This article originally appeared in the Riverside Signal on May 19th, 2010. It has been reprinted below. The Riverside Signal can be found at http://www.RiversideSignal.com
by Erik Weber
Chapel dates back to start of borough
BEACHWOOD – A heated conflict between Shore Vineyard Church and its neighbors boiled over during the May 5th borough council meeting, here, as residents and church officials debated for over an hour before the governing body, which found itself in the position of mediator.
Since at least January, Barnegat Boulevard resident Roy Miller has appeared before the borough council to petition for action against his neighbor, Shore Vineyard Church, citing parking, noise and general quality of life issues related to the church’s group meetings and events. Borough code enforcement officer William Knapp, Sr., has said that upon investigating, he can find no legal ground to cite the religious organization with, as there are no specific ordinances restricting their various activities, and that parking on surrounding borough streets was available and open for the public.
Mr. Hiering stated that he investigated the church and its zoning documentation, but that upon seeking related cases for further insight, he found them to be “pretty broad in what they consider excessive use.”
Citing St. John’s Evangelical Church v. Hoboken, the borough attorney reported that the judgment found “daycare, orphanages and even drug counseling qualify” as falling under normal use for the church site.
Regarding noise issues, Mr. Hiering did point out that regardless of the zoning, a borough ordinance regulating noise levels between the hours of 9 pm and 7 am required levels not to be more than 45 decibels during that period.
Additionally, the borough ordinance restricts noise levels in a residential neighborhood to 55 decibels or lower between 7 am and 9pm. Exceptions and permitted variations include allowing the sound limit to be exceeded not more than one time per day for a 15 minute period; permitting peak values of short durations, referred to in the ordinance as “impact noises”, as not more than the more restrictive noise level of either 20 decibels above the restricted level or 80 decibels; and excluding “alarms, sirens, emergency warning devices, motor vehicles and other sources not under the direct control of a use.”
Beachwood Chapel: A Detailed History
The origin of the chapel building at Compass and Spring dates back to the earliest years of Beachwood, when property owners almost completely consisted of summering New York City residents and the newly incorporated borough was not yet four months old, in 1917.
Early borough resident and retired New York newspaper editor, William Mill Butler, recounted the burgeoning call for religious services that led to the construction of the chapel in his book on the first ten years of Beachwood, Beachwood Directory and Who’s Who 1924.
On June 30th of 1917, he writes that the Property Owners’ Association “decided to appoint a committee of three to make arrangements for union religious meetings at the club house each Sunday evening.”
From then, non-denominational Sunday services and “sacred concerts” were held at the clubhouse, which once stood on the bluff overlooking Windy Cove, across from what today is the Mayo Park playground. The original borough hall was also used; that structure was first known as the “Auditorium”, stood roughly on the site of today’s Mayo Park playground and, like the clubhouse, was built during the original New York Tribune promotion that started the town as a resort, in 1914. Numerous reverends, both visiting and borough residents, ran the meetings and eventually funds were donated for an organ to be installed. Two years later, the group formally organized and incorporated under the name of “Beachwood Religious Association.”
By the time Beachwood’s founder, Bertram Chapman Mayo, died unexpectedly while on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina in July 1920, the organization’s previous three years of forming connections with local reverends and practicing meetings allowed the property owners the ability to facilitate a memorial service in his honor, held August 8th, in the clubhouse.
Two years later, the association had gained a known musician and evangelical singer in the form of new summer resident Justin Lawrie, who began regularly accompanying the meetings and concerts with his work. That summer, the first borough marriage license was issued for a ceremony that took place on Barnegat Boulevard, and by the time of the August 27th annual meeting of the Beachwood Religious Association, newly elected trustees were “appointed a committee to obtain information regarding a chapel site.”
By the following Sunday services, the last for the season, on September 3rd, 1922, fundraising for the building got underway.
Mr. Butler writes:
“In the midst of the musical program, O. Frederick Rost, chairman of the board of trustees, launched a campaign for a non-sectarian chapel building fund. Subscription cards were distributed to the congregation, the members of which entered into he proposition with true Beachwood spirit, so that before the meeting closed in the neighborhood of $2,000 had been pledged in sums from $1 to $100. Besides this some fifty cards were taken home for consideration, with promises that they would be sent in by mail. Nor was the enthusiasm confined to money subscriptions. One of those present, who wished his name left secret, offered to purchase four lots and donate them for a chapel site; another offered to do the electrical work and supply materials free of charge; still another offered to draw the plans and specifications free of charge. A building contractor offered to erect the chapel, charging only actual cost of labor and materials, and to make no charge for the work of supervision. A special committee was appointed, consisting of Frank O. Price, chairman; George F. Middleton and Mrs. George D. Siffert, to meet with the board of trustees and decide upon plans for the building.”
By the time the borough property owners’ held their annual dinner and dance near their homes at the Hotel Astor in New York City, on February 24th, 1923, Mr. Rost “described the plans that were being formulated for the erection of a community chapel, undenominational in character, which would be ready for use by July.”
Within the late spring 1923 edition of the borough property owners’ association newsletter, the Beachwood Echo, appeared a detailed description of the chapel to be built, which would be “35 feet by 80 feet, and the main auditorium, 35 feet by 60 feet, providing seats for 250 persons. At the south end of the main auditorium was placed the library and reading room, which has a floor level of 2 feet above that of the auditorium.”
And thus was born the Beachwood Library, housed for a number of years as part of the chapel, before a bungalow on Beachwood Boulevard was donated by borough resident Nathan T. Pulsifer, in memory of his late wife.
Still in question, however, was where the chapel would be built. That was solved quickly with the intervention by a member of Beachwood’s founding family.
From Mr. Butler:
“Mr. and Mrs. John W. Baker, of Maplewood, N.J., who own considerable property in Beachwood, donated to the Beachwood Religious Association the triangle bounded by Spring and Compass streets and Club House road, in front of the chapel. Mrs. Baker is the sister of the late B. C. Mayo, founder of Beachwood.”
John J. Nolze, a founding member of the borough fire company and a local builder, won the contract for construction, which began immediately.
By August, it was built.
The first service in the new chapel, held on August 19th, prior to its dedication, saw its services accompanied by a severe lighting storm. Five days later, a “book day” was held by the borough Woman’s Club to furnish the library with books, with over 75 in attendance and a final daily tally of above 350 books collected. Barnegat Boulevard resident Mabel Staton was appointed librarian.
With its official dedication on September 2nd, 1923, the chapel was formally recognized as an operating borough facility and over the following near-century saw numerous religious organizations take it over for services, club meetings and concerts, leading up to Shore Vineyard Church today.