If Park Hall is most important building in Asbury Park’s history, Educational Hall has to be the second most important. Educational Hall has the unique history of having been built and disassembled three times.
It was originally built around 1875 in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park where it served as part of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. The eight-sided building was divided radially into eight booths, each dedicated to a different phase of education – hence the name Educational Hall. A grand building, it could hold 1,500 people. One visitor to the 1876 exposition, was Asbury Park founder, James A. Bradley, who took a liking to the building. At the end of the Exposition Bradley inquired about the fate of the building and was told it was for sale. Originally Education Hall had cost $12,000 to build (a huge sum in the 1870’s) but Bradley was able to purchase it for $900. The only catch was moving it to Asbury Park. Bradley had the building dismantled in sections and each section carefully loaded onto a railroad flatcar at brought to Asbury Park.
When the parts of Educational Building arrived in Asbury Park had the building reassembled on a plot of land bounded by Grand Avenue and Emory Street between Second and Third Avenues. The hexagonal building had four entrances; north, south, east and west. The wood frame building itself was perched on top of a 12-foot brick wall with double stairways connecting to the ground at each entrance. The main entrance was on Third Avenue. The area under the building was used by Bradley to store his wagons. Surrounding the building was a grove of trees with park benches. On the western side of the building were the city’s only horse and wagon sheds where visitors could tie their horses.
Bradley intended the building to be a community building and that it was. Educational Hall was the first building of its kind in Asbury Park. It saw political gatherings, church services, suppers, festivals, socials, lodge meetings, theatrical performances and state events.
One of the most remembered annual activities was Bradley’s New Year’s party. There were barrels of apples, kegs of cider, gallons of coffee and piles of sandwiches for the Asbury Park residents. A continuous variety show featured local talent.
As a political center, Educational Hall presented speakers and rallies for all parties. The Hall also gave start to most of the area churches who worshipped there while their own church buildings were built. Most of the area’s fraternal organizations started there also. As a theater and concert hall, Educational Hall hosted all the name touring companies of the day. Many notable celebrities were entertained there including President U. S. Grant.
In April 1905, James Bradley sold the land where the Hall was located to a local developer and moved Educational Hall to it’s third and final location, between Asbury and Sewall Avenues bounded by Main Street and the railroad. By then Asbury Park had developed as a city and Educational Hall had outlived its usefulness. As Bradley spent more and more of his time away from Asbury Park, Educational Hall gradually fell into disrepair. At the time of Bradley’s death in June, 1921, Educational Hall. Its weather-beaten steps, peeling paint and broken windows no longer reflected its past glory. The executors of Bradley’s estate sold the property. The building itself was purchased for $600 and torn down in November 1921. The lumber was saved and used to build a section of homes in the nearby Whitesville section of Neptune.
(c) Charlie Horner, Asbury Park Museum