If you drive from one end of Long Beach Island to the other you will travel through twenty-two different towns. Until the 1860s LBI was generally known as Long Beach and controlled by the towns of Eagleswood, Stafford, and Barnegat on the mainland. Early communities on the island were small with names like Brownsville, Mansion of Health, Arlington Beach, High Point, and Long Beach City. These towns derived their names from a variety of sources including their proximity to a landmark, a train station, a nearby hotel, a landowner, or simply a mispronunciation of words. The success of Beach Haven as a seaside resort and the expansion of railroad service onto the island spurred a building boom on LBI. As these small communities grew and new ones developed, their names evolved into those we know today.
Long Beach Township
In 1899 Long Beach Township was formed as a way to organize the small towns of the island. Today Long Beach Township incorporates seventeen of the current twenty-two towns. Surf City, Harvey Cedars, and Beach Haven were already incorporated in 1899 when Long Beach Township was formed. Barnegat Light and Ship Bottom would follow later.
Early LBI Destination
In the early 1900s James Holgate purchased the land south of Beach Haven to the southern tip of the island which became named for him, Holgate The area had long been popular with sportsmen back to the 1820s and was the site of the infamous Long Beach House, and later, the Bond Hotel, where ambitious, wealthy businessmen and their families vacationed. Thomas Bond owned and operated the hotel, as well as the U.S. Life Saving Station located there. James Holgate knew Thomas Bond well and cared for him in his later years. The area was commonly recognized as Bond’s Hotel. Other names associated with Holgate over the years include Venice Beach, Beach Haven Heights, and Silver Sands. Today, a large portion of Holgate is part of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Beach Haven and Barnegat Light could be considered Long Beach Island’s first resort towns. With their beachfront hotels, natural beauty, and abundant resources, both towns attracted visitors and outdoorsmen as early as the Victorian era.
Beach Haven, incorporated in 1890, is one of the few towns on the island whose name is not derived from a prominent resident or a distinguished landmark. The town’s climate was notable for the absence of the pollens plaguing those living on the mainland, as well as the cool breezes in the summer. The daughter of Archelaus Pharo, one of the founders of Beach Haven, is believed to be the originator of its name calling it Beach Heaven. With the great success of this early seaside resort, the name has never changed.
If you travel far enough north on Long Beach Island, you’ll eventually make it to Barnegat Light. Incorporated in 1904, the town was initially known as Barnegat City; a name taken from the inlet the early Dutch explorers called, Bar-ende-gat. However, prior to that time John M. Brown, had purchased the land from the Inlet to Loveladies, and ran a hotel, the Ashley House. For many years this community was known as Brownsville. Brown suffered a family tragedy and eventually moved away leading the community to re-name their town, Barnegat City. Using the word city” was a popular option capitalizing on the success of Atlantic City. The name, Barnegat City, lasted until 1946. In an effort to distinguish itself from the town of Barnegat across the bay on the mainland, the name was changed to Barnegat Light, a reference to the island’s most iconic landmark, the Barnegat Lighthouse.
The First Railroad Station on LBI
The town of Ship Bottom welcomes visitors to Long Beach Island. This name came about through an unverifiable, but enduring story of a shipwreck in 1817. As it’s told, a schooner was lost during a storm off of LBI. As rescuers felt they had arrived too late to save anyone, a knock was heard from inside the sunken hull. A young woman was still alive and brought to the shore. As she did not speak English, she drew the sign of the cross in the sand. The name Ship Bottom was given then and there. In 1876, the Tuckerton railroad connected to LBI via a trestle from Manahawkin to Ship Bottom. However, the train station was named Arlington Beach, after one of the small developments that had grown over the years near the U.S. Life Saving Station #20. Thus from 1892 to 1947, even after its incorporation in 1925, the town was called Ship Bottom-Beach Arlington. Some residents say that the post office made the final decision to drop Beach Arlington from the longer hyphenated name. Other names associated with Ship Bottom include Bonnie Beach, Bonnet Beach, and Edgewater Beach.
Surf City to High Bar Harbor
Moving northward from Ship Bottom, the island was defined by what was known as the Great Swamp. Along the southern edge of the Great Swamp the Mansion of Health, a grand hotel, was built in 1821. For some time, the area around the hotel was known as Buzby’s Place, named after one of the Mansion’s owners. The hotel burned down in 1874, and the residents of what was also called Old Mansion, desired their own identity. The name Long Beach City was selected in 1875; however, the name became cumbersome when confused with Long Branch. The name Surf City was selected in 1894 when it was officially incorporated. The Surf City Hotel, one of the oldest buildings on LBI, was erected on the site of the Old Mansion, however it was later moved across the street for closer proximity to the Surf City Train Station. The cove located along the bay on 1st Street is often referred to as Mansion Cove.
Beyond the Great Swamp, LBI was notable for forests of cedar and oak trees. For those who enjoy folklore, a man named Harvey who lived in either a cave, or in a shack below a cedar grove, gave his name to the town, Harvey Cedars. In reality there was no “Harvey.” The residents on this part of the island worked harvesting salt hay and eel grass. A grove of cedar trees that provided relief from the summer heat was known as Harvest Quarters. From there with a little bit of name mixing, Harvey Cedars came about and was incorporated in 1894. Another nearby community called High Point, boasted its own railroad stop, however, combined with Harvey Cedars in the 1930s. The firehouse in Harvey Cedars still carries the name, High Point Volunteer
Fire Company #51.
Loveladies was originally named after a prominent resident, Thomas Lovelady. Lovelady was a sportsman who lived on an island close by in the bay. In the 1870s the US Life Saving Station #114, was named Lovelady’s Lovelady’s Island Life Saving Station, later becoming the Lovelady’s Coast Guard Station. During World War II the area took the name Long Beach Park. As expected confusion ensued with other communities using the name Long Beach, and in 1952 the official name returned to Loveladies.
One of the last areas on LBI to be named was North Beach. The town came about in 1949 as a result of land development. Some maps may still list Frazier’s Park, as Daniel Frazier purchased the original tract in 1911.
A little farther up, west of Barnegat Light, is the town of High Bar Harbor. Originally High Bar Harbor was a small island off the bayside of LBI near Barnegat Inlet, and home to the High Bar Gunning Club. In 1943 the Army Corps of Engineers built a sand dike in the area to reduce erosion from the tidal flow of water in and out of Barnegat Inlet. As a result a sand bridge developed connecting the island of High Bar to Barnegat Light (now 20th Street). In 1953 this new extension of LBI became a residential development and given the official name High Bar Harbor.
Expanding Beach Haven
Beach Haven Crest, Beach Haven Park, Beach Haven Terrace, Beach Haven Gardens, and Haven Beach. As Beach Haven’s popularity grew, wealthy businessmen seized the opportunity to purchase tracts of land northward and start their own residential developments. Creating names that sounded like, or used the name Beach Haven, was a strategic attempt to attract new visitors and investors. Some names of each town reflected an already established business - another opportunity to market the developments. Beach Haven Crest mirrored the Crest Fishery, Beach Haven Terrace grew around a railroad station and the US Life Saving Station #117, or Long Beach Station, and North Beach Haven was created around the Waverly Hotel. Some other names of towns with stories include Brant Beach, named for the Brant Geese that populated the bayside, and Peahala Park, which was named for the exclusive Peahala Gun Club. In 1899 Spray Beach was developed in an area called Cranberry Hill. The daughter of its developer, William Ringgold, named the town Spray Beach after walking along the ocean during a storm. Looking south from Beach Haven you will find Beach Haven Inlet, Beach Haven Heights, and South Beach Haven - all considered part of Holgate.
Learning about how the names of LBI’s twenty-two towns evolved, comes with a dose of island history. Although the current names have been in place for many years, you have to wonder what the maps will show in the next 100 years.