By Lori Draz
The drive along Ocean Avenue from Deal through Long Branch is full of head-turning homes and spectacular ocean views. As grand as these homes are, the history of the area is even grander. Built during the economically explosive gilded age, these summer homes, humbly referred to as cottages, attracted presidents, industrialists, government officials, and celebrities, all who came to bask in the Jersey Shore sun.
Among them was a private residence that would go on to become the Ocean Beach Club. It’s almost easy to drive by the location. As a private club, there is no standout signage announcing it, though it is easy to see the green and white silhouette, located at 1035 Ocean Avenue. Built in 1881, the summer Victorian home was a private residence until 1921, when it was acquired by the Ocean Beach Club, which had been established in a smaller location in 1906. The property had been adjacent to the club.
The home had some extraordinary neighbors. Ulysses S. Grant was the neighbor to the north. Solomon Guggenheim, one of the seven Guggenheim brothers who resided in the area, lived in the home to south. Though since vanished from the landscape, Guggenheim’s “humble” cottage had a six-story tower that could be seen for miles. Across the street was the home of Tom Murphy, the Collector of the Port of New York. He sold a plot of land at the corner of Park and Elberon Avenue (across from Murphy’s cottage) to a Mr. Chester Alan Arthur; that man would later become the 21st president of the United States. Nearby was the home of L. B. Brown, the primary land owner of the area and the man the town Elberon is named after. Across the street to the other side was the home of Thomas T. Eckert, director of the Telegraph Office. His place in history is linked to Abraham Lincoln, who composed his draft of the Gettysburg address on Eckert’s desk.
The entire area was the hub of lavish Gatsby-an celebrations, where the most rich and powerful names of the era met to indulge in the grandest of manors. According to notes assembled by member Edna R. Grumbach, records show that there were 25 charter members, most of whom were young married couples with pre-teen or teenage children. She notes that a few of the great-grandchildren of those founders are among the present group of members.
The home features five chimneys and 11 bedroom suites. Those bedrooms can be reserved by members and friends and are still a most popular vacation stop. Most of them have their own fireplaces and ocean views. There are elegant and elaborate interior columns to maintain the open air feeling of the main floor. The fireplaces are works of arts and the woodwork throughout the club represents the highest level of craftsmanship.
Outdoors, members enjoy six clay tennis courts, a large swimming pool, and a terrace with a full unobstructed ocean view.
The property sustained significant damage in Superstorm Sandy, but has been lovingly restored to its original glory.
The Ocean Beach Club is a very private affair, open only to members and friends of members, although on August 11, history hounds will get their chance to enjoy this landmark location. The Ocean Beach Club welcomes the Long Branch Historical Museum Association for the 14th Annual Cocktail Reception at the Ocean Beach Club. The fundraiser is open to anyone and the monies raised are being donated to the ongoing restoration efforts of the Church of the Presidents. If you would like to learn more or to purchase tickets to enjoy at evening at this exceptional address, please visit www.churchofthepresidents.org.