A Town is Born

The following sections are reproduced from Grace Trott Roper‘s historical retrospective on how the Borough of Belmar came to be. The original booklet is © Copyright 1978 by Grace Trott Roper, Belmar, NJ and was printed by Hoffman Press, Belmar, NJ.

Duplication or reproduction is not permitted

 

In 1872 a group of twenty-five men decided they would like a summer community of their own. They chose the southern shore of Shark River because of its cool ocean breezes, good fishing and the type of isolation that would keep its original charm.

Early in the year Mr. Abram Bitner Jr. was appointed purchasing agent for the new group. He first bought fifty-eight acres of land from various men who had settled and whose locations do not appear on early maps.

The twenty-five original members grew so rapidly to the forty-one who bought the first sixty shares of stock at $500 each, that their names have since been lost.

The first agreement which led to the organization of the Ocean Beach Association was dated August 31st, 1872 by forty-one persons. The town was then “Ocean Beach.”

Most of the land had been purchased and was held under articles of agreement and covered an area of 3937 6/100 acres. It cost $101,508.70. The greater portion of the land had been occupied since 1701 when it was deeded to William West and Robert Drummond by the Board of Proprietors of Eastern Division of New Jersey. The first distribution of land was made April 29th, 1873 to the original shareholders who paid $30,000 into the treasury for 161 lots.

The second distribution was made August 17th, 1874, also to the shareholders who paid an additional $30,000 for 166 lots. This constituted the capital stock of the corporation.

By an Act of The New Jersey Legislature the Association was incorporated on March 13th, 1873.

Ocean Beach, now Belmar, was originally laid out on a very liberal scale with a great regard for the health and comfort of those who occupied it during the summer months. The twelve main streets had this peculiar feature, each one begins at the Ocean and ends at Shark River.

In September of 1872, Abram Bitner Jr. bought among other properties the farm houses of Stephen Bennett, John Brown and Isaac Newman but allowed Peter White to occupy his homestead until his death in 1884. All these farms were set back on the Manasquan Road now “F” street. The Peter White house still stands at 703 7th avenue and was in the White family since 1800. The house was a regular stop for the circuit riding of Bishop Asbury.

The John Brown house is also still standing at 504 13th avenue. It was moved from Adelphia by oxen and flat boat down Shark River in 1840.

One of the Newman farmhouses, a little one story house, built about 1819 stands in the rear of 500 11th avenue at the corner of “D” street.

The Stephen Bennett homestead built in 1829 stood at the corner of “D” street. It burned in 1907.

With only these few houses to consider, the Ocean Beach Association found it simple to plan and lay out its community. They built a bridge across Shark River and the Manasquan Road. This was a sandy, heavily wooded lonely passage, which had a toll turnpike with a white gate just north of Shark River (In Avon). An old lady came out to collect the ten cents per horse and carriage before she would open the gate. A similar gate stood berween Ocean Beach and what is now Spring lake.

Strawberry Hill a Map of 1873 for Ocean Beach shows Strawberry Hill as the land vicinity of 12th avenue between Shark River and the Railroad.

Yards addition was the area of 12th thru 16th avenue and 15th avenue east of “F” street to “H” street. This tract still marks part of the South West boundary along 16th avenue and Shark River and is the line between Belmar and the extensions of Rhode Island Point.