The Ogden / Grenelle / Farley Pharmacy ca. 1888 – 1953
Sometime around 1888, Henry L. Ogden started an Asbury Park pharmacy that would, under different ownership, last until 1953. Henry L. Ogden was born in 1859 in Keyport, New Jersey, where his father, Rufus Ogden ran the local post office out of his harness maker shop. Henry Odgen became a druggist, first practicing in the early 1880’s in Manasquan. Ogden’s first Asbury Park pharmacy was located at 214–216 Main Street, across from the railroad depot.
One of Ogden’s first clerks and assistants was L. Oscar Grenelle. Oscar Grenelle was born in Middletown, New York in 1857. Educated in the public schools of Middletown, Oscar went to Peddie Institute in Hightstown, New Jersey, where he graduated with honors in 1874 at the age of 14. An illness prevented him from going to college so he began working at a drug store in Princeton at age 18. He worked there for three years, learning the trade. After passing the State Board of Pharmacy examination, he continued working in the pharmacy business, arriving in Asbury Park in 1886.
One reason Oscar Grenelle came to Asbury Park was that his father, Rev. L.O. Grenelle was already there, connected to the First Baptist Church. In Asbury Park, L. Oscar Grenelle first worked at a pharmacy at First and Ocean Avenues and then in one in Ocean Grove. Around 1888, Grenelle began working at Ogden’s drug store as Henry Ogden’s assistant, chief clerk and druggist.
Oscar Grenelle also excelled at baseball, playing for the local team, the Asbury Parks in the late 1880’s. Grenelle was so talented he was offered a $1,500 contract to pitch for the professional Brooklyn baseball club in 1891. He turned down the lucrative offer to remain in Asbury Park as a druggist.
In 1892, Henry L. Ogden became ill and died in a Philadelphia area hospital. Oscar Grenelle purchased the 214–216 Main Street drug store that he’d been working in. He continued operating it for the next nine years, turning it into one of the area’s most prominent pharmacies. In those days, medications and tonics were formulated by hand and dispensed in cork-stoppered glass bottles embossed with the pharmacy name on the side. Many of the remedies and syrups were of Grenelle’s own proprietary formulations. Henry Granelle ran for Asbury Park City Council in 1894 but lost. In the late 1890’s Grenelle took on a partner, C. E. Schank.
In 1901, Grenelle and Schank sold the pharmacy at 214–216 Main Street to Lee Farley and his father William H. Farley. Levi “Lee” Farley was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1874. His father, William Farley was a pharmacist in Chester and Lee followed in his father’s footsteps. After graduating from the Philadelphia College for Pharmacy & Science in 1896. Lee Farley initially worked in his father’s Chester drug store. That summer a drug salesman told Lee about an opening in Asbury Park’s Oscar Granelle Pharmacy that Lee immediately applied for and was accepted. Lee Farley worked at Grenelle’s as druggist for the next five years.
When Grenelle decided to sell the Asbury Park pharmacy to open one in Allenhurst, Lee Farley persuaded his father to go into partnership and purchase the drug store. In 1904, the Farleys moved the store to the former Steinbach building on the southeast corner of Cookman Avenue and Main Street. Farley’s drug store occupied the ground floor while dentist and real estate offices were above them.
By 1907, Farley’s pharmacy had become a Rexall drug store. Rexall started as a club of drug stores that sold Rexall remedies and other products made by the United Drug Company. Rexall only allowed one Rexall store per city, exclusively selling their products. During this time, Farley’s Rexall Drug Store had printed and sold postcards of the Asbury Park boardwalk.
The Farleys opened a second drug store in 1911 at Pine Street and Asbury Avenues. Then in 1912 they opened a pharmacy at 729–731 Mattison Avenue and closed the Main & Cookman store.
In 1918, Lee’s younger brother, Milford Garrett “M.G.” Farley joined the business, leaving in 1935 to become Asbury Park’s City Manager. By then, Lee Farley’s father, William Farley had already died in 1929. Between 1915 and the early 1920’s the Farley’s also ran a summer-only drug store by the beach, first on the southeast corner of Kingsley and Second Avenues and then on the Boardwalk at Third Avenue.
In the early 1940’s the Farley’s Drug Store moved to 624 Mattison Avenue where Lee Farley ran it himself as a one-man operation until 1953.
To Lee Farley, a drug store was not a department store. He concentrated on medicines and health products. He refused to sell mass manufactured pills. Each prescription was hand compounded by Farley. Early tonics and elixirs including Vinol, a Cod Liver Oil and iron concoction that was said to relieve tiredness, strengthen feeble people, cure chronic colds and hacking coughs, reduce nervousness and irritability, heal bronchitis and sore lungs, enrich blood, improve circulation, increase appetite and reduce the effects of aging. Advertisements recommended Vinol for those who wanted to live to age 150. Lee Farley died in 1958 at age 84.
(c) Charlie Horner, Asbury Park Museum