Before there were waterslides and Almond-crusted brie appetizers, Warchelaus R. Pharo, a wealthy entrepreneur from Tuckerton, New Jersey, conceived the part of Long Beach Island now known as Beach Haven (“BH”) in the 1850s, while duck hunting from Bond’s Hotel. He and several wealthy sportsmen from Philadelphia loved the natural setting but craved more tasteful living quarters. Thus, in 1867, Pharo purchased, for $243, 666 acres of undeveloped sand hills, brackish ponds, tidal creeks, and marshes located two and a half miles north of Bond’s. (This area had a navigable creek that could be used to scow in the necessary building materials.) In 1873, Pharo transferred the 666 acres for $6,666.66 to the Tuckerton and Long Beach Building, Land, and Improvement Association. Charles Parry, one of the sportsmen from Bond’s and President of the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, was elected as the first president of the Association.
Development of Beach Haven began in 1874. Fancier hotels were designed to keep women and children happy while men hunted. By 1876, BH would boast the Parry House, the Engleside, the Beach Haven House, and, in 1883, the Baldwin Hotel. By 1890, the town incorporated as the Borough of Beach Haven, the first town to do so on Long Beach Island. William L. Butler was elected the first Mayor.
At this time, most of the island was beach grass or salt marsh, and beach cattle roamed freely during the summer. Bay Avenue didn’t really exist in 1890 south of Fourth Street, as the marshes came right up to where it lies presently. The “Main Street” of BH was Beach Avenue. That’s where the post office, general stores, hotels, and churches stood. In fact, the first U.S. Post Office was in the St. Rita Hotel, and is still standing on Engleside Avenue next to the LBI Museum.
In 1890, there was no city water, no boardwalk, no streetlights, no fire hall, nor police force. There was no electricity, either; kerosene oil lamps were used for lighting. The first streetlights in BH were kerosene. They were filled and lit each evening, and burned until they ran out of oil. Later, the town installed an acetylene gas plant. Gas could be piped to the lights, but someone still had to light each one in the evening and return later to turn them off.
Water came from wells, or from cisterns collecting rainwater from the roofs. Hopefully, a well was not too close to the outhouse. Bigger hotels used windmills to pump water into high tanks for piped plumbing, while small hotels and houses used hand pumps and water pitchers.
Before the coming of the railroad onto LBI, the entire island had a year-round population of only about 40 people. The railroad, built in 1886, made it economically feasible to bring in food and fuel for year-round living. The first school (built in 1884) was on Third Street. It is now the Baptist Church. By this time, there were also a score of sprawling cottages, baymen bungalows, a church, a fire company, a yacht club, a public wharf and several boarding houses. In 1890, the year-round population of BH had grown to a little over 200, and of the entire island only a little over 400.
Before phones, a hotel would hire a boy to send a telegram for you at the train station for today’s equivalent of about $1 per word. The iceman delivered daily, since there were no refrigerators. BH probably didn’t have much ice before 1886 when the trains came. On the island, ice, was cut on Purkey’s pond in Holgate when the winter was cold enough, and stored in icehouses.
The phrase “Six Miles at Sea” was coined in 1906 by Charles Beck (of Beck’s Farm—still standing 11 blocks south of Walsh Field on Liberty Avenue). The actual distance across the Bay is five miles. Travel up and down the island was by catboat on the bay, or by foot/horse along the beach. Travel in BH was by horse-drawn streetcars that ran from the Town Dock and the train station over to the Baldwin and Engleside Hotels, and along Beach Avenue. In 1890, BH had a horse stable south of Walsh field, and a blacksmith a block or two north of Walsh field at the intersection of Bay & Coral. The smith lived on a houseboat drawn into the marshes. There were still only foot or horse paths between the towns until the automobile causeway in 1914.
Men nearly always wore jackets and ties—even on the beach! Hunting was a top activity for island visitors. Hunters regularly shot 50-60 birds daily. What they didn’t eat or keep was sold commercially. Wealthy shore visitors wore several outfits in a day. You dressed for breakfast, changed into walking clothes to walk along the beach, dressed again for lunch, dressed in swimming, riding, sailing, or tennis clothes for the afternoon’s activities; and dressed in more formal clothes for dinner and the evening’s activities, which were usually dancing, card-playing, and music.
Bathing suits were made from itchy wool, and you usually rented them at the bathhouse on the beach. It was unacceptable to be seen in a bathing suit off the beach, and many older women would not wear a bathing suit, even with shirts going below the knee. They simply didn’t go in the water. Men’s bathing suits covered from just above the knee to the neck. Bare chests for men were not accepted until the mid-1930s.
The year-round population of BH today is about 1,100 (with the whole island population standing at about 7,500). November 11, 2015, marks the 125th Anniversary of the incorporation of BH as a Borough. The culminating event will be the rededication ceremony and gala on the November 11thanniversary. Throughout the year, the Borough is collecting items for a time capsule that will be enclosed in the new Borough Municipal Complex. Make sure you join in celebrating Long Beach Island’s “Queen City” during this celebratory year!
Beach Haven Baseball Trivia
WRITTEN BY RON MARR
From the 1890s through 1912, BH had a ball team that played other teams within a 25-50 mile radius. Visiting teams made about $100, win or lose.
The traditional rival for the BH team was Tuckerton. They played twice a year; and before the railroad came to LBI, the teams sailed across the bay for each game.
There was rarely admission for games; a “hat” was passed among spectators to collect admission money. BH was a favored place to play as summer visitors usually meant large pots.
BH had a ball field at Beach Avenue, between Marine and Ocean, on the south side of the old Baldwin Hotel. It was moved in 1912. A new wooden stadium was built in 1926 on the present playing field and named Walsh Field; it was painted bright green, was fenced, had locker rooms and public bathrooms, and the seats were covered. It cost $9,646.
The infield of the ball fields was usually graveled because the sand was too soft and grass wouldn’t grow.
In 1925, BH went 21 for 24 and were Ocean County Champions.
After the first automobile causeway was opened in June, 1914, BH played over most of South Jersey from Mount Holly to Pleasantville.
The most famous local baseball player was Roger “Doc” Cramer, who was discovered by Connie Mack and played for the Philadelphia “A”s in 1928.