On-line Book




MENU

Contents

Methodology

Chapter 1
Early Resorts

Chapter 2
Railroad Resorts

Chapter 3
Religious Resorts

Chapter 4
The Boardwalk

Chapter 5
Roads and Roadside Attractions

Chapter 6
Resort Development in the Twentieth Century

Appendix A
Existing Documentation

Bibliography





RESORTS & RECREATION
An Historic Theme Study of the
New Jersey Heritage Trail Route
National Park Service Arrowhead


CHAPTER V:
Roads and Roadside Attractions

map
Figure 78. Polarine Road Map of New Jersey, ca. 1920. Hagley Museum & Library. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

In the mind of the modern traveler, the New Jersey shore is more likely to recall images of frozen custard and seaside amusements than the region's early history. But sprinkled among billboards for fast-food and shore attractions are visual reminders of the area's first inhabitants—the Lenape Indians. The Native Americans' cultural legacy has been commemorated through commercialization. Lenni Lenape Plaza, King Nummy Trail, a picture of Indian Tom's head representing Tom's River, and other references along busy roads and in urban communities remind modern visitors of the earliest shore tourists. The Indians' trails cleared the way for some of the first roads across the state; paths connecting bayside "landings" with settlements eventually continued "along the line of the shore from one dwelling to another, or later, from one hamlet to another." [1] By 1716, the popular route had become the Main Shore Road (U.S. Route 9). Later in the century, this road would string together a chain of small shore towns stretching from Cape May to Toms River (Fig. 78).

Modern motorists traveling along Route 9 might find it easy to identify with seventeenth-century merchants, baymen, and Quaker preachers who traveled by "Jersey" wagon. The Main Shore Road became a major thoroughfare for the baymen from Egg Harbor, Barnegat, and Absecon hauling their loads of oysters, fish, and clams to the Delaware River, sometimes as far as Philadelphia. After establishing the village of Tuckerton, ca. 1704, Quaker settlers from Upper Burlington also profited from the shore's natural resources. Long before the revolution, the Quaker port of Tuckerton furnished distant inland and foreign communities with the products of forest and sea. "The chief occupation of the inhabitants, then, was fishing, fowling, ship-building, manufacturing lumber, such as pine and cedar boards, rails and shingles, which were shipped coastwise to the cities and direct to the West Indies." [2] Prosperous merchants and travelers to monthly meetings, the Quakers made frequent use of the Main Shore Road.

The first road in Atlantic County—the Old Shore Road from Nacote Creek to Somers Point—provided access to settlements on the Mullica and Egg Harbor rivers. Although the date of construction is uncertain, one source claims the road was laid out in 1716 and re-designed by Burlington engineers fifteen years later. Ferries across the creek probably existed before the Old Shore Road connected with Somers Ferry, between Beasley's Point and Somers Point, in 1865. [3] About thirty years after the improved shore route was completed, a road was built along the Tuckahoe River from "Daniel Ingerson's landing (later Tuckahoe, then Corbin City), to Widow Smith's Mills (now Hunters Mills)." A series of smaller roads were laid in the developing area, often linking mills and docks. [4] The old White Horse Pike, constructed from 1797 to 1821, and the completion of the road from Buena to Pleasantville and Absecon in 1817, established the basis for the Atlantic County highway system. [5]


Stages and Steamers

As more people arrived, the most popular trails became the roads later incorporated into stage routes (Fig. 79). The first stage line, established early in the eighteenth century, developed along the Amboy-Burlington Road. Gradually, commerce increased between the two cities, and "stage boats" ran to New York and Philadelphia. In 1729, trade between Perth Amboy and Burlington was regular enough to require a stage wagon at the ferry. [6] The Philadelphia American Weekly Mercury promoted the new line, publishing the nation's first advertisement of a public transportation system in 1733. [7] Twenty years later, the line between New York and Perth Amboy was by "stage wagon and steam boat," a predecessor of the more numerous and efficient stage-steam connections organized in the nineteenth century. Before the new steamboat "with a fine commodious cabin and a teatable," visitors endured the tortures of springless "Jersey" wagons. [8] Though competition soon developed for quicker service between inland Jersey cities, New York, and Philadelphia, the first local shore line was not in service until after 1750. A stage ran between Cooper's Ferry and the bay near Sandy Hook each week, serving the residents of Mount Holly, Middletown, and Shrewsbury. Cape May was connected with Bridgeton in 1771, and lines existed between Cooper's Ferry and Great Egg Harbor two years later. [9]

Horse drawn carriage
Figure 79. Horse drawn carriage, "The President's Turn-out" ca. 1876. Harpers Monthly.

With the development of regular stage lines came an increased demand for stopping points along the way. Taverns and inns, sometimes the only public buildings for miles, often doubled as post offices. Ebenezer Tucker, for example, conducted much of Tuckerton's business from the Union Inn, a stage stop, post office, and customhouse. Many of the taverns along such routes as Main Shore Road were enlarged when the railroad brought tourists to the area. In Monmouth County, the Highlands Hotel was situated in a strategic location near the bridge over the Shrewsbury River, where it attracted both land and water traffic. The renowned Atlantic County tavern, once called Veal's tavern and later known as Campbell's, became the intersecting point of several roads established between 1803 and 1817. Though the building burned down in 1963, the Buena intersection attests to its continuing use as a popular crossroad. [10]

Little was done to improve roads until the turn of the nineteenth century, when the state began financing turnpike construction, particularly along the Raritan Bay. In the 1840s, plank roads were built between Freehold and Keyport, passing through Matawan, as well as from Freehold to Howell and from Middletown to Port Monmouth. The planks on county turnpikes were later replaced by a cheaper gravel surfacing. [11] The more industrial north led the way in road construction, and by 1857, Monmouth County had established turnpikes from Red Bank to Shrewsbury, and from Shrewsbury to Tinton Falls and Colts Neck. Toll roads were not established without complaint, however. In 1870, the Monmouth Democrat argued for the abolition of all turnpikes because the number of stops, particularly along the road to Long Branch, was more annoying than the toll charge. The author claimed that turnpikes had "fallen into the hands of individuals who are interested only as to their own profits, and care nothing for the accommodation of the public. They get all they can, but give nothing back." [12] In 1895, the New Jersey General Assembly passed the State Aid Road Law, requiring the improvement and maintenance of public roads. Other laws enacted over the next few years opened up turnpikes for free travel.

Early in the nineteenth century, the Union Stage line connected with steam boats on the Delaware River, forming "the Union Stage and Steamboat line." During the 1820s, the Union boats traveled up the Delaware to Trenton, and stages ran between New Brunswick and Hoboken, New Brunswick and Trenton, and Trenton and Philadelphia. [13] Philadelphians could take a two-day sloop trip to Cape May as early as 1815. The regular steamer service operating in the 1820s attracted vacationers from Baltimore and southern cities. A decade later, overnight trips were offered from Baltimore to Cape May aboard the Railroad Evening Line. [14] Though travelers made the trip to Long Branch by horseback or carriage in the 1790s, the journey was slow and difficult before steam and stage. By 1825, steamboats chugged up the Delaware to Bordentown, where stages waited to carry passengers to Long Branch, passing through Allentown, Smithburg, Freehold, Colts Neck, and Eatontown on the way to the popular resort. In 1848, stages were meeting the railroad at Hightstown and carrying passengers to Long Branch with even greater speed. Another steam and stage partnership operated from New York to Sandy Hook, where passengers were picked up at the dock by "odd, wide-wheeled beach wagons" and taken "on the slow hot drive down the sea-island to the resort. Sixty stagecoaches were frequently lined up to convey passengers down the beach road to Long Branch." [15]

In 1894, the Camden and Atlantic Railroad operated a steamboat system across the Great Egg Harbor Inlet connecting with their five-mile trolley line to Longport. Tourists could depart from Longport docks and cross the harbor on the steamboats Avalon, Longport, or Somers Point. When the Camden and Atlantic merged with the West Jersey to become the West Jersey and Seashore in 1896, steamboats regularly traveled between Absecon Inlet and Stone Harbor. Over the next few years, new vessels, the Ocean City and the Wildwood, were added to the fleet. Despite the need for more frequent trips, steamboat service had disappeared by 1919, victim of Atlantic City and Shore trolleys and a highway linking Longport, Somers Point, and Ocean City. [16]


Automobile Culture

Thirty-five years after Walt Whitman praised the railroad as a democratic means of transportation, George B. Somerville criticized it for the same reason. "Trains are too democratic in these days and too many people, merely because they are able to purchase transportation, are permitted to ride. For seclusion and for comfort, the motor car is the thing, and today the tourist to the sea sits restfully back against the deeply upholstered cushions while the chauffeur peers ahead." [17] As Somerville's description suggests, the first automobiles brought a new load of cultural baggage—the concept of touring or motoring—along with their wealthy owners. The Asbury Park paper wrote of groups touring the shore in "tally-ho" autos; in 1904, seventeen people spent the day on the road, traveling from Ocean Grove through Belmar, Point Pleasant, and Allaire. Newspapers also published stories on long car tours, including the new two-hour-and-fifteen-minute record run from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. [18] (Fig. 80) Resorts capitalized on the automobile craze by hosting special social events, such as the Elkwood Park races in Long Branch, and the "Sociability Run" from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. [19] By 1916, the sport was so popular that a special brand of tourist was associated with touring. Before the automobile, guests installed themselves in one place for the summer; with the advent of vehicular travel these stable visitors were replaced by "a steady stream of transient guests, which comes and departs in motor cars after a brief stop. This new type of patron is even more profitable than the old, but he is a less certain quantity than the former vacationist." [20] As Alfred Heston's Jersey Wagon Jaunts illustrates, the symbolic, nationalistic role of the automobile took on regional significance along the shore (Fig. 81). The traditional horse-drawn "oyster" cart now referred to a much more powerful vehicle.

Grandfather was trying out his new car—his six-cylinder Jersey Waggon [sic], on the wheels of which he had painted his insignia, the colors of New Jersey, the hub in deep blue against a delicate shade of pink. The rims of the wheels were buff. In that way grandfather displayed the colors of New Jersey—dark blue, light eggbuff and pale pink. [21]

map
Figure 80. "Birds Eye" view of Margate City & environs. ca 1925. Library of Congress.

sketch of Jersey Waggon
Figure 81. Jersey Waggon, Jersey Waggon Jaunts, 1926.

New Jersey established the nation's first state highway department in 1891, two years before the creation of a Federal Bureau of Public Roads. [22] By 1917, a report by the chairman of the New Jersey State Highway Commission documented the establishment of the highway system. The report outlines the evolution of road development beginning with the creation of a motor-vehicle department in 1906, and concluding with a list of routes criss-crossing the state. Route 4 from Perth Amboy to New Gretna, Route 5 from Hightstown to Asbury Park, and Route 14 from Egg Harbor City to Cape May were particularly important shore roads. [23] The introduction to the report emphasizes the growth of a state highway system motivated by public needs. If before 1906 the traveler was "satisfied with a short strip of highway radiating from a market town or from a rail or water depot, today he is insistently clamoring for a Federal Highway System uniformly good throughout its entire mileage, and completely, uniformly and currently maintained in excellent Shape during all seasons of the year." [24]

In 1913, in Beach Haven, anticipating the opening of the automobile causeway the following year, Frederick Ostendorff began building a garage at the corner of Pearl Street and Bay Avenue. The largest garage on the East Coast, Ostendorff s accommodated 200 cars. [25] The functional, warehouse-like space represented a new type of architecture built to house the automobile; it welcomed the first auto bridge to Long Beach Island, completed June 20, 1914. Every driver traveling over the new causeway on opening day received a copy of George Somerville's The Lure of Long Beach, published by the Long Beach Board of Trade. Twenty-two years later, in his book of the same title, Charles Edgar Nash added to the mythology surrounding "the wide, sun-steeped, snow-white beach and the ocean's surfy, slow, deep, mellow voice, full of mystery and awe." [26] Clubs catering to the rising number of visitors arriving by car were built at Spray Beach, Beach Haven Terrace, and Harvey Cedars. By the 1930s, the Long Beach Island Chamber of Commerce predicted that "the building of the bridge at the northern end of the island" would "assure a building boom to this community." [27] The proposed bridge was never completed, but the automobile did assure increased urban development, one by-product of automobile culture that would transform the nation.

Over the next twenty years, the Beach Haven North Development Company, which financed the Ostendorff garage, also built the Ockonickon Hotel, a train station, a movie theater, and neighborhoods of Cape Cod style houses. [28] Described in 1914 as "progressive" and alert to the advancement of the times, Beach Haven had a "huge gas plant," "the purest of water," and the aforementioned "largest motor car garage on the seacoast of New Jersey." [29] By 1930, the board of trade could extol "stores of all descriptions and a moving-picture theater, with up-to-date 'talkie' equipment, and remarkably wide streets and avenues that are graveled (Fig. 82) [to] impress one with the freedom of space." [30] The possibility of affordable automobiles for large numbers of Americans drew attention away from railroads to highways.

Long Beach Boulevard
Figure 82. Long Beach Boulevard, ca. 1914. The Lure of Longbeach.

After the Federal Highway Act passed in 1921, the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads constructed 200,000 miles of roads nationwide. Six years later, the New Jersey Highway Department planned a $175 million highway system with forty-five new routes linking New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and the Jersey Shore. Despite the new plan, the Depression and World War II slowed building and, by the late 1940s, New Jersey was suffering from over-crowded highways with traffic seven times the national average. [31] In 1948, Governor Alfred E. Driscoll "offered a proposal to the legislature to finance the necessary roads by means of a bond issue by a quasi-governmental authority." [32] As a result, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority opened the state's first superhighway in four sections between November 5, 1951, and January 15, 1952. By 1989, the 118-mile New Jersey Turnpike, stretching from the Delaware Memorial Bridge to New York, was "the busiest toll road in the nation." [33]

The success of the Turnpike, with its governing "authority," set the precedent for the Garden State Parkway (Fig. 83 & 84), a road of far greater importance to the shore. Construction on the 173-mile toll road began in the mid 1940s and stretched across eleven counties, from Montvale to Cape May City. [34] The operation and maintenance of the Parkway came under the New Jersey Highway Authority established early in 1952. The gently undulating Parkway with its modest landscape provides relief from the tight network of smaller highways clustered closer to the ocean. In celebration of the Parkway's first ten years, the New York Times devoted a thirty-two-page advertisement section, "The Autobiography of a Parkway," to its history. Pictures of the Barnegat Light, lush forests, and family roadside gatherings describe the Parkway as a significant part of the vacation experience:

Garden State Parkway
Figure 83. Garden State Parkway, view of curve & trees. Philip Correll

Garden State Parkway Toll Booth
Figure 84. Garden State Parkway Toll Booth. Correll

The Garden State Parkway is more than a way of getting someplace quickly. It is a scenic tour in itself. Bordered by nature at its finest, the parkway provides the motorist with inviting public areas and historic attractions. For example, the 300-year-old American holly tree at upper left—New Jersey's oldest and largest—is bathed in flood lights at night in honor of the state's tercentenary. It's located in the parkway's dividing island at Palermo in Cape May County. [35]

Thirty years later, the Parkway still makes broad cultural claims. Winding its way through a greensward only occasionally marred by glimpses of commercial strip malls and industrial sand mines, the parkway is an oasis amid the confusion of shore traffic. The toll booths advertise ethnic festivals and classical music concerts among other events. Sporting the Parkway colors—caution yellow and forest green—toll collectors remind motorists they are "never alone on the parkway." When traveling off the Parkway, motorists can depend on finding "trailblazers," the green roadsigns "scientifically selected for increased visibility," to steer them in the right direction. [36]


Roadside Architecture

Along with the new roads designed for automobile travel came new types of buildings to service the motorist and new ways of attracting his or her attention. The reputation of the shore as an exotic setting for outrageous behavior was constructed in the late nineteenth century; as Atlantic City began building its boardwalk amusements, "Lucy the Margate Elephant" (Fig. 85) epitomized the bizarre in shore accommodations. Businesses profited from roadside advertising. In the 1930s, the Renault Winery of Little Egg Harbor constructed giant champagne bottles in New Gretna and along the White Horse Pike near the outskirts of Hammonton and Egg Harbor City. A windmill restaurant in Long Branch (Fig. 86) and fanciful signs like the "Route 9 Cowboy" became important landmarks along the main shore route. The shore's "larger than life" image of 1920s-30s is preserved in several extant examples of roadside architecture, since adapted for a variety of uses. The giant wood-frame log that once advertised tourists' "log cabins" in Medford later served as a hot dog stand and jewelry store on Long Beach Island. The green metal dinosaur outside Kim Carpeting and Linoleum (Fig. 87) was also moved from a previous site to its present location in Bayville. By preserving such examples of "pop" architecture, businesses along the shore also preserve nostalgia for a simpler, more whimsical past.

Lucy the Margate Elephant
Figure 85. Lucy the Margate Elephant. HABS No. NJ-816-5.

Windmill Ice Cream
Figure 86. Windmill Ice Cream, Long Branch. HABS No. NJ-1003-1.

Bayville Dinosaur
Figure 87. Bayville Dinosaur. HABS No. NJ-1019-1.

Perhaps the most impressive example of outrageous shore architecture, "Lucy the Margate Elephant," arrived when the railroad still provided the most efficient route to the shore. The 65' tall elephant was constructed in 1882 as part of a Philadelphia speculator's scheme to attract land buyers to Atlantic City. Lucy's inventor, James Lafferty, took out a patent to cover "this and all buildings in the shape of birds, animals and fishes." Equipped with his official patent, Lafferty constructed two other elephant hotels, a Coney Island version contemporary with Lucy and a Cape May elephant completed by 1885. [37] Both were destroyed before the end of the century. Today a National Historic Landmark, Lucy stands 50' from her original location, restored and open to the public. [38]

The national craving for roadside nostalgia is also preserved in a handful of local diners that continue to offer travelers cheap and convenient "road food." The Forked River Diner on Route 9, the Monmouth Queen Diner in Asbury Park, and the Neptune Diner on Routes 33 and 35 were built by the New Jersey-based Kullman Company in the 1960s. The Kullman Company, one of four diner manufacturers still operating, had gained a reputation for the "all-encompassing look" of their diners twenty years earlier. [39] More recently, the company has cashed in on the revival of interest in roadside culture by building the first new diners based on historical models.

Diners were largely prefabricated building units whose forms, features, and materials vary by manufacturer—of which there were more than 60 in all. Long, narrow, compact modules with banded windows, the diner's form was modeled after the train car, heralding the speed and transience of travel, while facilitating the practical need to deliver them far and wide (Fig. 88).

Mustache Bill's Diner
Figure 88. Mustache Bill's Diner, Long Beach Island. HABS No. OC-8.1 Ames.

Jerry O'Mahony Inc. was one of the first producers of diners, beginning in 1913 in Bayonne, and ending in Elizabeth, NJ, in 1965. His first barrel-roofed model sold for $1,900, and sales peaked in 1928 with 184 diners selling for $1.5 million. Along the Jersey Shore, O'Mahony models could be found in Manahawkin (Bay Avenue Diner) and Bayville (Dickert's Diner, ca. 1950).

The buildings' nomenclature changed from "lunch car" or "dining car" to "diner" in 1923-24, about the same time that their settings shifted from populated urban areas such as factory and retail sites where operators catered to workforces, to locations alongside the growing network of highways to attract traveling motorists. While the earliest dining cars resembled wheel-less wagons serving mostly male walk-up customers, the 1920s introduced full-length indoor counters with stools, wood and ceramic-covered walls, built-in refrigerators and stove-grills, and dessert displays; the 1930s generation of diners glistened with the cleaner sophistication of improved materials-stainless steel, glass block, and formica; and from World War II into the 1960s, these gave way again to wood-grain paneling, plastic laminates, and a cozier Colonial and Mediterranean aesthetic.

Among the extant examples of these are the 1958 Deepwater Diner, a truck stop on state road 130 in Deepwater, [40] and the Salem Oak Diner, a 1954 model, both in the vicinity of the Delaware River. The Salem Oak boasts an outstanding neon leaf atop the stainless-steel box inspired by the historic Salem oak tree directly across state road 49 where a treaty between John Fenwick and the Lenape Indians purportedly was signed. Inside, patrons sit in sections fittingly named the Acorn Room and Nut House. The current owners of the Salem Oak are second generation diner operators. The first generation family initially ran an O'Mahony lunch car in the 1920s before buying this Silk City with money won at the race track. [41] Other diners along the important east-west state road 49 route included Pier 13 Steak Joynt [sic] in Pennsville, and the present Angie's Bridgeton Grille in Bridgeton, the latter also a Silk City.

No amount of nostalgia can alter the reality of recent roadside "architecture"—the endless strip development (Fig. 89) that characterizes many areas of New Jersey and elsewhere. Like other shore communities that have grown too quickly, Brick Township could be said to suffer from an overabundance of highways and a lack of urban vision. Entering Brick Township from the Parkway, motorists are immediately confronted with the municipal complex and branch library on one side of Route 549 and the high school and post office on the other. The absence of pedestrian paths prevents walking from place to place. By 1976, Brick was "a township in search of an identity," better known for the Laurelton traffic circle than for historic Butcher Forge. Residents describe the township populations as "pockets of people" who lack the "established, historic downtown" or "hub" necessary in any healthy community. [42] As the strategic position of the municipal complex illustrates, the area relies heavily on the Parkway for freedom from traffic congestion.

Brick Plaza
Figure 89. Brick Plaza, Bricktown. HABS No. NJ-1107-1.

The 1959 Brick Township chamber of commerce guide features an aerial view of the Laurelton traffic circle. [43] The WPA built the circle in 1936 and named it after Laurelton Farms, the once-famous "largest poultry farm in the state." [44] Although contemporary residents were proud of the modern engineering that made "Circle City" the "central hub of the state," the highway section could not meet modern traffic demands. In the 1980s, the New Jersey Department of Transportation spent more than $2 million improving the outdated circle. [45]








top of page Top




Last Modified: Mon, Jan 10 2005 10:00:00 pm PDT
https://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/nj1/chap5.htm

National Park Service's ParkNet Home