A Chronological Synopsis of
Asbury Park

Compiled by Tom Chesek

James A. Bradley

1871 James A. Bradley acquires 500 acres of land between Deal and Wesley Lakes, as the site of a planned resort that he names in honor of Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury (January 24)

1872 First school classes are taught in Park Hall, the all-purpose building housing municipal services, churches and organizations

1873 The Lake View, the first hotel in Asbury Park, opens to guests (June 17)

1874 Asbury Park is incorporated as a borough within the Township of Ocean (March 26)

1875 The New York to Long Branch Railroad is extended through Asbury Park

1876 The first edition of the city’s first newspaper, James Bradley’s Asbury Park Journal (January 8)

Educational Hall

1877 Educational Hall opens as the city’s first major public auditorium (July 16)

Coleman House Hotel

1878 The Coleman House, grandest of the town’s new hotels, opens

1879 The town’s first brick building, the Masonic Temple, built at Main Street and Cookman Avenue

1880 First Methodist Episcopal Church is dedicated at Grand and First Aves.

1881 Asbury Park installs the area’s first local telephone system, and the first sewage system in New Jersey

Frederick G. Burnham

1882 Developer Frederick G. Burnham makes his first land purchase on what would become the West Side of Asbury Park (November 23)

Stephen Crane

1883 Young Stephen Crane moves to Asbury Park with his mother Helen Peck Crane, who will become president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Asbury Park and Ocean Grove (June 23)

1884 Asbury Park forms a school district with Ocean Grove; the local YMCA chapter is organized

1885 Asbury Park becomes the first Jersey Shore town to install electric lights

1886 The library board unveils its custom stained glass window honoring President Ulysses S. Grant (March 8)

Electric Trolley

1887 Asbury Park begins operation of the second electric trolley line in the United States (September 19)

Palace Carousel

1888 The Palace Carousel attraction opens, as the precursor to what would become the iconic Palace Amusements complex (June 8)

1889 A confrontation between a Black city resident and a Palace Amusements security guard leads to protests and the admitting of African Americans to the pavilion on a limited basis (June 28)

Baby Parade

1890 The first of Asbury Park’s many spectacular Baby Parade events is presented (July 27)

1891 The Second Baptist Church is organized on the West Side (September 20)

1892 The founder of the Salvation Army is present, as the organization dedicates its first Asbury Park auditorium on Mattison Avenue (June 26)

Civil War and New Era Shipwreck Monuments

1893 The city dedicates monuments to the Union soldiers of “The War of Rebellion” (May 29)…and to the victims of the 1854 New Era shipwreck, which occurred just off the shore of what would become Asbury Park (November 13)

1894 Residents of West Park gather at Morrow’s Hall for an anti-lynching rally in support of activist Ida B. Wells (August 1)

Arthur A. Zimmerman

1895 With champion bicyclist Arthur A. Zimmerman on hand, the League of American Wheelmen hold their annual national convention in Asbury Park (July 8)

1896 The Asbury Park Press publishes its first daily edition (March 20)

1897 Asbury Park is officially incorporated as a city (March 25)

1898 African American cyclist Marshall Walter Taylor competes in and wins a major bicycle race at the city’s racing track

1899 Citing objections to unreasonable costs per newspaper copy, 125 newsboys go on strike all over the city (July 31)

Woolworth Store

1900 F.W. Woolworth’s downtown store opens to great fanfare (April 8)…and the Asbury Park Opera House is destroyed by fire (August 12)

Asbury Park Library

1901 The Asbury Park Public Library is officially dedicated (January 15)

1902 City resident George W. Cole, inventor of 3-in-1 Oil, moves his factory out of Asbury Park (January 10)

1903 After losing a lawsuit for control of the waterfront, Founder James Bradley sells the boardwalk to the city

1904 Asbury Park’s Police Department is formally established

1905 The “Black Patti Troubadors” become the first African American act to play the boardwalk (August 2)

1906 The city expands in size, as voters elect to annex the West Park community as the West Side of Asbury Park (May 16)

1907 Black beachgoers on the city’s still-segregated waterfront are limited to the small area south of the Casino

1908 The YMCA moves into their longtime home at Main Street and Sewall  Avenue (November 3)

1909 The historic Park Avenue building now known as The Bradley condominiums is built

Asbury Park Aviation Meet

1910 The first night flight in the history of air travel takes place over Asbury Park, courtesy of pilots from the Aviation Meet in nearby Interlaken (August 19)

Frank Heidemann

1911 Following a headline-making murder investigation and trial, gardener Frank Heidemann is executed for the 1910 killing of 10-year-old Marie Smith in Asbury Park (May 23)

1912 A busy Presidential campaign season finds President William Taft and former President Teddy Roosevelt (running once more on a third-party ticket) visiting Asbury Park (May 25-26)

1913 Teenaged Edward “Duke” Ellington is inspired to pursue a career in music, while working at an Asbury Park hotel

Steeplechase Park

1914 Work starts on George C. Tilyou’s big new Steeplechase Park on Ocean Avenue (April 31)

Clarence E. R. Hetrick

1915 With strong support from West Side voters, former county sheriff Clarence E.F. Hetrick begins his first of 25 years as Asbury Park’s mayor (January 13)

President Woodrow Wilson

1916 President Woodrow Wilson establishes his “Summer White House” campaign headquarters in downtown Asbury Park

Great Asbury Park Fire, 1917

1917 Nearly 50 buildings are destroyed over four city blocks, during the Great Asbury Park Fire of 1917 (April 5)

1918 Private Harold Daley, for whom the city’s VFW post will be named, is killed during the final days of the First World War (October 12)

Elizabeth Blaesing Nan Britton

1919 Elizabeth Blaesing, “secret” child of future President Warren G. Harding, is born in Asbury Park (October 22)

1920 The enactment of Prohibition deals a major blow to the city’s economy (January 17)

1921 Asbury Park’s founder James A. Bradley dies in New York City; by month’s end he will be immortalized in bronze when the city installs and dedicates a statue in his honor (June 6)

Richelieu Motor Car Ad

1922 The Richelieu Motor Car Company builds its automobiles at an Asbury Park garage facility

1923 A major fire destroys the Bristol, Edgemere, Keswick, and Victoria hotels (October 6)

Marcus Garvey Poster

1924 African American activist and orator Marcus Garvey speaks at the West Side’s Roseland Hall (November 13)

The Berkeley-Carteret Hotel, Convention Hall and Casino

1925 The Berkeley-Carteret Hotel opens its doors to guests (June 30)

1926 The new Asbury Park High School opens its doors to students (September 6)

Fifth Avenue Arcade

1927 The Fifth Avenue Arcade is destroyed by fire, to be replaced three years later by Convention Hall (June 2)

1928 The original Casino building is destroyed by fire (January 12)

1929 St. George Greek Orthodox Church begins services in the basement of the Public Library (October 26)

1930 The all-new Convention Hall (June 1) and Paramount Theatre (July 11) open their doors to the public

Convention Hall Organ

1931 The city purchases the Kilgen Pipe Organ from a defunct NYC theatre, and creates the position of municipal organist

Madam Marie Castello

1932 “Madam Marie” Castello begins her 75-year career at her boardwalk Temple of Knowledge

Hess Truck

1933 Future billionaire businessman and NFL team owner Leon Hess drives his oil delivery truck around town as he takes control of the family business

Wreck of the SS Morro Castle

1934 The ocean liner SS Morro Castle comes aground just off Convention Hall, after catching fire en route to New York in one of the century’s most spectacular and mysterious maritime disasters (September 8)

1935 After spending months as a macabre tourist draw in the depths of the Depression, the hulk of the Morro Castle is scrapped and removed

1936 10,000 bulbs are planted in preparation for the first annual Tulip Week Festival (May 16)…while several people are injured when a section of boardwalk collapses during the annual Easter Parade

The Hindenburg flying over Asbury Park

1937 The Hindenburg flies over Asbury Park, on its fateful final flight to Lakehurst, NJ (May 6)

Ella Fitzgerald

1938 In the midst of a still-segregated summer entertainment schedule, young Ella Fitzgerald fronts Chick Webb’s orchestra in a concert at the Casino (August 20)

1939 May 18 is declared “Asbury Park, NJ Day” at the New York World’s Fair

1940 The Albion Hotel and Steeplechase Park burn in a spectacular fire (April 9)

1941 Mayor and “dictator” Clarence Hetrick dies in office (October 13)

Monte Carlo Pool

1942 Days before his passing, the city’s original music superstar Arthur Pryor leads the debut performance of the Asbury Park Municipal Band (May 30)…while elsewhere on the boardwalk, Cab Calloway becomes the first Black act to headline Convention Hall (May 31), the large saltwater Monte Carlo Pool opens (June 28), and waterfront hotels become wartime housing for Allied military personnel at year’s end

1943 Yankees in Asbury Park

1943 Unable to conduct spring training in Florida due to wartime travel restrictions, the New York Yankees begin a cold and wet season in Asbury Park (March 14)

1944 Hurricane

1944 The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 devastates the city’s boardwalk and waterfront

1945 The Berkeley-Carteret and Monterey Hotels are commissioned as the wartime Naval Convalescent Hospital (April 10)

1946 Bangs Avenue Elementary School is officially desegregated (September 9)

1947 Radio station WJLK (named for Press publisher J. Lyle Kinmonth) goes live (November 22)

1948 Mrs. America Pageant

1948 Asbury Park hosts its first of seven Mrs. America pageants (September 10)

1949 National Marble Shooting Championship

1949 Asbury Park plays host to the first of ten annual National Marble Shooting Championships

1950 The inaugural Monmouth County Cotillion Scholarship Ball for minority students is held at Asbury Park High School (April 28)

1951 A Chamber of Commerce Tourism Guide declares Asbury Park’s beaches “the cleanest in the world”

1952 The Boys Club of Asbury Park opens on Monroe Avenue (July 29)

Coach Bill Bruno

1953 Coach Bill Bruno leads the Asbury Park High School Blue Bishops football team to an undefeated season and the state’s top ranking

1954 The city’s short-lived UHF television station WRTV Channel 58 goes on the air (January 22)

1955 Asbury Park’s first rock and roll concert finds Bill Haley and the Comets performing at the boardwalk Casino (June 25)

Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers

1956 A Convention Hall concert starring Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers ends in what is branded the nation’s first rock and roll riot (June 30)

1957 Asbury Park-born Edna Woolman Chase, legendary Vogue magazine editor, dies at age 80

Bridge Over The River Kwai

1958 The Walter Reade Organization promotes the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” by building a working replica bridge across Cookman Avenue

1959 Pro boxing champ, actor and part-time city resident Max Baer Sr. dies at age 50

Dr. Martin Luther King

1960 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Asbury Park High School (October 7)

Frank Budd

1961 Asbury Park High School track and football star Frank Budd sets a world record for the 100-yard dash, at the National AAUU Track Meet (June 24)

1962 The rooftop Arthur Pryor Bandshell is dedicated on the boardwalk (June 29)

1963 Boardwalk Fires

1963 Separate fires destroy the boardwalk’s Sunset Avenue and Asbury Avenue pavilions five weeks apart, in the late summer

James J. Howard

1964 Asbury Park High School graduate James J. Howard is elected to the first of 12 terms as an influential United States Congressman (November 3)

1965 Host Bob Hope announces Miss District of Columbia as winner of the Miss World USA pageant, held for the only time at Convention Hall (August 21)

Bruce Springsteen with the Castiles

1966 Rock and roll music returns to Asbury Park’s waterfront for keeps, when the Rolling Stones play Convention Hall (July 3)…and Bruce Springsteen plays his first-ever gig in Asbury Park, as a member of The Castiles (July 25)

The Doors

1967 The Doors make their first of two appearances at Convention Hall (September 2)…and future Israeli prime minister Golda Meir speaks at the Metropolitan Hotel

1968 Judy Garland and family make an extended stay in Asbury Park, during her concert engagement at the Garden State Arts Center

Led Zeppelin

1969 Led Zeppelin opt to play Convention Hall, rather than the Woodstock Festival (August 16)

Civil Unrest, 1970

1970 Days of civil unrest and fires devastate the heart of the West Side’s Springwood Avenue business blocks, prompting New Jersey’s Governor Cahill to declare Asbury Park a disaster area in July

The Upstage Club

1971 The legendary Upstage club hosts its last after-hours jam (October 30)

1972 A million-dollar restoration of Convention Hall is announced by the city

1973 Bruce Springsteen puts his adopted city on the musical map with the release of his first two albums

The Stone Pony

1974 The landmark Mayfair and St. James theatres fall to the wrecking ball…while the Stone Pony nightclub opens on the former site of Mrs. Jay’s restaurant

1975 Bruce Springsteen makes the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazines on the same week (October 27)

The American Freedom Train

1976 The American Freedom Train visits Asbury Park on its bicentennial tour of the United States (September 2)

1977 Henrietta Zachary is sworn in as the first woman on the city council (May 24)

1978 In an effort to arrest the city’s downward trajectory, a group of 25 municipal officials and business owners form the Asbury Park Development Corporation

Steinbach’s Department Store Closes

1979 Downtown Asbury Park’s anchor business Steinbach’s Department Store closes its doors (July 14)

1980 Several music scene veterans are represented on the Sounds of Asbury Park album, produced by the editors of Thunder Road

The Key West

1981 The owners of The Owl and the Pussycat lesbian bar buy and renovate the waterfront Albion Hotel, opening the Key West as the newest addition to a thriving gay club scene

The Clash

1982 On their last major tour, The Clash make a now legendary three-night stand on the Asbury Park boardwalk

1983 The Coaster newspaper publishes its first edition (June 29)…and Asbury Park makes national headlines as Richard Biegenwald, aka The Jersey Shore Thrill Killer, is convicted of five counts of first-degree murder (December 8)

1984 Bruce Springsteen releases his multi-platinum album Born in the USA (June 4)

Johnny Cash

1985 Johnny Cash, an investor in the Berkeley-Carteret with the Vaccaro brothers, moves into a suite at the hotel…and the Asbury Park Press moves its editorial offices out of the city, to a new building on Route 66 in Neptune

WNEW Beach Concert

1986 The ambitious Ocean Mile waterfront development project is announced… the downtown James J. Howard Transportation Center opens…and the first in a series of WNEW-FM Beach Concerts brings tens of thousands of fans back to the waterfront

Danny DeVito

1987 City native Danny DeVito hosts the world premiere of his directorial debut Throw Momma from the Train at his hometown’s Paramount Theatre

1988 Congressman James Howard dies in office (March 25)…and Circuit landmark Mrs. Jay’s announces last call (December 31)

1989 Fire partially destroys the shuttered Steinbach department store, in an increasingly vacant downtown (June 5)

1990 The Casino Carousel takes its last spin (October 28)

1991 The Stone Pony changes hands in a bankruptcy sale to Steven Nassar

1992 Bradley Park is the scene of the first annual Jersey Pride Festival (June 6)

1993 A December 1992 nor’easter leaves the city’s beach, boardwalk and jetties in deeply damaged condition

1994 With the arrest and resignation of Mayor Dennis Buckley, councilwoman Patricia Candiano becomes Asbury Park’s first female mayor (March 11)

1995 The Vans Warped Tour music festival comes to Asbury Park for the first time (August 18)

The Crane House

1996 Rescued from abandonment and decay, The Stephen Crane House opens its doors as a museum and intimate venue for arts events

1997 The Carousel House re-opens as the Casino Skate Park

The Shore Cats

1998 Asbury Park gets a professional sports team, when the New Jersey ShoreCats of the US Basketball League begin their season at Convention Hall, with Hall of Famer Rick Barry as coach (May 1)…while record producer Shep Pettibone buys the Empress Motel (May 28), and the Stone Pony holds a closing celebration before re-opening as the dance club Vinyl

1999 City police officer Connie Breech establishes the annual Asbury Park Toy Drive

Robert DeNiro

2000 The re-opening of the shuttered Stone Pony signals a new era of rebirth …while the largely desolate boardwalk stands in as Long Beach, NY in the Robert De Niro film City by the Sea

Bruce Springsteen

2001 Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes begin a new annual tradition of summer concerts outside the Stone Pony (May 27)…and Bruce Springsteen plays a multi-night stand of shows benefiting a variety of city-based nonprofits (December 3)

2002 The Boss is special guest co-host, as NBC’s Today Show showcases a fast-“Rising” city in a special episode from Asbury Park (July 30)

2003 Vintage bowling alley Asbury Lanes is re-imagined as the region’s most inventive venue for music and arts events; the Stone Pony is sold to Asbury Partners…and the Garden State Film Festival hosts its first schedule of events in Asbury Park

Saving Tillie

2004 A grass-roots organization preserves the iconic paintings of “Tillie” as Palace Amusements meets the wrecking ball…and the settlement of a lawsuit with developer Philip Konvitz opens the way toward redevelopment of Springwood Avenue

2005 The Arts Coalition of Asbury Park (ArtsCAP) is established, joining Black Box of Asbury Park as a new creative class emerges within the reawakening city

George Panas

2006 Fire destroys the former Atlantic and Belmont hotels in February…the never-completed C-8 condo project is demolished to public applause (March 29)…and George Panas closes the boardwalk Howard Johnson’s after a half century (June 3)

Bouncing Souls. Photo by Mike McLaughlin

2007 Alternative rock is in the news, when a murder outside the short-lived Club Deep makes national headlines (January 14)…and city transplants The Bouncing Souls inaugurate their celebrated series of Home for the Holidays concert events (December 26)

2008 ReVision Theatre transforms the Carousel House into a venue for live professional musicals…and Paranormal Books and Curiosities brings ghost tours, Jersey Devil and Krampus festivals, and a quirky spirit to the downtown retail district

2009 The openings of Parlor Gallery (February 9) and Silverball Museum (April 1) continue the downtown creative vibe…while the boardwalk sees iStar take over as waterfront developer, and the first running of the Asbury Park Half Marathon

2010 The inaugural Visionary Tattoo Festival hosts its first edition at Convention Hall (July 30)

Asbury Angels

2011 The passing of “The Big Man” Clarence Clemons inspires the founding of the Asbury Angels musical memorial hall of fame (June 18)

2012 Superstorm Sandy leaves a path of destruction along the Jersey Shore (October 26)

President Barack Obama Visit

2013 A pivotal year on the rebuilt boardwalk finds President Obama declaring the Jersey Shore open for business (May 26); the NJ Zombie Walk setting a new Guinness World Record for gatherings of the walking undead (October 5), and Father Tom Pivinski performing New Jersey’s first three same-sex marriages at midnight, on October 21

2014 Asbury Park’s Commercial Historic District, host to the city’s first annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 7, is named to the National Register of Historic Places

Asbury Park Comeback

2015 The year begins with John Moor sworn in as the city’s first directly elected mayor…is highlighted by the debuts of several major new attractions (House of Independents, Asbury Festhalle Biergarten, AP Music + Film Festival)…and ends with Asbury Park named as one of the top ten “Best Places to Travel” by Travel & Leisure

2016 New arrivals to the local landscape include The Asbury Hotel (May 26), Springwood Park (June 25), and the offices of Garden State Equality (August 1)

2017 Asbury Park High School dedicates its stadium to the memory of legendary coach Butch Bruno (October 20)

Sea.Hear.Now Festival

2018 Music rings out all over town, courtesy of new outdoor events that range from the major-act Sea.Hear.Now Festival, to the intimately homebound Asbury Park Porchfest

2019 The Asbury Ocean Club building opens on the “cursed” site of two formerly failed condominium projects (July 4)

2020 Stephen Crane is named to the NJ Hall of Fame, joining fellow Asbury Park notables Bruce Springsteen (2008), Bud Abbott (2009), Danny De Vito (2010), Leon Hess (2011), The E Street Band (2012), Southside Johnny Lyon and Tim McLoone (2018)

(c) Tom Chesek and Asbury Park Museum