From the Guy and Agnes McCormick collection, digitized by Steve Baeli of the Ocean County Compendium of History, http://www.ochistory.org
A look at how the beachfront has changed in 80 years. Top photo courtesy Beachwood Borough and scanned by the Copy Center on Water Street, Toms River. Top photo credit: Rell Clements. Lower photo credit: Erik Weber (c) 2013. Taken July 16th, 2013.
Francis R. “Frank” Clancy, 82, of Toms River, passed away Tuesday, August 28, 2012. Mr. Clancy owned and operated Clancy’s Pharmacy in Beachwood from 1962 until he retired in 2002. He was a true old town Pharmacist who was trusted and loved by the people of Beachwood. He was a communicant of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Toms River. Born in Jersey City, he grew up in Linden moving to Toms River in 1957.
He was predeceased by his beloved wife Corrine in 1982. Francis is survived by his two sons, Dr. Kevin Clancy and his wife Deborah of Toms River, and Stuart Clancy and his wife Kathleen of Pine Beach; a sister, Patricia Annette Clancy of New Mexico; he was a devoted and loving grandfather to his six grandchildren, Meghan, Colleen, Patrick, Michael, Erin, Heather, and his great granddaughter, Kaylee.
Visitation will be held Thursday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 pm at Kedz Funeral Home, 1123 Hooper Ave., Toms River. A funeral liturgy will be offered 10:00am Friday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Hooper Ave., Toms River followed by burial at St. Joseph’s Cemetery. Letters of condolence may be sent by visiting www.kedzfuneralhome.com.
Photo was taken Fall 2009 in the window of his former longtime pharmacy storefront for the Beachwood Historical Alliance.
The Beachwood Historical Alliance, a not-for-profit citizen’s group, has been reactivated and awarded a contract with Arcadia Publishing, maker of the popular local history book series Images of America, to form a centennial book in the series for Beachwood, which began life as a newspaper-backed promotion with the New York Tribune in late 1914.
Volunteers are needed to help research, digitize and produce materials for this project. Anyone interested in joining this project are encouraged to write firstname.lastname@example.org. Please consider aiding in this worthwhile project, which will surely be looked back upon for decades to follow as a primary resource of our community.
Feel free to forward the link to this post in a tasteful an non-harassing manner.
On December 16th, 1914, an article in the New York Tribune headlined, “Beachwood Just Laughs at Storms” recounted a recent winter storm which “caused such havoc and property loss [in the surrounding area, yet] left no traces… along Beachwood’s mile of water frontage.”
The paper attributed this to its position away from the Barnegat Bay, and went on to describe all the safety features and recreation amenities, stating that construction officially began the day before, placing this official first date of construction in Beachwood at December 15th, 1914.
Two weeks later, on December 30th, the Tribune ran another article under the headline “Rapid Progress in Beachwood Work”.
It described that work “is progressing despite ice and snow, by leaps and bounds” and that a letter written by a group of men who distributed tires for the Packard automobile company along the eastern United States was received stating that they had purchased a site in Beachwood on which to build “an up-to-date garage for the accommodation of the residents,” of whom they would be part, having also purchased lots for their bungalows from the Tribune promotion.
The article ran on to describe more of Nickerson’s work, including that “about seventy men were now at work laying out streets, putting up street signs and block numbers, numbering lots, cutting through and improving roadways and building tennis courts. If necessary, to have things in readiness for next summer the force will be increased.”
A week later, January 8th, 1915, the New Jersey Courier ran with an article titled, “Start Several Buildings at Spiles Point, Beachwood”. In it was heavily detailed the first buildings constructed by the Tribune under supervision of Nickerson.
“The Beachwood tract is the busiest along shore just now. Besides laying out streets and avenue, cutting off timber on these avenues, blasting stumps and cleaning out underbrush, the New Year was marked by the starting of at least four new buildings. Three of these are at the Spiles Point, the other, a union railroad depot, at the crossing of the Central and Pennsylvania railroads.”
“On the high bluff, just above the point of the Spiles, a dining room has been built, in the shape of a one-story bungalow, 30×60 feet, and a kitchen annex in the rear. This will have a view down the river.”
“In front of it, to the north, has been started a hotel or rooming house, 73×100 feet in size, built in the old Spanish style, one story high, and, with a patio, or courtyard, in the centre. This will contain thirty-seven sleeping rooms, and will be run in connection with the dining room. From its point of vantage on the brow of the bluff the eye can sweep up the river to Toms River village, or down the stream to Island Heights. The location is superb.”
“On the lower ground, at the foot of the bluff, in the filled in spot where the pond was, and where Toms River boys for generations have waded to pick water lilies and kill water snakes, the bathhouses are started. There will be three rows of them, covering a space 32×46 feet.
“The building of the bathhouses here is particularly satisfactory to Toms River people, who had been fearing that the development of Spiles Point meant that their ancient bathing privilege would be taken from them, and the point become hedged in as private property. It is understood that the beach front at the Beachwood tract is to be kept open to the public and that all lot owners will have an equal share in its use. With bathhouses there many Toms River people will avail themselves of the convenience.”
“The depot will be 20×40 feet in size, and will be used by both railroads. It is located at the crossing of the two roads and also of the main north and south avenue of Beachwood.”
“Plans are prepared for a large clubhouse, which is also to be started in the spring on the bluff overlooking the river.
“The station is expected to be built very soon. None of these buildings is to be pretentious or costly. They are being built to supply present day needs, and as the resort grows probably be displaced with more permanent structures. But they go to show that Beachwood means business and that something is coming of the new development. The work is also giving jobs to many local people who would otherwise be sitting around stoves and wondering how they could get through the winter.”
“Scores of streets are being laid out on the tract. So far about all that is done to this line is to clear up the street of all traces of underbrush and remove the stumps with dynamite and stake off the lots. Some grading has been done, however, and more is contemplated. The Beachwood proposition, backed by a big daily paper, is making quite a furore in New York, and it is said by New Yorkers who come down this way that the lots are going fast.”
The progress in Beachwood did not go unnoted in other local papers and municipalities. On January 29th, the Ocean County Review printed beneath its Pine Beach section that, “It is pretty quiet here this winter, but we can hear the dynamite charges exploding at Beachwood without paying admission.”
Indeed, Nickerson and his crew weren’t the only ones busy that winter. February 1915 saw the release and distribution of a 38-page pamphlet very modestly titled, “The Greatest Subscription Premium Ever Offered and the Reason Why”.
Interspersed between pages of ad copy determined to make the average reader jump at investing were a number of photographs depicting the natural waterfront, sailboats both on the Toms River and docked at Huddy Park, cleared roads, the Central Railroad of New Jersey Toms River Station, and the Atlantic City Boulevard completely devoid of any development.
As we can see, it wasn’t the first of such pamphlets, borrowing heavily on Mayo’s earlier land promotion of Lakewood Club, Michigan.
Meanwhile, Watson and the postal inspectors were themselves hard at work questioning those who wrote letters of endorsement for the Tribune promotion which had appeared in subsequent materials.
One of these letters came from E.P. Robinson, M.D., later profiled in Butler’s 1924 Beachwood Directory as being born of English parents on St. James Island in Barbados, who later followed his dream of coming to America as a teenager, working first a pharmacist in Philadelphia before continuing his career and education in New York City. By the time of the Tribune promotion, he was married and had a son in his late teens.
In the letter he wrote, which was published by the Tribune as part of its promotion campaign, the accomplished doctor praised the newspaper in detail for the advantages of the Beachwood tract and stated that not only did he plan an extensive summer residence but that his wife and son purchased their own lots, as well.
Testifying about this letter and Robinson’s later statements regarding it, Watson admitted he could not find his original notes and instead recounted the conversation from memory:
“I visited Dr. Robinson myself, in company with one of my investigators, and interviewed him, and I swear that endorsement is not on the level. The doctor said – I have a report which I made within an hour after the interview, and I will stand on that report rather than on what I say now, but I will try to recall what he said. It was to the effect that he did not know where these lots were, and he had changed his mind, and he did not think he would ever build there, and he gave this endorsement to the Tribune, but he had not expected that people would come running in there and asking him about it, and that he had since requested the Tribune to take it out of the booklet, and that he might some time use his lots for a public garage down there; and he told me where they were, and I asked him if he realized that that was about a mile off the main road and that you could not drive an automobile in there unless it was equipped with an aeroplane on top of it to lift it over the roads. In other words, it was too ridiculous for consideration.”
Oddly, on a later day of testimony following statements by the postal inspectors themselves, Watson recanted and requested that this statement and all matter of the letters be removed from the record as he could not find his records on the matter and it had been over a year from the conversation so his memory may be incorrect.
Neither postal investigator had any testimony regarding these letters.
Stranger still is the fact that the lots Dr. Robinson ultimately built upon is just one block from the waterfront and on Beachwood Boulevard, the original resort’s main road. It is unclear at this point of research whether this was the original plot of land purchased through the initial Tribune promotion, or if he purchased it at a later date from a second party, or some other event we are unaware of.
Adding to this odd matter is the fact that the New York Tribune made a point to specifically advertise Dr. Robinson’s building plans in early March 1915 with an article titled, “To Build at Beachwood – Plans Being Prepared for New Cottage at Resort”:
“Architects’ plans for the erection of one of the first bungalows to be built at Beachwood, N.J., are being prepared for Dr. E.P. Robinson, of 116 West Thirty-ninth Street, New York. Dr. Robinson, who was one of the first to obtain lots at the new beach resort which the Tribune is establishing, will build a cottage for occupancy throughout the entire year.
“The new cottage will stand back from the beach some little distance and will be artistic in its surroundings. Construction work on the house is contemplated with the coming of warm weather. It is planned to have the cottage ready for occupancy this summer.
“In addition to Dr. Robinson, lots are held at Beachwood by his wife and son.”
We may never know the true events surrounding Dr. Robinson’s lots or his involvement with the Tribune promotional campaign, but what cannot be denied is that the doctor had a very well built, attractive bungalow constructed at the corner of Barnegat Avenue and Beachwood Boulevard, which stands to this day.
Read about investigator’s secret trip to the incomplete resort, alleged scandal within the Tribune offices and the road to the Memorial Day opening, in the next edition of the Building Beachwood series.
On February 13, 1914, the front page headline of the Toms River/Ocean County weekly, the New Jersey Courier, announced “Pine Bay Tract is Sold for $90,000/Said to Be a Record-Making Price”. Curiously, these new purchasers are never mentioned by name.
The article goes on to describe the land as it was before any work had been completed: “The tract has a mile and a quarter river frontage, including the
bluff at Cold Spring, the point of the Spiles [both later part of Beachwood Beach], and the bluff on the west shore of Squally Cove [renamed Windy Cove], the river frontage, running from Cedar Point [at today’s South Toms River] to the head of Squally Cove, where it meets the Buhler property, now a part of the Pine Beach tract [Pine Beach not having been incorporated until 1925; the land then was mainly known to visitors for the railroad that extended across the Toms River to Island Heights]. It extends back across both railroads and west to the Dover road [later, South Toms River], while on the south it abuts the Barnegat Park tract [in Berkeley Township, later the site of yet another notorious land promotion named Pinewald, through which was built the Royal Pines Hotel that stands today as Crystal Lake Healthcare. It’s interesting to consider that Pinewald could have incorporated itself as a borough separate from Berkeley Township as Beachwood, Pine Beach and Ocean Gate had if it succeeded in its time].
The land then changed hands from Nickerson to Mayo to Stanley D. Brown, trustee of the New York Tribune. Mystery still surrounds these transactions as no money ever changed hands between the sheriff’s sale to Nickerson, Nickerson to Mayo, and Mayo to the Tribune, yet Nickerson had already
begun surveying the land well before a deal was set, setting aside a few choice plots, including the site where he would eventually build his family home across from the entrance to Cold Spring and Spiles Point, later Beachwood Beach; Mayo wound up owning virtually all of the waterfront area property and 5,000 lots in the tract’s southernmost “hinterland”, all of which would eventually be sold in perpetuity in December 1917 to the newly incorporated Borough of Beachwood for the original per-lot price of $19.60 for public and municipal use.
But that wouldn’t be for a while. Mayo, Nickerson and the Tribune would first face the threat of charges brought by the U.S. District Attorney’s office and U.S. Postal Service at the behest and urging of the Hearst company and its reporter, even while Nickerson was busy directing workmen to cut and blast his grid of streets out of the knotty, dense pine forest.
Over the next eight months, while Nickerson busied himself with the land survey and subsequent layout of the new streets and avenues, Mayo, in his office at the Tribune Building in New York, worked out the details of the promotion. An item in the October 23rd. 1914 New Jersey Courier stated:
“The Berkeley Township committee at its meeting last week abandoned a number of roads where they cross over the Beachwood (formerly known as Pine Bay) tract… the roads abandoned are: the old Double Trouble road; part of the old Cedar Creek highway; Buhler’s road; a branch of Buhler’s road; and the old road running into the old Double Trouble road, beginning where the county road crosses the [Pennsylvania Railroad].
“As part of the agreement for vacating these roads, Mr. Nickerson, who represents the new owners of the property, has announced that the tract will be laid out in streets, so that these roads will be unnecessary.”
One week later, October 30th, the Tribune announced to the Toms River area its plans in the pages of the Courier, likely when the land officially changed hands from Nickerson and Mayo to their ownership. Its headline proclaimed, “New York Tribune to Develop the Beachwood Tract at Spiles Point”. This announcement predated any such notice posted in their own newspaper, as well as any official promotional materials.
“One of the largest real estate deals that has been made in Toms River in many years was concluded this week, when the two thousand acre tract adjoining the town and known as Pine Bay tract was acquired by representatives of the New York Tribune. This will mean much to the future prosperity of Toms River, for the Tribune intends to improve the property and make of it a large summer resort. A club house will be erected on the shore of the river, also a yacht club building, bathing pavilion, bathing wharves, etc. The tract will be known as Beachwood, and it is expected that it will be the future summer home of many well known New York people, who will have their cottages there. The project is under the direct supervision of B.C. Mayo of the New York Tribune and the local work is in charge of A.D. Nickerson.”
Here we can pick up Butler’s 1924 Beachwood Directory, who compiled the largest section, “A Chronological History of Beachwood”, stated to be “Pictures, in Brief Paragraphs, of the Rise and Progress of the Beautiful Resort in the Pines on Barnegat Bay, and the Social, Economic and Political Life of its Summer Population of 1,500 or More People”.
According to Butler, “the first official map of the Beachwood tract, comprising 1,763 acres, 18 lots to the acre, was filed November 11th .”
November is also the month that the Tribune issued a special advertisement, dressed up to appear as an extra edition of its regular publication, “containing many illustrations and the… announcement, in large letters, on its first page: “Subscribe for the New York Tribune and secure a lot at Beautiful Beachwood. Greatest subscription premium ever offered by a newspaper – nothing equal to it was ever attempted in the United States. Act at once – secure your lot in this Summer Paradise now.” On another page came [the] assurance [that] “The Tribune does not do things halfway. A fortune has been put behind this offer. Already plans are being made to start a building company.” The price of lots was placed at $19.60 apiece, each lot carrying with it a six months’ subscription to the paper.”
On December 1st, the Mayo-Tribune promotions rolled out further, this time in a Tribune article titled “Roads to Beachwood” and depicting a large illustration of the auto routes between Manhattan and Beachwood, as well as the Central and Pennsylvania railroad lines.
Ten days later, the New Jersey Courier and New York Tribune ran articles on the burgeoning resort. The Courier’s, headlined “Marine Names for Beachwood Avenues”, recounted a Tribune article that “Nautical terms prevail in the selecting of street nomenclature adopted for Beachwood… the street signs will also bear out the meaning of the town’s name by a series denoting a variety of trees… Plans for the construction of the buildings which are to be erected on the waterfront, such as the yacht club, dining hall, club building, etc., are already under way. It is expected that the railroad station… will be completed in January.”
The Tribune’s article, titled “Fine Railroad Station for Beachwood”, verified the Courier account. “Residents of Beachwood… are to have a railroad station of their own. Plans for the building have been made and its site chosen. It will be ready for occupancy in January. The building will have the excellent accommodations of a typical suburban union railroad station… the structure itself is to be of attractive design and calculated to meet all the requirements of Beachwood residents.”
It is around this time that Victor A. Watson, a New York City native living on the Lower East Side who had made his living for the previous 17 years as a newspaper reporter with Hearst’s New York American, claimed to receive “complaints from a number of persons who wrote letters… to the effect that the New York Tribune… was backing a notorious real-estate swindle. In the course of office business the matter was turned over to me to investigate.”
Looking into the matter, Watson noted that the Tribune was claiming to be making absolutely no profit off the land deal, opting instead to run the promotion purely as an act of friendship in an effort to boost its circulation. Skeptical, Watson looked at the numbers and found this to not be the case. After consulting with his peers, he took the information to the office of United States District Attorney H. Snowden Marshall. The case was soon assigned to two United States Postal Inspectors, [Hugh] McQuillan and [Oliver] Schaeffer.
Together with the inspectors, Watson produced what he claimed to be direct evidence of mail fraud. This consisted of mailed materials produced by the newspaper that stated they were making no money off the land deal but wished instead for good friendship by increasing their readership. Watson insisted that the Tribune was committing mail fraud because a survey of the money paid for the land tract versus what they were charging showed a high degree of profitability set to flow into Tribune coffers should the promotion be successful.
In laying out these calculations, Watson said the land was drawn out to encompass thirty to thirty-five thousand 20×100 lots to be sold at $19.60 each. Adhering to the original plat map of 1,763 acres and 18 lots to an acre, that number was exactly 31,734 lots. $19.60 multiplied by 31,734 becomes $621,986.40. He estimated that between the purchase of the property at $90,000 and adding another approximately $35,000 to developing it for the lot owners, they would have invested only $125,000 total, meaning they stood to reap an estimated profit of $496,986.40. At the time, Inspector McQuillan estimated it lower, at $300,000.
Suspicions were raised further when Watson stated salesmen working the promotion for the Tribune would take “them down to the beach, and [then turn around] and sell [them] something back in the woods that is almost like Africa.” Watson later reflected that Beachwood was so remote that it would be still be an undeveloped and undesirable patch of land one hundred years in the future. He was so sure of this that he told the judiciary committee he would make a bet on it if he could.
As a result, Watson and the postal inspectors began a series of covert visits to the Beachwood tract while it was under development in early 1915. Secretly, Watson also conscripted a number of men to work within the Tribune offices as spies, quietly writing up daily reports for the New York American reporter. Meanwhile, Bertram Mayo and Addison Nickerson moved forward with their work, unaware how dangerously close they were to being arrested and brought up on charges of mail fraud.
Read about the first resort buildings, reaction from a nearby community, and the further investigation of Watson and the postal inspectors, focusing in particular on one Dr. E.P. Robinson, whose home stands today at the southwest corner of Beachwood Boulevard and Barnegat Boulevard, in the next edition of the Building Beachwood series.