Building Beachwood, Part One
Posted by beachwoodhistoricalalliance on February 10, 2012
Today we begin the first in a running series on how Beachwood was built. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the period beginning at the start of the New York Tribune’s land promotion attempt in 1912 up through the original club buildings’ completion in time for opening day, 1915.
This period was chosen to accommodate the incredibly large amount of information found between the archives at the New York Public Library, microfilm records in the Ocean County Library, and court papers related to the promotion that produced a mountain of information through testimony.
Referenced within this series will be articles from the New York Tribune, the New Jersey Courier, and the Ocean County Review as well as William Mill Butler’s Beachwood Directory and Who’s Who 1924, reprinted in 2005 by Carolyn Campbell and the Ocean County Historical Society, 1916 court testimony made during hearings before the judiciary committee to investigate U.S. District Attorney H. Snowden Marshall and other varied sources.
The information used to build this series represents our the most current known information; as we continue to research more may become known that could alter or enhance our knowledge and a future edition of this account will be present in the Beachwood Centennial book, due later this decade.
It is our goal that after the series is complete you have a very clear picture of how the tract of land that became Beachwood was acquired, designed, and built upon by the New York Tribune in anticipation of the thousands of residents that would come to plant their bungalows along its streets.
Any discussion of Beachwood would be incomplete without first looking at the two men who made it possible: Bertram Chapman Mayo and Addison Doane Nickerson.
Bertram Chapman Mayo was born in the last month of the Civil War, March 23rd, 1865, near Boston’s Old North Church, itself famous for displaying the lanterns that alerted Paul Revere of the path the British took to the fateful first battle of the American Revolution, Lexington and Concord, less than a hundred years earlier. The oldest of Noah Mayo, a fish trader on the Boston wharves, and his wife Evaline, Bertram’s home life included the upper middle class culture comfort of employing a regular, live-in servant to help his mother keep house and tend Bertram and two sisters, Daisy and Blanche, who came later. It was here, in his youth, that a series of cherished experiences in the form of regular family holidays to seaside resorts via the trolley system later became the basis for his future pursuit of success.
Addison Doane Nickerson was born two years after his future business partner, on December 12, 1867, in Harwich, Massachusetts, located at the far end of Cape Cod. The son of Thomas Nickerson and his wife, Eglentine, Addison, like Mayo, had a home life centered around the shore. His father, having grown up as the latest in a long line of sailors, earned the title master mariner when Addison was less than a year old. It would be the profession he followed all through Addison’s upbringing and those of his three other children – Thomas, Ambrose and Eglantine – of which Addison was the oldest.
It isn’t clearly stated where Mayo and Nickerson first met, but we can assume with almost certainty that it was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was here that Mayo, according to Butler’s 1924 biography of him, “gave up a contemplated course” in order to pursue a career in the wholesale clothing business, while Nickerson went on to graduate in 1888 with a thesis titled, “A Study of the Question of a Tunnel in East Boston.”
A competitive streak that appeared to run strong in Mayo, causing him to leave M.I.T., apparently also made him restless.
Quickly bored of the clothing world, he next gravitated west to become general manager for a San Francisco-area newspaper that first published and instituted an immediate emergency aid center following the devastating earthquake of 1906. At that paper, the Oakland Enquirer, he established a newspaper premium of a candy giveaway that would quickly snowball into his ultimate career path of land giveaways and community building starting in the redwoods of Northern California called Cazadero Woods, and further progressing to a canyon section of Los Angeles called Beverly Glen that would later be absorbed by that city’s rapid growth later in the century and become part of Beverly Hills.
During these promotions he brought his young son, Geoffrey, on board to help run the whole operation. Moving northeast toward Chicago, he honed and improved his idea for a resort in Michigan called Lakewood Club, which would for the first time incorporate a small reminder of home: a lake for sailing, fishing and swimming.
Nickerson, meanwhile, had settled into the life of a civil engineer, and by 1910 was living in the Hudson River town of Ulster, New York, with his wife, Mary Lillian, and their two sons, Holland and Robert. Two or three years later, a meeting in California between Nickerson and Mayo would change all that.
Almost before he was finished in Michigan, Mayo was already moving on, this time searching for a spot along the Atlantic coast that better reminded him of his family holidays at his childhood seaside resorts.
Lucky for us, he found it on the southern bank of the Toms River at the edge of a pristine pine forest crisscrossed by the Pennsylvania and Jersey Central railroads and cut through by a state highway between New York and Atlantic City. Contacting Nickerson and reminding him of their California meeting, it was decided that Nickerson would head up the planning and construction of the new resort, to be called Beachwood (and sometimes referred to as Beachwood Club or Beachwood-in-the-Pines), while Mayo and his son would run things out of his new position and office within the New York Tribune building in New York.
Besides facing similar challenges in this new project as the previous three, an added pressure came in the form of an investigation spearheaded by a reporter of a competing New York daily newspaper, William Randolph Hearst’s New York American. Even while Mayo and Nickerson were busy setting up what would become the most successful paper-backed community in Mayo’s career, the competition was equally busy building a federal case against the two that could halt construction of the new resort and imprison its two managers, destroying their lives and careers.
But first, let’s take a look back at the history of the land that would later become Beachwood.
In Pine Beach Yesterdays, a publication issued by the borough of Pine Beach to celebrate its 50th anniversary of incorporation as a borough in 1975, author Stanley Heatley recounts activity along the Beachwood tract in the mid-nineteenth century:
“A mule-powered railway was built to haul charcoal from the hinterlands to a loading pier on the south shore of the Toms River where coasting vessels took on cargo for Philadelphia and New York. The industry died at the end of the century and the rotted piles or spiles, all that remained of the once busy pier, gave rise to the name of “The Spiles”, present-day Beachwood.
“In colonial times, charcoal was the fuel used to fire many bog-iron blast furnaces. Its use continued for many years until the production of iron in our area succumbed to the competition of Pennsylvania. That charcoaling was a long ago in Pine Beach was brought to light in 1954 when ground was cleared for the Pine Beach School playground. Some mothers may still remember their children coming home from school, before the playground was completed, with clothing and shoes black from old charcoal pits.”
Sometime after that, we can find evidence of the Beachwood waterfront area being popular among local residents primarily from Toms River, who used the undeveloped shore for cool recreation on hot summer days. This led to a tragic account on one such afternoon, June 20th, 1911, when eleven-year old Toms River resident Ella Cranmer drowned while bathing with friends at Spiles Point.
Following the cessation of shipping activity (due in large part to the closing of the Cranberry Inlet, where Ortley Beach stands today) and the turn of the century, according to Marshall hearing testimony, the land that would become Beachwood was involved in a real estate scandal where it had been sold by a company called the Pittsburgh Company to a number of Pennsylvania residents in pieces, and was to be called Hobart City, named after New Jersey native Garret Hobart, who died in late 1899 while in office as Vice President of the United States under President William McKinley.
It has also been stated from different sources that part of the land was set aside for a cemetery, but that the land was then too remote for such a use.
At some later date, the Pennsylvanian owners contracted a man named Reece Carpenter, and the Pine Bay Hotel, Land and Improvement Company was formed to replace the Pittsburgh Company, with Carpenter as company owner and the Pennsylvania residents as shareholders.
At this point everything gets even more incredibly convoluted, with Carpenter turning over to his wife a claim of $79,896 against the Pine Bay Company and a relative of his wife’s bringing suit against the Pine Bay Company for $79,000, then changed hands to an Ernest F. Griffith for $4,750 until a previous owner, Henry L. Hall, of Pittsburgh, holding an old mortgage for $8,000 turned up and everything was forced into a foreclosure and sheriff’s sale for the amount of $4,750 plus the $80,000 claims against it.
In mid-1912, at the center of these land disputes, Reece Carpenter’s son, O.T. Carpenter, said that his father got a letter from B.C. Mayo asking if he would sell the land directly to Mayo and at what cost. The elder Carpenter never responded nor took any action to sell the land to Mayo, and eventually Mayo sent a man named M. Edgar Smith to approach him about it. Through negotiations between Carpenter and the Mayo/Smith team, an amount of $75,000 was agreed upon for the sale, but not before the contract was altered with a number of exceptions and changed several times. Three days after the contract was finalized, Reece Carpenter died, his wife left the house the day after the funeral with various letters and papers related to the land, and Mayo and the Tribune couldn’t get a bank to issue a policy as the original ownership by the Pennsylvanian shareholders hadn’t been part of the agreement, and everything was up in the air until Henry Hall surfaced with the old mortgage and a sheriff’s sale was held.
Finally, in February 1914, Addison Nickerson gained ownership to the property for the amount of $90,000.
The race to carve Beachwood out of the primitive scrub pine forest in time for a 1915 gala Decoration Day weekend opening was on.
Read about the early features of the Beachwood tract, A.D. Nickerson’s efforts to cut a resort community from the rough terrain, and the beginning of the Hearst-influenced investigations into Mayo, Nickerson and the Tribune by the federal government in the next edition of the Building Beachwood series.