Although I grew up in central New Jersey, I can count the times I’ve been “down the Shore” on my fingers. For one thing, I was (and still am) usually more interested in spending time in New York. Furthermore, I don’t like heat or sun or rowdy crowds, so a trip to my home state’s beaches in the heat of summer has never held much charm for me.
But I learned a few years ago that I really do enjoy beaches in my own way: off season, when the weather is mild and attendance is sparse. My husband and I just spent a weekend in Ocean Grove and Asbury Park. It was my first visit to the area in many years, so I took a few pictures.
Ocean Grove is known for its nineteenth-century architecture, especially its Victorian homes and hotels. This was my first time in Ocean Grove, and I was amazed to see exactly how much of the town’s Victorian architecture has been preserved or restored: block after block, street after street of buildings with tall windows and shady front porches.
The ornamental woodwork or “gingerbread” on many of the buildings delighted me. Some of it was very intricate, like filigree, not to mention incredibly varied—I never saw exactly the same patterning twice.
Much of Ocean Grove‘s character stems from its beginnings as a Methodist camp meeting site in the 1860s. Its history is most evident in the cluster of religious buildings around the town’s central square (like the Bishop Janes Tabernacle, above) and in the Biblical names of the surrounding streets. Ocean Grove’s Camp Meeting Association still prohibits the sale of alcohol within town limits, and the beach is closed on Sunday mornings.
Very different from the Victorian mansions, but just as intriguing, are the rows of “tents” around the central group of religious halls, where longtime congregants live every summer. These rustic-looking shelters continue one of the town’s camp-meeting traditions, and they’re often handed down from generation to generation.
Even the secular entertainments of Ocean Grove’s downtown area feel relaxed and wholesome: it’s not your typical “Jersey Shore” party scene. We couldn’t resist having lunch at a café called “The Starving Artist.”
We followed lunch with ice cream at Nagle’s Apothecary Cafe, an old-fashioned drugstore that has been converted into a restaurant.
I liked this sign in Nagle’s, although it also made me feel sad. Who would have predicted that Kodak would end up as nothing but an old-timey artifact hanging over a restored soda fountain?
Anyway… have I already mentioned all the gingerbread in Ocean Grove?
Back to the beach and the boardwalk! The weather was ideal. And I was thrilled to come across these roses growing on the dunes. They were wonderfully fragrant. I believe their botanical name is rosa rugosa.
Speaking of scent, I was also happy to spy this inscription painted on the front steps of a Victorian house located less than a block from the ocean. Its author, E. H. Stokes, was the first President of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.
“Sun, earth, and air, combining with the dew / Unfold the seeds, then stem, and bud, and bloom. / Exquisite tints, pink, violet, and blue, / Smile in the light, and breathe their rich perfume…”
Next: a day in Asbury Park.
Images: all photographs by Tinsel Creation.