Taking a Tour of Beach Haven With Jeanette Lloyd

Jul 18, 2018
Photo by: Pat Johnson Beach Haven historian Jeanette Lloyd (right) gives the commentary assisted by Rose Mary Stabile (left), who held up photos of Beach Haven in the 1800s.

Beach Haven historian Jeanette Lloyd is the number one defender of Beach Haven’s historic district, a place where homes built largely in the 19th century are lovingly restored. The district encompasses 30 square blocks, from Fifth Street to Chatsworth Avenue east of Bay Avenue, and includes most of the important structures that tell the romantic story of the Queen City.

In front of the Long Beach Island Historical Museum on July 11, Lloyd met a vanload of strangers interested in learning about her town. These tourists had plunked down a mere $25 to ride a circuitous route from Engelside Avenue to Bay Avenue, south to Berkeley and West avenues, back to Bay and north to Dolphin, up to Atlantic Avenue and across to Beach Avenue, an hour and a half in air-conditioned comfort.

As the wife of the late John Bailey Lloyd, who wrote three historical books about Beach Haven, and as a founding member of the LBI Historical Association, Lloyd is eminently qualified to lead the tour. She was assisted by LBI Museum volunteer and friend Rose Mary Stabile, who at various points along the route held oversized photos of 19th-century Beach Haven for comparison to today’s scenic town.

As proof that historic districts do much to stabilize and preserve history, many of the houses Lloyd pointed out are in as good a shape if not better than when they were occupied by Victorian shore dwellers and tourists. And new construction is required to conform to the look of the district.

As everyone settled into their seats, Lloyd began at the very spot we were parked. The museum looks a lot like a church, which is no surprise; it was the original Church of the Holy Innocents’ Episcopal, built in 1882, just shy of the year anniversary of a fire that destroyed the Parry House, a hotel that could accommodate 330 guests.

Mrs. Martha Parry funded and built the church in gratitude that no one was injured in the August 1881 fire. She named it for the innocents who were spared a fiery death, explained Lloyd. The LBI Historical Association bought the church in 1976 to serve as its home base and a museum.

The Parry House was built in 1874 between Marine and Pearl streets when boat, horses and oxen were the only means of transportation. The building materials were brought from the mainland by boat and then dragged to the site by oxen. Robert Engel served as the manager of the Parry House for two years until he was able to build his own hotel, The Engleside, in 1876, two blocks north of the Parry House. “It was started in February and opened in June,” said Lloyd. “Can you imagine that today? But there was no electricity or plumbing to hold them up.”

After the fire in 1881 destroyed the Parry House, the same investors built the Baldwin Hotel on the same spot in 1883.

Lloyd explained the main difference between the two hotels was Quakers owned the Engleside, which was family oriented with no smoking, drinking or cursing allowed while the Baldwin had a bar and drew a rowdier crowd.

“N.C. Wyeth, the famous painter, vacationed at the Baldwin and later bought a house on Amber Street. The most famous vacationer was Jay Cooke, the man who financed the Union side in the Civil War.

“In the 1940s, the Baldwin ran into financial trouble and owed $15,000 in back taxes to Beach Haven. In 1943 it was dismantled, and an auction was held for local carpenters, who were able to purchase and reuse the windows, doors and lumber. So it was all recycled, unlike what they do today.”

As we slowly drifted down Engleside Avenue, Lloyd said the Surflight Theatre was built on the site of Cox’s Store. The Cox brothers owned much of West Creek on the mainland, and at one time, before it was called Beach Haven, this part of Long Beach Island was part of Eagleswood Township. This was when it was mostly vacant and farmers would bring their cattle over to graze in the summer.

Cox’s Store had built the biggest icehouse on the Island and also made blueberry pies. The store was badly damaged in the Hurricane of 1944.

Lloyd pointed out the backyards of many of the cottages we passed. “In the winter, I like to look in the backyards. You’ll see smaller cottages because that’s where the owners would move to in the summer while they rented out their big house.”

We turned onto Bay Avenue, and Lloyd let us know that today’s very busy street was not developed much until the 1950s, when it was filled for building lots by a member of the Osborn family.

“In the old days, it was a gravel road, and to the west was all meadows and muskrat ponds.”

In 1915, though, a Philadelphia restaurant owner, Frederic Ostendorff, built a two-story garage with room for 200 cars. “It had a hydraulic lift, and because there were many horses in Beach Haven, the blacksmith was upstairs. They would put a cloth over the horse’s head and bring it up on the lift, shoe it and put it back on the lift,” said Lloyd. “In the winter the pound fishermen would bring their boats in to work on them as the building was steam-heated. The high school kids would play basketball.

“The black chauffeurs used to congregate in their uniforms and chit chat.” A little known fact that reminds us of how things used to be for those of African American descent, “You know, we (Beach Haven) had our own ‘black beach’ for the hotel workers; it was between Amber and Coral, and the people were not allowed to go to it until 4 p.m.”

On the other hand, there was a black bar in the Ocean House, where whites would clamor to get in because it was usually more fun, said Lloyd.

Ostendorff’s Garage was torn down in 1964, and some of the houses made use of the bricks.

In 1926, Walsh baseball field was developed next to the garage. “It had a grandstand painted green, and showers and bathrooms underneath it for the players. It was torn down in 1940.”

In answer to a question, Lloyd said Babe Ruth never played on the field, but he did drink in the Acme Hotel.

Now as we had turned down Berkeley Avenue, we passed by the Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club, which looks almost the same as it did in 1916 when it was opened. The Corinthian Yacht Club was already established, but it was for hunting and fishing, so the rich folks needed their own club dedicated to sailing.

Next we passed the Beck Farm on Liberty Avenue, a sore spot for Lloyd because it is located outside the historic district and could not be saved in its former grandeur. However, the original house has been saved by one of the five heirs to the historic parcel and is being refurbished almost to the original, but on far less land.

It was built in 1874 by architect Thomas Sherborne on 10 acres of land and operated as a farm even when Charles W. Beck purchased it in 1910. Beck was an engraver in Philadelphia and perfected the four-color printing process. When living in Nearsea Cottage, he started the first newspaper in Beach Haven, The Breeze. His grandson Charles Edgar Nash and his sister Betty delivered the paper (later renamed The Sea Breeze) to the Baldwin and Engleside hotels.

Coral Street was the street where the rich Baldwin Locomotive executives would vacation in three houses owned by the Baldwin Hotel, said Lloyd, and Pearl Street was where the rich Pennsylvania Railroad people lived.

The house with twin chimneys known as the Portia Cottage was built in 1882 by Charles Parry. The John Crozer House on Amber Street was owned by a cotton mill tycoon from Chester, Pa. “He owned the Rolls Royce of catboats, a (Nat) Herreshoff. If most catboats cost around $700 to build, this one was $5,000. It’s said that no one would race him.”

Talking about Beach Haven is impossible without mentioning Archelaus Pharo, the man who in 1871 bought up the 666 acres of what is now Beach Haven, then built the Tuckerton Railroad in 1871 with connections to Philadelphia. Aboard the steamship Barkley, he brought wealthy Philadelphia tourists across the bay to his resort. His daughters chose the name Beach Heaven, later changed to “Haven” for more class.

His “cottage” on Second Street, built in 1874, and that of his daughter Louisa Pharo Ashhurst, built in 1878, are still standing and kept in beautiful condition. The Archelaus Pharo House is still owned by his descendants, who are in the middle of some repairs, said Lloyd.

Just a fun note: Although these “cottages” can sleep nine or more people, they were called cottages by the wealthy who had their year-round homes in Philadelphia.

There is plenty more history afoot in Beach Haven, and just walking the streets of the historic district is enough to brighten a dreary day.

The Long Beach Island Historical Society gives walking tours on Tuesday and Friday mornings at 10, and another van tour with Jeanette Lloyd is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 15, from 10 a.m. to noon. Reserve your spot soon by calling 609-492-0700.

— Pat Johnson





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