As we continue to delve into our favorite places and spaces, it is apropos we honor today’s all-American holiday and check out a piece of Americana and one of my (Elise's) favorite places, the Asbury Park beach and boardwalk. Located on the fabled Jersey Shore, this city has seen its share of up’s and down’s over the last century but one thing's for certain, it has captured my heart.
I love a good comeback story just as much as I love historical buildings and towns. Growing up in a town that’s main commerce was tourism has planted a seed in my heart for restoration of once great places and spaces. Asbury Park most definitely fits the bill AND it’s in the middle of a comeback (plus its musical heritage is most noteworthy)!
The Asbury Park boardwalk is thriving today, as seen in this mid-May shot taken way before beach season officially begins.
Asbury Park was founded in the late 1800’s as a beachside resort town and rose to a luxury seaside destination in the 1920’s with construction of opulent hotels, a majestic theatre and handsome red-brick pavilions. Warren Whitney, a noted Beaux Arts architect, was the designer and the boardwalk became a mainstage scene for an amusement park, fine shops and entertainment of all sorts.
More than 600,000 people vacationed in Asbury Park annually in the city's early years and the city flourished from later part of the Victorian era to the 1960s. ~Asbury Park Historical Society
Old-timers told fabulous stories about men in tuxedos and ladies swathed in evening gowns strolling the nighttime Boardwalk, about thrilling movie premieres at the Mayfair and Paramount theaters, Frank Sinatra’s career before and after his break with band leader Tommy Dorsey, and shopping for bargains or going to the clubs along the vibrant, ethnically and racially mixed, Springwood Avenue, likening it to New York City's Harlem. ~Asbury Park's Glory Days
But, like many urban areas, the advent of the Garden State Parkway, Six Flags Great Adventure, and major shopping malls took tourists, businesses and shoppers away from Asbury Park and the city saw hard times from around 1970 to the turn of the century. ~Asbury Park Historical Society
In the past five years, a new life has been breathed into Asbury Park: restored beaches, boardwalk play areas, delicious food stands and boutique shopping abound. Ease of access to the beach and boardwalk area make this beach a breeze to get in and out of without the hassle of the traditional beach traffic. Renovations have begun on the two main buidlings along the boardwalk: the Casino/Carousel and the Convention Hall. Both are examples of magnificant 1920's architecture from when Asbury Park was in its heyday.
The remaining red-brick pavilion now houses restaurants, bars and shops that are open year round. The detailing on the exterior has been refurbished in the past five years.
Anchoring the opposite end of the boardwalk is the shell of the once illustrious casino and the carousel. The exterior copper has patinaed and still retains its intricate details in the former entrance.
The many musical haunts and murals found around the boardwalk. The Stone Pony, founded in 1974, was a starting point for many performers. Musicians and bands with strong ties to Asbury Park, many of whom frequently played clubs here on their way to fame, include Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Jon Bon Jovi, Clarence Clemons, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Patti Smith, Arthur Pryor, Count Basie, Gary U.S. Bonds and many more.
The varied activities found for kids of all ages at the beach: putt-putt golf, water park, playgrounds on the beach and bike rentals.
The brightly colored food huts found along the boardwalk all offer something delicious to eat as well as some pep to the bleach colors typically found along the beach.
Toes in the sand, music dancing through the air and the sweet smells of summer keep me coming back for more. The laid back and quirky vibe of this seaside, historic town have definitely exemplified an eclectic mix of traditional and coastal that inspire me.