited the city on an annual basis at around this point in time.
6. Once Used a Shipwreck As a Tourist Attraction
In 1934, a cruise ship named the SS Morro Castle caught fire with horrendous consequences, which eventually caused it to run aground on the shores of Asbury Beach before it was hauled away to be cut up into scrap. From a national perspective, it was important because its loss prompted an increase in the fire safety measures that can be found on ships. However, from the perspective of Asbury Park, it was interesting because it was used as a rather ghoulish way of attracting visitors to the city before it was hauled away.
7. Was the One Beach to Be Targeted By the Beach Commission Law
At one point, the municipal government of Asbury Park came under serious suspicion because of $6,000,000 in bonds that had gone into default, which was strange in light of the ways that it should have been to prevent that outcome. As a result, a Beach Commission amendment was attached to a municipal debt bill that was passed in the New Jersey state legislature, which enabled the governor to take direct control of the city. This resulted in a fierce struggle between the parties, which ended in the return of control to the municipal government of Asbury Park in exchange for the creation of a bond repayment agreement.
8. The New York Yankees Trained in Asbury Park During WW2
In 1943, the New York Yankees did their spring training in Asbury Park rather than the state of Florida, which was their original intention. This was because rail transportation was needed for other, more important purposes during World War 2, meaning that sports teams had to make do with local rather than national training sites.
9. Was Affected Negatively By the Garden State Parkway
Roads can bring increased traffic to the towns situated on them, but it is important to remember that they can also decrease traffic in the other towns in the region. A perfect example of this principle can be seen in the Garden State Parkway, which stretches the entire length of the state of New Jersey. However, since it opened up other possibilities, it lowered the number of visitors to Asbury Park because people no longer had to limit themselves to taking trains in order to see the sea.
10. Another Blow Came From Six Flags Great Adventure
Likewise, sources of competition can also have a negative effect on the number of visitors to a particular place. In this case, Asbury Park suffered a further blow when Six Flags Great Adventure opened up, thus creating a fierce competitor combining a theme park with a drive-in safari situated at a convenient location on New Jersey’s transportation system. Unfortunately, Asbury Park’s own entertainments were not capable of matching the competition, particularly once the falling number of visitors had resulted in a falling number of revenues.
11. Was Home to Tillie
At one point in time, Asbury Park was home to Tillie, which refers to two murals of a grinning figure that became something of a mascot for the Jersey Shore as a whole. Originally, the two murals decorated the side of the Palace Amusements building, serving to advertise its services while also referencing similar signage on a similar building over in Coney Island, New York. Unsurprisingly, there has been a fair amount of Tillie merchandise sold over the years.
12. Is Still Home to Tillie
Despite its status as a historical building of note, Palace Amusements closed in 1988, fell into a dilapidated state, and was scheduled for demolition. While the residents of Asbury Park campaigned against the demolition, their bid to save the building failed, meaning that the demolition went forward in July of 2004. One of the two murals of Tillie was destroyed in the process, but the campaigners managed to remove the other one so that it can be incorporated into the walls of the new building that will rise on the same site.
13. Lost a Famous Carousel
Another sign of Asbury Park’s fall from its previous heights can be seen in the loss of the famous carousel at the Casino Pier, which had to be sold off because of financial difficulties. With that said, it is interesting to note that the carousel is still running in modern times, seeing as how it was sold to Family Kingdom Amusement Park in the state of North Carolina, which promptly set it up for its own use.
14. Became a Pivotal Part of “Stronger Than the Storm”
With that said, Asbury Park has since undergone something of a revitalization. One sign of this can be seen in how it played a pivotal part in “Stronger Than the Storm,” which was meant to show that the state of New Jersey could withstand the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2013. With that said, the choice of Asbury Park to host an event attended by both President Barack Obama and Governor Chris Christie is probably because it was one of the few places on the Jersey Shore to successfully open for the summer season in the same year.
15. Has a Thriving Gay Community
After Asbury Park fell from its heights, the prices of its real estate properties plummeted, which created some interesting opportunities for gay people from New York City. Initially, this saw them buying up and then fixing up some of the oldest homes in the city, with the Victorian homes being stand-out examples. Over time, as their efforts began to bear fruit, events as well as accommodations aimed at the gay community sprung up as well, thus further contributing to the city’s desirability for gay people.
16. Was Home to Jersey Shore Sound
Asbury Park was one of the centers of Jersey Shore Sound, which is a genre of music that developed in it as well as the other communities on the Jersey Shore. Technically, it is considered to be a sub-genre of rock and roll, though it is interesting to note that it incorporates other genres such as rhythm and blues as well as doo-wop. Furthermore, it is particularly interesting to note that it incorporates a lot of Italian influence as well for the simple reason that many of its artists are Italian-Americans.
17. Home to the New Jersey Music Hall of Fame
Its music scene is one of the reasons that Asbury Park was chosen to host the New Jersey Music Hall of Fame. While the organization has not yet managed to build its museum, it means to honor all of the great artists who have emerged from the state of New Jersey over the years, which range from Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen.
18. Home to First Saturdays
On the first Saturdays in each month, the retailers, restaurants, and other entertainment venues in Asbury Park’s downtown keep their doors open throughout the evening so that they can serve hors d’oeuvres while also providing entertainment to interested individuals. This is meant to be a celebration of the city as a whole, which has been making a comeback in recent years.
19. Has Been Featured in a Lot of Media
Asbury Park has shown up in a lot of media. For example, Bruce Springsteen named his first album “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.,” which is because he spent part of his early life in the city. Never mind the songs that have referenced Asbury Park in some way. Furthermore, Palace Amusements and thus by extension, Tillie have shown up in a wide range of films and TV shows. In main, this is because of the grinning figure’s status as a mascot of the Jersey Shore. However, its distinctive appearance should also be noted because it makes for such a memorable sight.
20. Not All Mentions in the Media Have Been Positive
With that said, it should come as no surprise to learn that the entertainment industries have taken notice of Asbury Park’s fall from its heights in previous years, meaning that its appearance in media has not always been positive. One particularly famous example is the movie “City By the Sea,” which starred Robert De Niro, James Franco, and Frances McDormand. In it, there are numerous scenes of a shabby boardwalk as well as abandoned amusement buildings, which were supposed to be set in Long Beach, New York but were instead shot in Asbury Park. Unsurprisingly, the residents of both places complained about the way that their homes were depicted in the movie, though this had little effect on the ultimate results.