“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.

GATE-Sandy-Hook-Lighthouse-websmall

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

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“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…

New Jersey and Independence Day

Ford Mansion

Independence Day is a day for great American pride. What you may not know is that New Jersey played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. If you want to celebrate our independence in a patriotic way, check out some of these locations and events.

Ford Mansion

Ford Mansion, image circa 1930. Credit: National Park Service

Morristown: This may be one of the most well-known locations in the Revolutionary War in New Jersey. Morristown is home to Washington’s Headquarters and Jockey Hollow. Historic Ford Mansion was home to General Washington’s military headquarters for six months during the winter of 1779-80. Despite the extreme winter, Washington was able to hold his army together and continue the fight for freedom. The national park consists of four non-contiguous units including the Washington’s Headquarters Unit, the Fort Nonsense Unit, the Jockey Hollow Unit, and the New Jersey Brigade Area. The park features two original structures, the Ford Mansion in Morristown and the Wick House in Jockey Hollow. Soldiers camped at Jockey Hollow until June, 1780. There is an encampment at the site with reenactors to educate visitors on what soldiers endured while onsite. There are approximately 27 miles of walking trails in the Jockey Hollow Unit.

Sandy Hook: Built in 1764, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in the country. At one point during the war, there was talk about destroying the lighthouse so it wouldn’t fall into the hands of the British. Major William Malcolm received orders in a letter dated March 6, 1776 to “take the glass out of the lantern, and save it if possible; but if you find this impracticable you will break the glass. You will also endeavor to pump the oil out of the cisterns into casks, or not being able to procure casks, you will pump it out onto the ground. In short, you will use your best discretion to render the lighthouse entirely useless.” Less than three months later, the British had the lighthouse repaired and back in operation and would remain under British control for most of the war.

Princeton: On January 3, 1777, Princeton Battlefield transformed into the site of what is considered to be the fiercest fight of its size during the American Revolution. During the battle, American troops under General Washington surprised and defeated a force of British soldiers. The Battle of Princeton gave Washington his first victory against the British on the field. With the victory at Princeton, morale rose in the American ranks and more men began to enlist in the army.

Battle of Second River

Battle of Second River market. Credit: Anthony Buccino/Bellevillesons.com

Belleville: Of course I must include my beloved home town of Belleville, known as Second River during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Second River in Belleville was fought from Sept. 12 through Sept. 14, 1777. It was the only battle fought in Essex County during the American Revolution. The cemetery alongside the Belleville Dutch Reformed Church holds the bodies of 66 Revolutionary War Patriots.

Hopewell Township/Titusville: These two town names may not sound familiar, but trust me they are incredibly important to our nation’s fight for freedom. This area is the location of Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware. On December 25, 1776, the Continental Army had little to celebrate that Christmas and seemed beat by hunger and cold. After crossing the rough winter river at night, General George Washington and the Continental Army landed at Johnson’s Ferry, at the site now known as Washington Crossing State Park. At 4 am, they began their march to Trenton where they defeated the Hessian troops in an unexpected attack. This battle was quickly followed by the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777, and the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.

These are just a few of the important historical locations in New Jersey. I hope you take time to check them out.

The Sandy Hook Lighthouse and the Revolutionary War

A special thank you to life-long Sussex County, NJ resident and photographer Lisaann VanBlarcom Permunian for providing this great fact about how the role of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in the Revolutionary War…

A committee of the New York Provincial Congress instructs Major William Malcolm to dismantle the Sandy Hook lighthouse in the then-disputed territory of Sandy Hook, now in New Jersey, on this day in 1776, telling him to “use your best discretion to render the light-house entirely useless.”

The Sandy Hook lighthouse first shone its beam on June 11, 1764, after the Provincial Congress of New York orchestrated two lotteries to raise money for its construction. Discussion about the construction of a lighthouse for Sandy Hook had begun nearly a century before, initiated by Colonial Governor Edmund Andreas. Forty-three New York merchants proposed the lotteries to the Provincial Council, after losing 20,000 pounds sterling from shipwrecks in early 1761.

Major Malcolm’s task was to prevent the lighthouse from helping the British to reach New York City. The Congress wanted Malcolm to remove the lens and lamps so that the lighthouse could no longer warn ships of possible wreck on the rocky shore; he succeeded. Colonel George Taylor reported six days later that Malcolm had given him eight copper lamps, two tackle falls and blocks, and three casks, and a part of a cast of oil from the dismantling of the beacon.

Malcom’s efforts, however, failed to keep the British from invading New York; they were soon able to put the lighthouse back into service by installing lamps and reflectors. The Patriots attempted to knock the light out again on June 1, by placing cannon on boats and attempting to blow away the British paraphernalia. They managed some damage before being chased away.

The new states of New Jersey and New York bickered over ownership of the lighthouse, until the federal government assumed control of all U.S. lighthouses in 1787. As of 1996, the Sandy Hook lighthouse, the oldest original lighthouse in the United States, passed into the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. It remains in operation as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.