Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Boulevard, on a quaint residential street towards the Southern end of Long Beach Island, is a house of sorts that really isn’t a “home” at all. This place may seem a little rough around the edges, where beers flow on tap for $3 a pop and good old-fashioned “Bar Olympics” games like a 22-foot 1950s wooden shuffleboard table, dart board, pinball machine and pool table, as well as a vintage jukebox, are the main attractions. It’s located in North Beach Haven, and the sticklers will point out that it’s technically Long Beach Township—but the die-hard locals will, to this day, look you straight in the eyes and simply deny its existence all together.
The Hudson House is a no-frills, local bar in every sense—by locals and for locals. Endearingly referred to as the HUD, it’s the place to go to when eluding the summer crowds herding together at nightlife hotspots on the island. It’s an almost-always-open, hang-out-at type of destination to just have a beer and take it easy with friends. A diamond in the rough, offering drinks and dive bar entertainment (forget about the promotions and food offered at other, mainstream locations on the island). And as predictable as the tide and the moon, most people telling a story about an unforgettable night on LBI begin it with their eyes opened wide, a grin on their face and the opening line of, “Remember that night at The Hud…”
Remarkably, the Hudson House is among the oldest buildings in existence on Long Beach Island. In the 1880s the Englishman and real estate developer William Hewitt, who was instrumental in bringing in the island’s first railroad, attempted to build a resort community within this untouched area of present-day Long Beach Township to contend with the success of Beach Haven’s tourism boom. He named the development Waverly Beach and in 1882 built a three-story hotel and called it the Hotel Waverly (also interchangeably referred to as the Waverly House and the Waverly Inn throughout the years) which offered bed and breakfast-style lodging accommodations. Ross Felten, present-day owner of this building which has remained virtually intact in its original state (with a few minor upgrades here and there), shares that as far as he knows, the Hotel Waverly received first-ever liquor license issued on Long Beach Island in the early 1900s.
Casey Sherman, who tends bar at the HUD, reminisces about the anecdotal stories he has heard from veteran Hudson House patrons throughout the years. “There are old timers who with certainty declare that the speakeasy-era was rum-run by the mob, because when shipments of contraband were mysteriously “lost at sea,” rumor has it that so were the men who were responsible for delivering the smuggled goods to the gangsters,” he shares. According to Mr. Lloyd’s historical research, the New York Sicilian Mafia was the biggest organization behind the rum-running business on Long Beach Island, and since the Beach Haven area was where highly sought after imported Scotch could be obtained “fresh off the boat,” it only added to the wild popularity of that resort community during the time of prohibition— quite the allure for big wigs and celebrities of the time who didn’t want to head to Atlantic City for real, imported alcohol as opposed to homemade moonshine.
Depending on who you ask, the stories about the Hudson House’s history are endless, so much so that a times one can’t seem to discern fact from fiction. It is said that during its glory days, the Waverly House was also a prosperous bordello, which seems to fall in line with its early owners being charged with serving women. Lore also surrounds the origin of the burrow in the wall behind where the pinball machine is now situated— the tiny passageway is said to once be used to smuggle drinks out to African Americans who weren’t allowed to be served inside of the establishment. Urban legend is that a man was actually born inside of that bar, and another was murdered there.
The harrowing tale of life and death at the Hudson House may be only one page of the storybook of its otherwise nostalgic existence, but it remains a piece of history to share nonetheless. The son of then owner Amos Crosta was actually born there (as may have been the case with the rest of his children as well), so that is indeed true, but unfortunately the murder that is mysteriously rumored to have occurred on premises is also valid. The murder victim was in fact the owner of the Waverly Inn himself, Mr. Amos Crosta. Police reports dating back to 1932 confirm that it was his 15-year old daughter, Pauline, who shot him with a shotgun after a domestic dispute, which was ruled as self-defense due to frightening threats towards his children and severe abuse of his wife that spine-chilling, alcohol-induced evening. As far as sources at the LBI Historical Association know, his daughter was never prosecuted, and Mr. Crosta actually passed away at the Paul Kimball Hospital in Lakewood, NJ (now known as the Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus, an affiliate of the RWJBarnabas Health system.
Shortly thereafter in 1932, the Waverly Hotel was sold to a new owner, the buyer, Bill Reese, hailing from Jersey City, New Jersey. Understandably he decided to rename the building, and, in homage to the county he was from—Hudson County— he settled on the Hudson House. The Hudson House was granted the fifth liquor license offered by Long Beach Township after prohibition was officially terminated in 1933, and to this day, as the liquor license is passed down from owner to owner in its original form, the Hudson House is the only institution on the island grandfathered into the original law permitting it to stay open until 6:00am every year on New Year’s Eve.
In the late 60s the HUD, the old Acme Bar and Le Garage Discotheque were the places to be. As the trifecta of nightlife on LBI, fond memories of each one of these establishments don’t seem to subsist too far away from the other. But the HUD was still an urban legend to shoobies—before the times of smartphones, GPS, Yelp, and Foursquare, the only way anyone found the Hudson House was if a local brought you there. And boy did the locals have fun with this upper hand, sending tourists all over the island in search of the mythical HUD, sometimes sending prospects all the way North to the Barnegat Lighthouse. In its heyday, the unwritten rules seemed to parallel those of cult-classic Fight Club, the first rule being you do not talk about it. And the second rule being YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT.
All in all, it’s a neighborhood institution and at the core of it, that is why the Hudson House maintains its position at the top of all the must-visit bar lists for Ocean County, year after year. Even the local residents have fond memories of watching well-oiled regulars try to bike home after a few drinks at the HUD, or conversely count how many tipsy patrons late at night would walk into the telephone poles set right across from the bar’s doors. The old-timers go in for their shot of Harbour Light, local surfers buzz that it’s the only bar in the area that serves the Costa Rican beer Imperial, and the vast majority of others can’t seem to resist a $3 Miller Lite and $4 Yuengling on tap. As patrons, we may age, but the HUD never changes. Aside from a few pieces of fresh duct tape and a new TV or two, the antique, rustic pine décor and the warm, fuzzy feelings when the old juke box plays a classic tune will always keep us coming back for more. As many exclaim about the last, true shore bar on the coast, Long Live the HUD!