Today we’re going to look into a current account of how a number of cultural/historic sites in Monmouth County are due to receive state grants. It is possible that someday the Beachwood Circle Shop building may be brought onto local and state historic registries – a result of its diverse past as a cultural hub of central Ocean County in the mid-twentieth century – and receive various state and organizational grants that will combine with local volunteers and active historic and preservation groups for its rehabilitation and reemergence as a cultural center for Beachwood and the area once again.
This may combine with other locally listed historic structures as part of a sweeping downtown revival that, in conjunction with the county rail trail connection, will produce a flow of foot traffic and shop, park and waterfront patrons that could give Beachwood’s businesses and property owners a much-needed financial shot in the arm.
Read on and imagine a future Beachwood that could include an historic downtown with wider sidewalks, benches, streetlights, native trees and a bike path leading straight off the county rail trail from a rebuilt borough train depot/rail trail visitor center to the waterfront docks, beach and Mayo Park. It’s a future we can all wake up to, a future that - combined with our upcoming centennial and potential celebration plans – will lend added recognition and interest in the borough, increase beach badge sales and patronage, open up the desirability of our town center (and overall properties within the borough), and generally improve the quality of life for the entire town.
Beachwood Train Depot, July 21, 1950, by Edward Weber.
Woman’s Club, Parker Homestead, Church of Presidents on state grant list
Erin O. Stattel
The News Transcript
Greater Media Newspapers
Two local sites and a third in Long Branch appear on the state historic trust’s preservation grant list and local legislators have pledged their support of the bill.
The Parker-Sickles Homestead in Little Silver and the Anthony B. Reckless Estate, now the Woman’s Club of Red Bank, both appear on the New Jersey Historic Trust’s 2008 list of preservation grants.
Women's Club of Red Bank
Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-12th District), who sits on the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee, said the legislation passed out of committee May 7 and was expected to come before the full Senate for a vote May 21.
“Historic preservation is of true importance to the cultural future of our state,” said Beck. “We have such a rich history in this area, and I am always proud when I can work to help maintain it. I fully expect the Senate to support this funding as the committee worked to spread the funding in an equitable way throughout the state.”
The Woman’s Club of Red Bank, also known as the Anthony B. Reckless Estate, was built in 1874, according to Mary Gilligan, one of the chairs for the club’s preservation committee.
“Anthony B. Reckless was one of the businessmen in Red Bank who brought gas stations in and different businesses to town,” Gilligan said of the former president of the N.J. State Senate. “He built the club after the Civil War, and one of the issues was that they had to wait until the war was over in order to get the materials to build the house.”
The house, which now sits at 164 Broad St. in Red Bank, originally sat toward what is now Reckless Place, Gilligan said.
“With the money from the trust grants, we will be able to restore the driveway side of the building,” she said. “There is a lot of repair work that needs to be done. The building also needs to be painted; all of the colors are original but we are on a 20-year plan to paint the building.”
Beachwood Circle Shop/Carpet Land building, Memorial Day 2009.
The Woman’s Club of Red Bank has about 60 active members. Gilligan said the club has been an active organization since 1917 and purchased the building in 1921. The club actually began as the Round Table Coterie, a literary society, in 1896, she added
“The club served dinners to local servicemen during both World War I and II,” Gilligan said. “And on the second-floor bathroom there is even a little note that says the club served 450 dinners to area servicemen one Christmas Eve during World War II. Bandages were rolled here and a women and children’s clinic was also housed here. Every once in a while I hear someone say, ‘Oh yeah, I got my vaccines there.’ “
The top floor of the building also served as a long- and short-term home for single women and now serves as a true community resource, Gilligan said.
“It is a meeting place for a lot of local organizations,” she said. “The Jazz and Blues Foundation holds meetings and fundraisers here, and we get a lot of interesting requests, and I think that is why we were awarded this grant this time because we are now able to truly demonstrate what a community resource the building truly is.”
According to the club’s history, the building is in the American Bracketed Villa style, and the estate is symmetrical and more formal than the equally popular Italianate Villa style.
The Anthony B. Reckless Estate is expected to receive about $30,000 through the N.J. Historic Trust preservation grant program.
According to the borough of Little Silver, the Parker Homestead, located near Sickles Market and the municipal recreation complex on Harrison Avenue, is the former home of the Parker family and the oldest home in town.
“We have had dating done on some of the main wood beams and it dates back to 1721,” explained Borough Administrator Michael Biehl. “Julia Parker, who we inherited the property from, claimed it dated back to 1665, but we haven’t been able to prove that yet.”
Photos of WWII Servicemen, originally hung in the Circle Shop windows, where they were regular patrons.
The borough of Little Silver is expected to receive approximately $44,000 for the Parker Homestead through the N.J. Historic Trust preservation grant program.
“We acquired the property around the winter of 1994, and structural work has been done to the building such as the installation of a new roof, new utilities and indoor plumbing,” Biehl said. “It was preserved for historical and educational purposes, and with the money we are to receive from the state, we hope to preserve the remaining outbuildings.”
Biehl said that there are about three barns on the property, which the borough hopes to preserve from further deterioration. A use for the barns has not been confirmed yet, he said.
“The property is on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places but it is not on the National Register of Historic Places,” Biehl said. “So the money we are receiving is earmarked to help get the property onto the national register.”
Church of the Seven Presidents, Long Branch.
According to Biehl, Parker was a direct descendent of the family that settled the Borough of Little Silver.
“The story always was that the family acquired the land from the [Native Americans] and the house has been in the Parker family since it was built,” Biehl said.
Moving down the shoreline, the Church of the Presidents in Long Branch is also listed as receiving preservation funds from the state.
According to its website, the Church of the Presidents, known as a place of worship for seven U.S. presidents during the late 1800s into the turn of the century, was built and designed by New York architects Potter and Robertson in 1879. The church also appears on the State of New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
Presidents to worship at the church, also known as St. James Chapel, include Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Woodrow Wilson.
The current restoration of the building has been undertaken by the Long Branch Historical Museum Association.
“In the late 1990s the building had become so unstable that we had everything removed so the building could be stabilized,” said Joan Schnorbus, a member of the Long Branch Historical Museum Association board of trustees. “Everything was removed, the pews, light fixtures, even the windows. One of the windows we believe is Tiffany glass.”
Schnorbus said that the church was founded as an alternative location for Long Branch’s elite to attend services in the 1880s.
A comprehensive downtown plan, coupled with the rail trail connection, would likely place storefronts currently vacant, such as the former Disbrow Market building, in high demand.
“It was built in 1879 with funding from local families who were closer to Ocean Avenue than the center of town,” Schnorbus said. “It quickly became the focal point of town and many presidents frequented the church, and even as President James Garfield lay dying a short distance away, he could hear the church bells tolling for his recovery.”
But the church’s survival as a religious institution would not reflect its strong inception.
“The congregation began falling off as the fortunes of Long Branch waned, and finally, it was closed in the 1950s,” Schnorbus said. “And then the building became slated for demolition, but a gentleman by the name of Edgar Dinkelspiel and an attorney, Bernard Sandler, discovered a clause in the original deed to save the church. It stipulated that if the building were no longer used as a church, ownership reverted back to the original benefactors, which were the Pullman, Childs and Drexel families.
“Dinkelspiel and Sandler found the heirs and obtained ownership of the church in 1953 as the nonprofit Long Branch Historical Museum Association.”
According to the N.J. Historic Trust’s website, the trust recommended the church receive $467,296 in preservation grants.
For more information and a full listing of grant recipients, visit http://www.njht.org.