The Spring Lake Beach Improvement Company organized shortly after the New York & Long Branch Railroad reached the area in 1873. At the time, the area consisted of a handful of farms and the scattered shacks of local fishermen. The group purchased 285 acres of land from Formon Osborn in 1875 which had near its center a small lake fed by pure spring water just a few hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean.
The developers set about building the luxurious Monmouth House hotel on the oceanfront and summer visitors began work on their own places. At about the same time the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was breaking down and as the fair buildings were dismantled the deep-pocketed Spring Lake pioneers had lumber and fixtures shipped by rail and steamer to their building sites. In some cases entire Centennial buildings - the Missouri State Building (Ocean Road) and the Portugese Government Pavillion (a guest house on Atlantic Avenue for over 100 years) for instance - ended up in Spring Lake. Even the main comfort station was shipped to Spring Lake where it became the Lake House Hotel in 1877 with 92 rooms, large dining parlors and a bowling alley. It was demolished in 1904 and was replaced by a public park.
In 1892 four of the fledgling seashore developments were welded into the town of Spring Lake. Many of the wealthy summer visitors came from prosperous Irish businessmen from New York and Philadelphia, so many that the town came to be known as the “Irish Riviera.” But the massive hotels were costly to run and more Jersey shore communities were competing for summer beach-goers and Spring Lake evolved into a town of a few thousand year-round residents and boutique inns.
Today Spring Lake boast the longest non-commercial boardwalk on the Jersey shore - more than two miles - and home lots characterized by grassy lawns and shade trees. Many of those lots house multi-million dollar mansions. Our walking tour will pass by quite a few, tour the downtown business district and look in on some of the surviving Victorian inns and hotels and we will begin with the last remaining dowager from Spring Lake’s Gilded Age...
Essex and Sussex
700 Ocean Avenue
At one time three grand hotels greeted visitors along the unspoiled Spring Lake boardwalk; only the Essex and Sussex remains standing. The largest of the trio, the Monmouth Hotel was razed in 1975 and the Warren Hotel was dismantled in 2001. Each was replaced with multi-million dollar waterfront houses. This rambling hotel with four-story high white pillars and gold cupola atop was built in 1914 for $500,000 and covered the entire block between Essex and Sussex streets. In 1981 the hotel stood in for early Atlantic City in the movie Ragtime starring Jimmy Cagney. But its glory days were near an end by that time. The building stood vacant for almost 20 years before it was renovated for use as luxury senior condominiums.
WALK NORTH ON OCEAN AVENUE (THE OCEAN WILL BE ON YOUR RIGHT). YOU CAN WALK ON THE BOARDWALK OR THE SIDEWALK.
Spring Lake Bath and Tennis Club
1 Jersey Avenue at Ocean Avenue
The prestigious private club was founded in the 1898 and is one of America’s oldest lawn tennis clubs. It features a tunnel under the road and boardwalk to the beach for members.
1507 Ocean Avenue
The grande dames from the Victorian era are all gone from the Spring Lake seashore and this is the only 19th century hotel that survives on the ocean. It opened as the Wilburton and has been the Breakers for over 100 years.
TURN LEFT ON NEWARK AVENUE. BEAR LEFT ON BRIGHTON AVENUE. TURN LEFT ON THIRD AVENUE.
Spring Lake Memorial Community House
1501 Third Avenue
Farmingdale-born Oliver Huff Brown was one of the biggest boosters of a nascent Spring Lake business community. He bought three lots on 3rd Avenue to set up his furniture store where he could “cater to people of refinement and culture.” He was elected Mayor of Spring Lake while simultaneously serving in the New Jersey State Senate. Brown donated the land and the building for the Community House that would contain a theater, a library and classrooms. The Spring Lake Theatre Company produces Broadway-quality musicals, comedies, and dramas marked by lavish sets and costumes and has attracted such talent as Paul Newman to its stage.
The Bottle Shop
1400 3rd Avenue
This Art-Deco inspired retail building was completed in 1959. The Bottle Shop was the first business to move in.
Who’s On Third
1300 Third Avenue
Daniel Hills was a pioneering businessman in Spring Lake, opening Hills’ Drug Store in 1890 at Atlantic and First Avenue. A fire swept through the First Avenue business district in 1900 and the next year he built this drug store which he operated successfully while also serving in town council and as mayor. Hills’ would remain on Third Avenue well into the 1950s.
1206 Third Avenue
Historically this tile-decorated building was the BurkeBrothers Drug Store; the Burkes weren’t just brothers, they were identical triplets. The drug store sported a popular soda fountain for many years.
Third Avenue and Morris Avenue
This clock was installed for Spring Lake’s 100th birthday party in 1992. In front of the clock is a time capsule that will be cracked open in 2042 to reveal a video of the town and pictures drawn by the town’s school kids.
First National Bank/Wachovia Bank
1123 Third Avenue
The First National Bank began in 1901 with Oliver H. Brown at the helm. The brick Classical Revival building has lost its Ionic capitals on the entry pillars and some decoration through various remodeling but it still projects an aura of solidity and safety a century later.
1112 Third Avenue
Otto Morris showed up in Spring Lake in 1882 and opened a Shaving Parlor near the train station. He eventually refused to return to his Italian immigrant family in New York City so his father, Oars Marucci (he did not “Americanize” his name) came to Spring Lake as well and started a tailoring and dry cleaning business. Frank Marucci, Otto’s brother, took over the family business after apprenticing at Brooks Brothers in New York City. In 1910 he built this commercial brick building, half of which he rented out. Frank Marucci was a councilman for 20 years and mayor for another 20, winning 40 consecutive elections until he died in 1956.
1100 Third Avenue
J.A. Osborn operated a livery on thislocation that was the first stop for most visitors to Spring Lake to secure the services of a horse or buggy. Charles Lewis purchased the land and erected this retail/office building in 1920.
CONTINUE ACROSS PASSAIC AVENUE ONTO EAST LAKE AVENUE AND FOLLOW ALONG SPRING LAKE.
East Lake Avenue
The clear spring waters are on display courtesy of fountains in the eight-foot deep lake.
TURN LEFT ON SUSSEX AVENUE.
104 Sussex Avenue
Ashland Cottage was one of the Spring Lake homes built from materials from the landmark Agricultural Hall from the Philadelphia Bicentennial. Developers James and Thomas Hunter bought half the lumber from the enormous exhibit and there was enough to construct eight homes, a railroad station and a 900-foot long bridge over Wreck Pond Inlet. James Hulett, a popular Philadelphia Victorian architect, did the design honors on the projects.
102 Sussex Avenue
The highlight of this historic inn is on the inside - a staircase that was used in the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876.
TURN RIGHT ON FIRST AVENUE. TURN RIGHT ON SALEM AVENUE.
Spring Lake Inn
104 Salem Avenue
In the 1800s, before the days of complicated electrical wiring and plumbing, it was not unusual for buildings to be moved around from place to place - so long as you had plenty of strong oxen. This is the third location for this historic building which was built in 1888 as Timothy Harley's Grand Central Stables Carriage House. It was a stagecoach stop with lodging rooms on he top floors for coachmen. Looking at the multi-gabled, turreted inn today it is easy to imagine the horses smiling when they pulled into this fashionable livery.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO FIRST AVENUE AND TURN LEFT. WALK BACK ONE BLOCK TO ATLANTIC AVENUE AND TURN RIGHT.
The Sandpiper Inn
7 Atlantic Avenue
Noted for its wrap-around second-story porch, this Victorian showplace was built about 1888 as the summer residence for Manual De Azpiroz, the Mexican ambassador to the United States.
TURN LEFT ON OCEAN AVENUE TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.