During our recent weekend “down the Shore,” my husband and I stayed at a bed-and-breakfast in Ocean Grove, but we also spent time in adjacent Asbury Park. Asbury Park is by far the better known of the two towns, famous for its boardwalk amusements and its longtime association with Bruce Springsteen. Like Ocean Grove, it has also made something of a comeback in the past quarter-century.
The one time I visited Asbury Park with my family, at the age of eight or so, I was impressed by the colorful edifices of the boardwalk’s older architecture, including the Convention Hall (both photos above). Returning last weekend, I noticed that my husband and I were not the only black-clad day-trippers taking photographs of the Hall’s beach-Deco ornamentation.
I felt an unexpected rush of Jersey pride when I looked around at the Asbury Park boardwalk’s slow but steady renewal. It may have fallen on hard times in the 1970s and 1980s (and most of the 90s), but a few Shore loyalists are bringing attention back to Asbury Park’s past.
The Asbury Park Historical Society has managed to save and repair a few colorful artifacts like this antique calliope, which is now displayed within a nearby indoor market.
One of Asbury’s best-known diversions was the Palace Amusements complex, which stood along the boardwalk from 1888 until its demolition in 1986. (You can visit this website dedicated to its history.) I have vivid memories of my one childhood visit to Palace Amusements. All that remains is a portion of the Casino building, which dates back to the 1920s. When I was last there, it contained a fun house, bumper cars, and arcade games. Now I felt like a ghost visiting its ruins.
Local preservationists have also rescued this 1950s-60s photo booth that once stood in Palace Amusements. I love its combination of old-timey illustration with a space-age logo.
Asbury Park’s unofficial mascot is “Tillie,” the giant painted face that used to grin down from the exterior of Palace Amusements. His likeness appears on plenty of Asbury souvenirs, including these soaps.
Most of the souvenirs sold along the Asbury Park boardwalk a) are junk and b) have nothing to do with the Shore. One happy exception is Laplaca Potteryworks. The owner-potter is local and all his wares are handmade. (This is where I also spotted the Jersey soaps.)
Just steps from the boardwalk stands the legendary Stone Pony. (There’s probably a city ordinance requiring everyone to use the word “legendary” in front of the name “Stone Pony.”) I don’t know how often Springsteen still stops by, but this bar definitely hasn’t let fame go to its head.
Another nearby stop is the Wonder Bar, where “Tillie” appears in a case full of rock-related memorabilia. (We had a beer here.)
I sang along with this mural painted on the side of an abandoned (?) building. It features an image of the Palace Amusements complex and the Asbury Park Power Plant paired with lyrics from Cole Porter’s classic tune “At Long Last Love.”
“Is it for all time, or simply a lark? / Is it Granada I see, or Asbury Park?”
From the boardwalk, it’s just a few steps down to the sand and the sea. We walked to the end of one of the jetties and watched the tide foaming against the rocks.
Images: all photos by Tinsel Creation.