“Down the Shore” – Part Four in a Series

caribbeanmotel_wildwoods1

The Caribbean Motel

My final post in my “Down the Shore” series is about the small beach community of Wildwood Crest. Noted for its independently owned “Doo Wop” motels with names like the Jolly Roger, Tangiers, and Blue Marlin of the mid twentieth century, The Crest is a favorite destination spot for families.

Wildwood Crest came into existence with the dawn of the twentieth century and its history  has more than its share of memorable happenings. The Baker Brothers, successful merchants from the farm community of Vineland, had visited the area known as Five Mile Beach on several occasions and were impressed by its natural beauty and expansive beaches. They were convinced of its potential as a resort and considered its development as a profitable business investment.¹

 

Now families love to visit the Doo Wop motels of Wildwood Crest. These motels were once in danger of being demolished and replaced with high-end condos. Thankfully, there has been a movement underway to save these special places as an important part of the area’s history. These motels have quirky decor that include fake palm trees, bridges over the center of their pools, and neon signs. Once the sun goes down it is a great fun to take a ride down Atlantic and Ocean Avenues and check out these motels all lit up.

Wildwood Crest is one of five municipalities in the state that offer free public access to

Wildwood Crest Beach

Wildwood Crest beach

oceanfront beaches monitored by lifeguards. And the beaches offer plenty of space for everyone!

A favorite event for visitors is riding the tram car on the boardwalk. For decades visitors have been reminded to “Watch the tram car, please.” It is a great way for families and the elderly to enjoy the boardwalk even though they may have issues walking. Take time to play skee-ball, eat a slice, and have some frozen custard.

I hope you have enjoyed my multi-part series of the Jersey Shore. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I hope you do!

Sources:

1: https://cresthistory.org/

“Down the Shore” – Part Three in a Series

If you enjoy Victorian architecture, beautiful sandy beaches, and not a franchise store in sight, I highly recommend you check out Cape May.  The entire city is designated the Cape May Historic District, a National Historic Landmark due to its concentration of Victorian buildings. You can enjoy a Kohr’s Brothers Frozen Custard while you check out the shops on the Washington Street Mall.

Henry Hudson, an English Sea Captain, first documented the peninsula that is now Cape May. It was 1609 and Captain Hudson was sailing his small yacht, the “Half Moon”, when he came upon a small peninsula situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay. It wasn’t until 1620 that Dutch Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey came upon the same peninsula while exploring the Delaware River. Captain Mey named the area Cape Mey after himself; the spelling was later changed to Cape May. ¹

Cape May has catered to visitors since the 1600’s when Native American tribes summered here, but a community didn’t form in the area until 1685. In 1688, Quakers formed the first government based on strict moral order and Quaker piety. At this time a large whaling industry was beginning and many families from New York and New England, as well as a few original Mayflower families, were migrating to the area.¹

SunsetBeach

The rocks at Sunset Beach

Often referred to as “exit zero” on the Garden State Parkway, Cape May is actually an island right at the end of the state. I especially love Sunset Beach, home of the famous “Cape May Diamonds.” What are they you might ask? Well, you may not know it, but Sunset Beach is home to piles of amazing rocks, including quartz, which are made clear by the constant motion of the water as they move down the Delaware River.

Sunset Beach is also home to the USS Atlantus – The Concrete

Atlantus

The USS Atlantus

Ship. Due to a critical shortage of steel, during World War I, the federal government turned to experimental design concrete ships. An emergency fleet of 38 concrete ships were planned, by the United States Sipping Board. Only 12 of the concrete ships were ever put into service.² In 1926, the Atlantus was towed to Cape May. A Baltimore firm was attempting to start a ferry service from Cape May to Lewes, Delaware. During a storm on June 8th, 1926, the Atlantus broke loose of her moorings during a storm and went aground. Several attempts were made to free the Atlantus to no avail. It now sits in the water off the beach and can be seen during low tide.

At the end of each day at Sunset Beach during the summer, make sure to stay and watch the flag ceremony. All of the flags flown at Sunset Beach are veterans’ casket flags that families bring with them from their loved one’s funeral. It is a truly moving event.

As you can tell, I love going to Sunset Beach, but there are plenty of other things to experience in Cape May. Walking through Cape May is like walking through a Norman Rockwell painting. There are charming shops with lovely artwork, wonderful restaurants, and of course just walk down any of the streets full of beautiful Victorian architecture. I promise you, a day in Cape May is a day in heaven.

Sources:

  1. https://www.capemayoceanclubhotel.com/about-cape-may.php
  2. http://www.sunsetbeachnj.com/Things-To-Do/#Concrete-Ship

“Down the Shore” – Part Two in a Series

The Jersey Shore encompasses over 140 miles of beautiful coastline. Famous for its boardwalks, arcades, and amusement piers, each shore town has its own unique vibe. Seaside Heights, which developed a bad reputation thanks to a terrible television show, is popular with teenagers and young twenty-somethings, while Wildwood Crest is more popular with families. The shore region is made up to five different counties – Ocean, Atlantic, Cape May, Middlesex, and Monmouth.

Now I will say there is a “love/hate” relationship between the full-time residents of South Jersey and the seasonal visitors of North Jersey. Seasonal visitors, often called “BENNYs” (which stands for Brooklyn/Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, New York), are considered rude, litter the beaches, and generally act like idiots. As a life-long North Jersey resident, I’ve seen “BENNY behavior” first hand and it is embarrassing. NJ.com even posted an article awhile back about how to not be a BENNY. At the same time, however, the summer months play a key role in the economy of these shore towns by visitors spending a lot of money on vacation, which creates jobs,  generates tax income (via crazy parking costs and tickets), and other positive local contributions. When Hurricane Sandy destroyed many of these shore towns, BENNYs (and their money) were welcomed with open arms. Quickly, however, it returned to “BENNYs go home.” If you don’t act like an ass, for the most part, visitors are treated well.

If you ask most Jersey residents, North Jersey and South Jersey are practically considered two separate states, and at one point in history, New Jersey was two separate colonies. The so-called “Central Jersey” doesn’t really exist.

Nevertheless, the Jersey Shore has a fabled and rich history.

Many people today are unaware of the role New Jersey, and especially the Raritan Bay shore, played in the lives of many pirate legends in the late l7th and early I8th centuries. The waters between Sandy Hook and New York City were infested with pirates and French privateers. Blackbeard raided farms and villages near what is today Middletown, and Captain Morgan often visited the area.¹ To this day, there are many who still search the Jersey Shore for the hidden gold of these fabled pirates.

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The 250-year-old Sandy Hook Lighthouse. 
NPS / JERRY KASTEN, Volunteer-In-Parks

The barrier island of Sandy Hook, part of what is known as “The Higlands,” has a long history that predates the formation of the United States. The oldest route to the eastern coast of the United States is the Minisink Trail which started on the upper Delaware River, came through northern New Jersey and ended at the Navesink River. Navesink means “good fishing spot” in the native tongue at the time. The trail was used by Native Americans, such as the Algonquin and Lenni Lenapi tribes. They came from all over New Jersey to spend the summer fishing and finding clams. The Newasunks, Raritans, and Sachem Papomorga (or Lenni Lenapis) were the most prevalent tribes and stayed the longest. These were the tribes which mostly traded with early settlers.² Richard Hartshorne purchased a 2,320-acre tract of land from the Native Americans which provided him with control of nearly all of Sandy Hook and Highlands which was then called “Portland Poynt.” Hartshorne and his family became the first permanent settlers of the area.² Built in 1764 to help reduce shipwrecks, Sandy Hook is home to the oldest operating lighthouse in America and a National Historic Landmark. A primary mission of the fort was the defense of New York Harbor. From 1874 to 1919, Sandy Hook also served as the U.S. Army’s first proving ground for testing new weapons and ordnance.³ The 1,665-acre area of Sandy Hook became part of the National Park Service in 1975 after the Army deactivated Fort Hancock. Today it is a beautiful area full of wildlife, historical buildings, great beaches, and of course that important lighthouse.

Before Atlantic City was known as “the little sister of Las Vegas,” it was known for its four miles of boardwalk, built in 1870. Since 1921, it has been home to the Miss America pageant. In 1853, the first commercial hotel, the Belloe House, was built at the intersection of Massachusetts and Atlantic Avenues.4

So as you can see, the Jersey Shore has a wonderful history. I hope you check back for my next post in this series.

Sources:

1: http://weirdnj.com/stories/mystery-history/captain-kidd/

2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highlands,_New_Jersey

3: http://www.visitnj.org/city/sandy-hook

4: http://www.cityofatlanticcity.org/about.aspx

“Down the Shore” – Part One in a Series

There are many places I would love to live in my beloved state of New Jersey. Some of them include Morristown, for its connection to our nation’s history; Frenchtown, for its lovely town center full of historic buildings; of course my home town of Belleville; Denville, for its quaint shopping district and small lake communities; and Layton, for its proximity to fly fishing on the Flatbrook and the art center of Peters Valley School of Craft. Well, you can now add Wildwood Crest and Cape May to my list.

Going “down the shore,” as it is referred to by Jersey residents, is a right of passage for the state’s teenagers. Like many high school seniors, I headed to Seaside Heights prom weekend to “walk the boards.” When I was dating my now husband, we would take day trips to Sandy Hook and Island Beach State Park. Other than that, however, I didn’t spend much of my youth enjoying the Jersey coastline. My parents preferred going a little further south – Captiva and Sanibel in Florida.

This past week, however, we took a vacation to Wildwood Crest and took a few day trips to Cape May. I can now say I officially “get it.” It was a glorious few days.

Beach-Seagull

A lone seagull on the beach in Wildwood Crest.

We spend the week at Water’s Edge Ocean Resort in Wildwood Crest. Each morning, I sat out our oceanfront deck and enjoyed the sound of the ocean while I sipped my morning coffee and took walks on the beach in the late afternoon. If you watch the families in the area, the electronics we are all so attached to are put away most of the time and are exchanged for ping pong, playing cards, and swimming in the pool or the ocean.

I hope you enjoy this multi-part series about the Jersey Shore, Wildwood Crest, and Cape May.

Stay tuned…

Small Business Saturday – Jersey Style

While many people look forward to Black Friday for a good deal on a television set, I look forward to Small Business Saturday.

Small businesses are the driving force behind the nation’s economy. According to the Small Business Administration, in 2013, New Jersey small businesses employed over 1.7 people. More than 50 percent of those companies have more than 500 employees. Whenever possible, I work to support local businesses, and Small Business Saturday is a perfect time to get out and support businesses in your community.

Here are some great small businesses in New Jersey to check out:

Starting at the top of New Jersey in Sussex County, Peters Valley in Layton offers a number peters-valleyof wonderful hand-made goods, so not only are you supporting a small business, you are supporting the arts. There’s always something new to check out. Whenever I am up in Sussex County, I stop in to see what it new and rarely leave empty handed.

Moving down Sussex County, check out Whitewater Flies. If you have someone on your list that enjoys fly fishing and the outdoors, check out this great little fly shop. Greg and his team are incredibly helpful and can guide you to make the best picks possible.

Entering Morris County, I love going to downtown Denville. The main drag is almost completely small businesses. Faith and Begorra offers some great Irish and Catholic gifts, such as handmade sweaters and Irish jewelry. Kevin’s Fine Jewelry has beautiful jewelry in a variety of different price ranges. If you need a lunch break, head to Sergio’s for an Italian treat and then to Mara’s for some dessert.

If you have a book lover on your list, I recommend you check out the Old Book Shop in Morristown. They have a great selection of old and limited edition books as well as magazines and vintage post cards.

shop-chester-njAnother favorite small town in Morris County is Chester. The historic downtown retail district is lined with great shops filled with art, antiques, and more. I always enjoy walking around Chester Crafts, Collectibles & Antiques. There is always something unique and interesting and is a great place to find that special gift for someone on your list. Objects of Desire is another great shop full of handmade jewelry and a variety of accessories.

Growing up in Essex County, I used to love to go to Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. One of my favorite stops was always The Inner Eye. This was always a unique place and you never knew what you were going to find. Just off Bloomfield Avenue on Church Street, you’ll find That Little Black Dress. There is always something unique available and it was voted a favorite New Jersey boutique.

Frenchtown1-smA great spot in Hunterdon County is Frenchtown. I wrote about a visit to Frenchtown during the summer. Of course my favorite spot is The Spinnery. If you have a yarn lover on your list, this is the place to go! If you have someone with a sweet tooth, check out Minette’s Candies. They have not only all the hard-to-find candy brands we grew up with, they have great stuff like truffles and chocolate covered pretzels.

At the tip of the state, you’ll find Cape May; a favorite spot of mine. Check out the Whale’s Tale and Splash for great unique gifts with a “down the shore” feel. If you want a sweet treat with a real Jersey feel, pick up a gift at James Candy Company. I’ve picked up Fralinger’s Original Salt Water for something different as a hostess gift when going to a party.

These are just a few of the different and wonderful small businesses you will find in New Jersey. I hope you will use Small Business Saturday as a good excuse to check out the great businesses that are in your area. What are your favorite businesses? Please add to the list in the comments section below.