Monday, September 04, 2006

Ocean Grove, NJ

Ocean Grove is the one square mile town just south of Asbury Park across Wesley Lake. Registered as a National Historic District, Ocean Grove is block after block of turreted Victorian beach houses, gingerbread woodwork and gracious wrap-around porches. It was established as a Methodist camp around 1870. Back then families vacationed in tents along side those who shared their faith. (There are 114 of these tent sites still in existence today.) The town was soon incorporated and one of the best examples of Victorian planned communities was established. Homes nearest the beach were built further away from the street which created a funnel effect to catch the ocean breezes and filter them through the town. It also provided almost every front porch in town with an ocean view.

The only entrance to the town is through imposing gates attached to tall brick posts bearing brass plaques inscribed with quotes from scripture. These gates were chained and closed to all wheeled vehicles from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday in observance of the Sabbath until as late as 1980 when a court ruling found this violated the separation of church and state.

I will admit that despite its beauty, the meticulously painted and maintained houses, the entrance gates and the tent city give the whole town a somewhat eerie Stepford quality at times. It doesn't keep me from enjoying the refreshments at Nagle's however, a one-time pharmacy which still operates as a soda fountain and ice cream parlor today.

Below are some photos taken in Ocean Grove on Labor Day. They are: Nagle's soda fountain and cafe, a guest house right on the beach, a row of Victorian "painted lady" houses leading to the beach and finally two shots of the tent houses which can only be passed down in the same family and cannot be sold, so basically you're stuck with it forever. (Thanks for the beach house, mom!)

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