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Bay Head Historic District

The Bay Head Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.

The Bay Head Historic District is an example of a New Jersey coastal summer resort dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the beginning of World War II. It is significant because of its cohesiveness as a well-preserved late-nineteenth-early twentieth century resort community. While the components of the Bay Head Historic District are not necessarily individually eligible for designation, together they represent the styles and types of a particular period. Bay Head has characteristic buildings representing architectural styles typical of the time, from 1880 to 1940, but it is dominated by the Shingle style. Bay Head achieves its unified look not only through its individual buildings, but also through the use of materials. The buildings are overwhelmingly wood frame; the usual cladding is weathered shingle with wood trim. Some clapboard is also used. Originally most roofs were also wood shingled, but by now most have lost their original covering. Bay Head reached its present appearance by the beginning of World War II. Well-maintained mansions coexist with middle class housing all clad with weathered cedar shingles, built closely together yet with gardens and green spaces. In his 1958 book about the Jersey shore, John Cunningham compares the Bay Head homes to "seaside cottages" in old Harper's magazine etchings. There is an unshowy evidence of wealth, of conservatism — the expansive "natural" look, the "Ivy League" look, so to speak (Cunningham 1958: 78).

Bay Head has a unique transportation facility, the Bay Head Train Loop. Bay Head is the home of the southern terminus of the North Jersey Coast line of New Jersey Transit, the descendant of the New York and Long Branch Railroad which originally built the line in 1875. This terminus is in the form of a balloon loop, also known as a reversing loop, a unique resource that permits complete trains (locomotives and cars) to be turned without the use of either a turntable or a "wye" track. The Bay Head Loop permitted the numerous New York and Long Branch Railroad trains between Bay Head Junction and New York City and Jersey City to be turned and stored without being disassembled. Because of the large amount of property needed to accommodate the turning loop, few, if any, other turning loops were built in New Jersey and today the Bay Head Loop is the only turning loop in New Jersey.

Bay Head as a Resort

In its origins, Bay Head was more modest and more provincial than many other shore developments, such as those found in Monmouth County, Cape May, Atlantic City or Beach Haven. The sumptuous appointments, palatial hotels and impressive architecture of Long Branch or Atlantic City were not characteristic of Bay Head. Rather it was a quiet community founded by real estate developers where hotels and boarding houses were present, but where private summer residences filled the larger portions of the newly laid out street grids. The town reflected the early-twentieth century idea that it was more fashionable to have your own private vacation home to display your wealth than to stay in an immense hotel, the social hallmark of the late nineteenth century. Turn-of-the-century prosperity and an increasing amount of available leisure time to the more prosperous classes made the building of entire towns for vacationers both possible and profitable for land speculators.

As laid out by its founders, it is a compact town with small lots, most with 50-foot frontages, although those along the ocean are somewhat larger. These small lot sizes meant that most buildings were erected fairly closely to each other, with minimal setbacks at the sides and front. Private space was reserved for porches and small back yards. The result, for example on the west side of East Avenue, is a tight, almost urban streetscape. Purchasers of these lots rarely patronized prominent architects from the big cities, but rather depended on local builders, working in simplified versions of various styles. The result is a conservatism that makes it somewhat difficult to date Bay Head's buildings. This conservatism caused its builders and their patrons to continue to utilize styles that were somewhat out of date when the buildings were erected. This conservatism may also have been responsible for Bay Head's survival in something close to its original form. Long after the more affluent people who first populated resorts such as Monmouth Beach or Beach Haven deserted them for more fashionable locations further afield, Bay Head families continued to remain in the community, changing, but also maintaining their summer cottages.

Early History of Bay Head

Prior to its development as a summer resort, Bay Head was home to a few hardy settlers and the Bay Head Life Saving Station built in 1854. The landscape consisted of meadows and marshes rising to the high rolling dunes lining the coastline. Between the beach and the bay lay acres of bayberry, plum bushes, heathers and wildflowers. There were only three houses in the area: one belonging to Captain Elijah Chadwick, another belonging to the family of John E. Johnson, and the third, a utilitarian building belonging to the railroad (Schoettle 1966: 11).

The Bayhead Land Company

The area remained largely undeveloped until three entrepreneurial businessmen from Princeton visited Bay Head in 1877. Impressed by the beautiful landscape and the gentleness of the bathing beaches, the three men, David H. Mount, Edward Howe and William Harris, began purchasing land. By October 1877, they owned 45 acres purchased from Messrs. William Falkenburg, Charles W. Maxson, Tylee C. Pearce, John E. Johnson and Captain Elijah Chadwick. They paid a total of $1,980.00 for the acreage with the price ranging from $36 to $52 an acre. Two years later, the Bayhead[1] Land Company was incorporated on September 6, 1879 with capital of $12,000. The incorporators were David H. Mount of Rocky Hill, and Edward Howe, Leavitt Howe and William Harris from Princeton (Salter 1890: 286). David H. Mount owned the trap rock quarry at Rocky Hill as well as other business enterprises, and had been the president of the Princeton National Bank (later the Princeton Bank and Trust Co.). He was succeeded as bank president by Edward Howe. The Reverend William Harris was a Treasurer of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University); Leavitt Howe was Edward Howe's brother-in-law (Salter 1890: 285 and Schoettle 1966: 13).

The Bayhead Land Company wasted no time in purchasing 112 acres, 100 from the Johnson family and an additional twelve acres from Captain Chadwick. The company leveled the rolling sand dunes capped by heather and grasses on the landmass between the bay and ocean. Laying out a grid, the developers had surveyors divide the land into 286 lots, most measuring 50 x 100 feet. The first building to be constructed after the survey was the Bellevue Hotel at the northwest corner of Bridge and Main Avenues. The construction of the hotel allowed prospective buyers to have a place to stay and enjoy Bay Head while they were making their land acquisitions. The next building to be built was Carlton Priest's pharmacy on Main Street, immediately north of the hotel (Schoettle 1966: 15). The New York and Long Branch Railroad was completed in 1880 with Bay Head as its terminus and a grand train station was constructed (Wilson 1964: 53). In the same year, the Philadelphia and Long Branch Railroad entered Bay Head from the south and connected with the New York Branch in Point Pleasant. The introduction of the railroads led to the growth of Bay Head as a flourishing summer resort. On July 25, 1883, ground was broken for the erection of the Bayhead Land Company office at the corner of Bridge and Lake Avenues. Designed as a grand, two and one-half story, wood frame, Victorian house, the building was perhaps built as an inspiration for prospective buyers, a nineteenth century version of today's model home (the building still stands today as Dorcas' Restaurant). By this time a number of lots had been sold and several cottages contracted for (Salter 1890: 286).

Initial development occurred on blocks bounded by Harris Street to the north, Mount Street to the south, the ocean to the east, and Lake Avenue to the west. The houses along East Avenue fronted on the ocean with the rears facing the street. Many of the street names were chosen to honor Bay Head's founders as well as former Princeton professors and university presidents (Cunningham 1958: 78). Perhaps this was because among the early purchasers in Bay Head were some members of the college faculty, in particular Henry C. Cameron, Professor of Greek Language and Literature, and Joseph Karge, Professor of Continental Languages and Literature. Howe and Cameron were also active in the affairs of Princeton's First Presbyterian Church. Or maybe the developers felt that using the names of Princeton professors for streets gave the town immediate cachet. Others who established early businesses in Bay Head also had Princeton connections. Joseph Priest, who opened a drugstore by 1883, and also built a cottage, operated a drugstore in Princeton. Although a record of his origins has not been found, Wyckoff Applegate, bore two Princeton-area names. Brought to Bay Head by the Bayhead Land Company, he remained to become one of the town's contractors.

The Bay Head Land Company did not own all the land that comprised Bay Head. Captain Elijah Chadwick owned approximately half of the land south of Mount Street. The founders purchased land from Chadwick and built cottages for themselves, at what are today, 537, 543 and 531 East Avenue. The New Jersey Sea-shore Land and Improvement Company, which was responsible for the development of Mantoloking, immediately south of Bay Head, owned the other half of the parcel north of Osborn (now Johnson) Street. Captain John Arnold of Point Pleasant, who was also in charge of developing Point Pleasant, owned this real estate company. The current Twilight Road and Osborne Avenues at the north end of Bay Head were originally called Bay Head Junction, a separate community north of Twilight Lake and containing the train terminus. It was divided into 190 lots and was more closely associated with Point Pleasant in the late nineteenth century than with Bay Head (Salter 1890: 289).

By 1882, twenty new cottages had been built and infrastructure improvements made. These included a sea wall and graded roads. The post office was established at Bay Head in the summer of 1882, with Julius Foster as the postmaster (Salter 1890: 286).

Unlike some other Ocean County municipalities, Bay Head was not created for religious, political or industrial purposes, but for investment and the pursuit of pleasure. At the outset, the development plan called for the resort to be contained in a rectangle, bordered by Bridge Avenue and Mount Street, Lake Avenue and the Atlantic Ocean. The most desirable lots were along East Avenue, where houses could face the ocean. The location of Bay Head, at the head of Barnegat Bay and between the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay, encouraged a lifestyle centered on water-related activities, especially boating and bathing. (Miller 2000: 18).

Early residents

By 1886, Bay Head consisted of approximately 13 oceanfront houses, a hotel, a drug store, the land office, a bathing pavilion, and scattered cottages, located primarily south of Bridge Avenue. Also in the same year, Bay Head Borough separated from Brick Township, and incorporated as an independent borough. By 1888, Bay Head had approximately 50 buildings, fifteen of which were located on the oceanfront. Bay Head also had numerous boat yards producing pleasure boats, such as Hance's, Loveland's, Morton Johnson's and Slade Dale's.

One of the earliest families in Bay Head was that of Julius Foster. Foster was hired by the Bayhead Land Company as their agent in 1881, and became mayor of the newly incorporated borough in 1886. Wyckoff Applegate, a local builder, came to Bay Head to build the Bellevue Hotel, and stayed to build many of the town's residences. (The Bellevue Hotel no longer exists. It is not known if any residences built by Applegate still exist.) New York physician Dr. William H. Katzenbach and Rev. Samuel M. Studdiford of Trenton took active roles in the well being of the first residents, both physical and moral. Dr. Katzenbach was known for his advice to anxious parents concerning their children's summer ailments: the three "Cs", too much cantaloupe, too much corn and too much cold water. The Rev. Studdiford led large crowds in spirited sessions of hymn singing in the town's earliest church services, held in the bathing pavilion at the end of Bridge Avenue. Dr. Andrew Douglas Hall of Philadelphia and Henry Lee Norris of Princeton also occupied oceanfront cottages. The four southernmost beachfront cottages were owned by the three founders and their close friend Professor Karge, the famous New Jersey cavalryman who taught Continental Languages and Literature at the College of New Jersey in Princeton (today's Princeton University). Another Princeton professor, Dr. Henry Cameron, who taught Greek Language and Literature, also became a summer resident. And of course, the Johnson and Chadwick families lived at Bay Head year round, both families involved in sailing, boat building, and guiding fishing expeditions.

The principal business activity of the community was boat building and industries related to boating. In 1878, Benjamin Hance established a shop to build small duck boats, rowboats and sailboats. Though there had been boat building all along the bay, this marked the beginning of boat building as an industry at the head of Barnegat Bay (Donatiello 1999: 49). In 1890, Morton Johnson began his boat building business. His son Hubert established his own boat building business in 1912 and gave Bay Head its international reputation as a boat-building capital when, in 1920, he introduced lapstrake Bay Head skiffs (La Bonte: 40).

Several Princeton residents established the Bay Head Yacht Club at the head of the bay in 1888 with a small clubhouse built on pilings. The mission of the Yacht Club was "to promote yachting and rowing and to foster athletic sports upon the water, and to promote the general prosperity of Bay Head" (Schoettle: 37). Memberships went begging at $5.00. A second, more spacious clubhouse with open porches was built in 1899. This provided room for more socializing increasing the membership but it still lacked the space for dining or dancing. The current expanded clubhouse was built in 1928. The club became the largest and most competitive on the bay, sponsoring competitions throughout the season. When the inland waterway to Cape May was begun in 1908, tennis courts were added to the Club on fill from the dredging (Schoettle: 93).

By 1894, an electric trolley had arrived in the neighboring town of Point Pleasant to the north. The founders of Bay Head were horrified by the improvement, wanting to keep Bay Head an old-fashioned retreat, removed from the pressure of "modern" living. Point Pleasant had trolleys, a new powerhouse with surplus electricity, and a desire to service a wider market. Bay Head leaders did not want to have anything to do with electricity or the trolley. Local merchants, however, were interested in these amenities, particularly the owners of the Grenville Hotel. Opened in 1901, the hoteliers saw the trolley especially as a service they could offer to their guests.

On the morning of Sunday, June 15, 1901, Mayor Pennington awoke to find that during the night, workmen from Point Pleasant had erected poles and strung electric wires to the new Grenville Hotel from Point Pleasant. Four workmen were discovered completing the project. Two of the workmen were trapped up the poles and arrested, while the mayor and councilmen chopped down the poles. This led to a series of court actions, and finally, in 1903, electricity and the trolley came to Bay Head (Oxenford 1992: 74). A trolley was constructed in 1903 along Lake Avenue from near Johnson Street on the south, extending north into Point Pleasant. The trolley provided Bay Head residents with access to Point Pleasant's commercial district.

Bay Head becomes a Resort

When Edwin Salter wrote his history of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in 1890, only 75 people lived in Bay Head year-round. Salter predicted that: "the prospects for the future are flattering, new houses being rapidly built." His forecast was followed by the first building boom in Bay Head, which occurred in the early 1900s. Wealthy residents of Princeton, New York and Philadelphia flocked to Bay Head to build summer cottages. Bay Head and its neighbor, Mantoloking, possessed an atmosphere unique along the coast. The homes built among the dunes had, according to John Cunningham, "the ivy look," a combination of conservatism and wealth (Oxenford 1992: 111). The influx of residents of means resulted in buildings displaying an obvious awareness of architectural fashion and style. Fashionable residents including former Vermont senator George F. Edmunds, Superintendent Francis P. Abercrombie of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Mr. Samuel Felton, president of the Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Texas Pacific Railroad (Schoettle 1966: 27).

Hotels and inns sprang up to accommodate the many summer visitors who flocked to Bay Head to escape the summer heat of New York and Philadelphia. By 1905, the Borough of Bay Head had at least five hotels that served as summer resorts and social centers, including the Grenville Hotel, the Grenville Arms, the Bellevue, The Bluffs and the Ocean View. Anna Johnson came to Bay Head in the 1880s to manage the Bellevue Hotel, which she eventually bought. The hotel served vacationers until the 1930s, when dilapidation forced its demolition (La Bonte: 9). After also running the Grenville Hotel, an imposing Main Avenue hotel built in 1890, she decided an oceanfront hotel with its own beach would be ideal. The result was the Bluffs, a three-story building constructed in 1891, which extended from the street to the boardwalk. The hotel included 500 feet of porches, and 100 rooms, many with private balconies and baths. An additional building to the south was added in 1896. A fourth floor was added to the original hotel in 1898 (the main Bluffs building was destroyed by a 1953 storm). These hotels served as community social centers and provided entertainment to both visitors and residents alike, offering dances, vaudeville shows, card parties, concerts, amateur theatricals, Shakespearean recitals, musical revues, billiards and other activities (Schoettle: 42).

Social life included bathing, playing tennis and sailing. Sailing competitions sponsored by the Bay Head Yacht Club were held regularly on the bay, and boating enthusiasts from Bay Head and other communities were active participants. The Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association sponsored many events (Miller 2000: 459).

At this time, development in the Borough extended from North Street south to just below Chadwick Street (Sanborn 1905). The greatest number of houses was still concentrated along East Avenue and Main Avenue. The Ocean View Hotel was the furthest north of the great late 19th century hotels, situated on the southwest corner of Main Avenue and North Street where it stood alone with no residences obscuring its ocean view to the east or lake view to the west. The Bluffs Hotel was the furthest south, on East Avenue south of Mount Street. Most of the town's development was located between these two hotels, although there were some houses west of the railroad.

South of Johnson Street, Bay Head grew very slowly. In 1913, a 58-lot tract was plotted between Egbert and Strickland Streets and it was still half-empty by the beginning of World War II (La Bonte: 49). In 1927, the population of Bay Head was 273. In 1938, it was 429. By 1950, however, it had nearly doubled to 808. By 1940, development extended from its border with Mantoloking north to Point Pleasant and Point Pleasant Beach. By this time, a small commercial area had developed along Main Avenue near Mount Street.

A second building boom occurred in the 1950s with the opening of the Garden State Parkway in 1954. By 1960, only six years after the construction of the parkway, the population of Ocean County had doubled from its 1950 population of about 57,000 residents (Cunningham 1994). This influx of residents led to the construction of ranches and split level-types residences at the southern and western ends of Bay Head borough. These later building are generally excluded from the Bay Head Historic District.

Architectural Significance

The Bay Head Historic District contains residential buildings dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century through the first third of the twentieth century. Generally homogeneous in scale, materials and massing, the Bay Head Historic District is mostly residential in character with buildings embodying features of the Shingle, Colonial Revival and Queen Anne styles. The Bay Head Historic District is a cohesive example of a New Jersey coastal summer resort town and is representative of Ocean County's tourist seaside resort movement. Comfortable seaside cottages sit close by each other along the beach. All the variety that falls within the Shingle style nomenclature is apparent here: asymmetrical forms, wide porches, gambrel and gable roofs, rambling lean-to additions, free-form shingled surfaces and classical columns. The passage of time has darkened the shingle cladding used on the houses and the roofs, intensifying the houses' sense of mass.

The Shingle style was an appropriate style for residences in Bay Head. It was primarily a high-fashion style designed by architects rather than builders. It had begun and reached its highest expression in seaside resorts of the northeast, such as Newport, Cape Cod, eastern Long Island and coastal Maine, resort areas already familiar to the wealthy buyers willing to commute from Philadelphia or New York to enjoy the benefits of seaside living. The style was also spread through contemporary architectural magazines. The style's popularity never reached that of the Queen Anne or the Colonial Revival so good examples of the Shingle style are rare throughout the country. Most examples are concentrated in the northeast and Bay Head is unusual in having so many residences designed in the Shingle style.

Bay Head's significance lies in its cohesiveness as a well-preserved late-nineteenth-early-twentieth century resort community dominated by the Shingle style. Although there are good and typical buildings representing architectural styles typical of the period, the overall presence of the Shingle style makes Bay Head one of the best collections of Shingle style homes in the State of New Jersey. There are relatively few pure examples of the Shingle style however. The earlier examples of Shingle style buildings are tinged with Queen Anne influence; its later ones are touched with the elements of the Colonial Revival influence. There are also Shingle style-influenced Foursquares, Bungalows and vernacular buildings.

An unusually free form and heterogeneous style, the Shingle style has many variations in the town. In Bay Head, two types of houses in the Shingle style were built with some frequency. One is approximately square in plan, with a prominent gable at the front and cross gables of similar sizes at the sides. The second type, deeper than it is wide, presents the gable of its gambrel roof to the street, with long shed dormers down each side. The common characteristic of all of the houses is the use of cedar shingle cladding for all wall surfaces and in many cases, for the roofs as well (much of the original wooden roofing has now been replaced by composition shingles). The cross-gable or intersecting gable roof is probably the most common type found in Bay Head, followed by the front-gabled roof and finally, the gambrel roof. In some cases, such as the no longer standing Grenville Arms Hotel, a variety of roof forms was used on one building. A "U"-shaped plan, the Grenville Arms had a wing with a gambrel roof, a second wing with an overhanging gable roof and the component joining the two with a side gable roof. Roof lines can often be steeply pitched with gabled, hipped or shed-roofed dormers and overhanging eaves, sometimes with exposed rafters. Exterior walls are shingle clad with no interruption at the corners (no corner boards) and sometimes porch supports and balustrades are also shingled. Porches are extensive and usually wraparound at least two elevations and sometimes two floors.

Consistent with the Shingle style, decorative detailing is very limited and little classicizing ornament is evident. Occasionally, Doric columns are used for porch supports. Window surrounds are usually plain wide boards painted white or a contrasting trim color, which sets off the fenestration from the dark cedar shingle surface. The sash is almost always double-hung with a multi-pane sash for the top and a single pane of glass for the bottom sash. The usual combination is six-over-one. Towers are unusual although they do appear in some houses. Unlike the Queen Anne circular towers, the Shingle style houses only have square towers.

Vernacular houses form the second most frequent group of houses seen in Bay Head. These are usually stripped-down versions of higher style designs and in some cases are houses that have been altered but retain some features of a particular style. They can stylistic influences from any of the typical styles of the period but yet they defy specific stylistic identification. They reveal their late nineteenth-century-early-twentieth century date only through their proportions, use of porches and occasional reference to style in minimal ornament. Such buildings are usually tall and may be plain boxes, usually with the gable end toward the street, or may have an L or T plan. Generally there is a porch in the front of the house.

There are about one hundred Colonial Revival houses in Bay Head, of which the Dutch Colonial Revival is the predominant design influence on these houses in Bay Head. There are approximately three-dozen homes articulated by a side-gambrel roof with a second floor, full-width shed dormer, a centered entrance, a pent roof overhanging the first floor, and single and triple window groupings. Many also have a set back porch on one side of the house. The Colonial Revival houses that are not clearly Dutch Colonial or Shingle style-influenced and have classical elements such as columns and Palladian windows were described as Colonial Revival. The houses considered to be Colonial Revival in this survey are symmetrical, usually with a gable or hipped roof and often with dormers. Trim work is characterized by classical detailing such as elaborate cornices and corner boards.

The Foursquare is a building type rather than a style. As its name implies, the house is square, or almost square in plan. The roof is hipped, with dormers on the front elevation, or more often, on all four sides, providing a functioning attic. There is almost always a full-length porch across the front of the house. Detailing may be Shingle style or Colonial Revival. There are approximately four-dozen Foursquare houses within the boundaries of the Bay Head Historic District.

The Craftsman style is used on later and smaller houses in the Bay Head Historic District. These homes are typically Craftsman Bungalows with a low-pitched front or cross gabled roof, open and broad overhanging eaves with exposed roof rafters, full or partial-width porches with roofs supported by tapered square columns, and grouped or single cottage windows. Details of this style were adapted and simplified from Stick and Shingle styles, intermingled with Japanese-inspired elements. These homes differ from more vernacular bungalows by the level of decorative detail used.

The Queen Anne style is also seen in Bay Head. The dominant style of residential building from about 1880 to 1900, the Queen Anne is characterized by an asymmetrical facade with a partial or full-width porch, patterned shingles, attached circular towers, spindlework and brackets, a steeply pitched roof, and cutaway bay windows. In the Bay Head Historic District, its most landmark example is the Grenville Hotel at 345 Main Avenue. The large hotel achieves its plasticity and three-dimensionality with the use of conically-capped towers, hipped dormers, second floor balconies, overhanging gables and a Doric column-supported wrap-around porch.

The east side of East Avenue includes the largest of the Bay Head cottages, a line of Shingle style and Dutch Colonial houses of relatively large size and massing. All face east toward the ocean, set back from the road with service wings and garages nearest the street. The main facades are visible only from the beach. In contrast, the dwellings along the west side of East Avenue stand close to the sidewalk and are of a smaller scale, though their height is the same. The block between Howe Street and Mount Street constitutes one of the earliest areas of development with a high concentration of vernacular Queen Anne and Shingle style buildings. As before, the properties along the east side of the street face the ocean, while the westerly dwellings stand close to the sidewalk. The block between Mount Street and Chadwick Street is the core of the original Bay Head development. This block includes the three original founders' cottages, and was once the site of the Bluffs Hotel (now demolished).

The earliest commercial buildings in Bay Head (c. 1875), now Curtis' Central Market, stand joined together on Main Avenue between Mount Street and Chadwick Street. Bridge Avenue constitutes the main east-west thoroughfare of Bay Head and marks the primary cross axis of the town at Main Avenue. Its two ends are residential in nature, while the central section includes Bay Head's primary business district. Here is the second oldest group of commercial buildings in Bay Head, on the north side of Bridge Avenue, north of Scow Ditch. These include the original Vertices' Bakery (now Mueller's Bakery) and the Foster Building currently containing the post office (the stores of W.F. Grover and Alvah Strickland originally occupied it). Early twentieth century commercial buildings can be found on Main Avenue between Howe Street and Mount Street. Here is the original Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. grocery store (520 Main Avenue) from c.1910, and its newer incarnation in a Spanish Colonial Revival form located across the street (517 Main Avenue). Another Spanish Colonial Revival building can be found on the corner of Mount Street and Main Avenue, the original Chafey Drug Store, built c.1914.

The oldest churches in Bay Head are All Saints Episcopal Church and the Bay Head Chapel, both examples of the Shingle style. Both opened in the summer of 1889, and both were originally located on Scow Ditch. The Bayhead Land Company donated land to the Episcopalians to built All Saints Church at the southwest corner of Lake and Howe Avenues. Architect Emlen Littell designed All Saints Episcopal Church. Even though it has been altered with additions, All Saints has remained true to its Shingle style roots. Bay Head Chapel was located opposite the railroad station on the west side of Scow Ditch. It had been founded ten years earlier by some of the Presbyterian summer residents under the direction of Rev. Dr. Studdiford. The prominent local builder, Wyckoff Applegate, built both churches. He had teams of carpenters at both churches at the same time, hoping to finish both by the time summertime services would begin in July of 1889.

In the spring of 1910, the Bay Head Chapel was moved to its present location, at the corner of Bridge Avenue and Main Street. The original lot is now the empty lot in front of the Bay Head Sewer Pumping Station on Bridge Avenue (Fischer 1992:12). Unfortunately in the 1950s, the church was given some Colonial Revival alterations that have changed its original Shingle style design. These include a new steeple at the apex of the gable roof rather than alongside the roof as it was originally located, a new circular window in the east facade and the altered rhythm of the porch supports from three bays to five. The roof overhangs between the dormers were also shortened.

After the turn of the twentieth century, three new churches were added to the landscape of Bay Head. St. Paul's Methodist Church was built in 1904 on the corner of West Lake and Bridge Avenues. Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church was built around 1914 at the southwest corner of Main and Harris. Both were built in the Shingle style, although the Methodist Episcopal Church was very plain with its lancet multi-paned windows and simple gable-roofed form. Sacred Heart Church, on the other hand, built a buttressed, hipped roof, square tower at its southeast corner and fenestrated its shingled church with elaborate ogee-arched multi-paned windows. That church moved in 1927 to its present location, on Main and Goetze Streets, allowing it room for parking and expansion.

The third church, Bay Head Tabernacle, at the corner of West Lake and Park Avenues, was built at the turn of the century for the many African-American servants of the Bay Head summer residents; it was directly supported by monetary gifts from the Bay Head Chapel. Services were held on Thursday, which was maid's day off. The minister lived at the northern end of the tabernacle with his family. The last minister in charge was the Rev. Walker Wyatt. An area of the beach was also reserved for the African-American domestic workers. It was moved to a different location every two weeks (Fischer 1992: 13). The cedar-shingled Tabernacle served the community until the 1960s when it became a private home.

U.S. Lifesaving Station

One of the most elaborate buildings in early Bay Head was the U.S. Life Saving Station. Built in 1884, the Life Saving Station was also one of few the architect-designed buildings in Bay Head. In 1871, Congress appropriated money for rebuilding the old stations and for building additional new ones. Paul J. Pelz, a Washington-based architect who worked on federal buildings, including the Library of Congress, designed it. It was published in the American Architect and Building News, one of the premier and most-circulated architecture magazines of its time (American Architect and Building News, v. 16, September 13, 1884, p. 126, plate 455). The cross-gabled, Shingle style building was two stories in height with a very prominent five-story square clock tower at the intersection of the gables. A large door opened to the beach to allow the surf boats to be wheeled out quickly. An open shed-roofed porch on turned spindles ornamented the north side of the station immediately in front of the tower, while a complex three-story oriel window supported by curved brackets and ornamented with patterned shingles, corner panels and flared eaves, was located immediately behind the tower. The second floor provided living space for the keeper and the surfmen, and the tower was used to scan the horizon for troubled ships.

This was the most elaborate of the Life Saving Stations in Bay Head, and the first permanent station built on the Jersey coast (La Bonte 1986: 16). The earlier stations were simply unmanned boathouses housing surf boats and rescue equipment. The earliest, built in 1854, at the foot of what is now Osborne Avenue, was little more than a gable-roofed, single bay structure resembling a stable. The second station, Life Saving Station #10, was located at the base of present day Chadwick Street. Eventually it was moved and converted to residential use. The site was used for the Paul Pelz-designed Station. The station was taken over by the Coast Guard in 1915. At some point, the station was altered when the clock tower was removed and replaced by a freestanding metal watchtower. The station continued in service through World War II.

The Bay Head Train Loop

Completion of the New York and Long Branch railroad in 1875 established the first all-weather, all rail transportation link between New York and the New Jersey coasts, attracting a heretofore unprecedented number of seasonal vacationers and year round residents. The trains also provided freight service, but their main function was to provide transportation for day-trippers and vacationers to the Jersey Shore. Just as the Morristown Line (Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad) had an impact on suburbanization, the Coast Line (NY & LB Railroad) is inextricably lined to the development of this area of New Jersey as a resort community. The new railroad had its terminus at Bay Head. The linear rail line paralleled the coast, and together these two features helped determine and maintain the grid-like street pattern adopted by coastal developers. Originally the train ended at Bay Head proper, (off of Bridge Avenue), but eventually the train loop at Bay Head Junction surpassed the importance of the in-town station and it was discontinued. Today, the NJ Transit North Jersey Coast line ends at the Bay Head train loop.

The Bay Head train loop is a unique resource that permits complete trains (locomotives and cars) to be turned without the use of either a turntable or a "wye" track. The Bay Head Loop permitted the numerous New York and Long Branch Railroad trains between Bay Head Junction and New York City and Jersey City to be turned and stored without being disassembled. Because of the large amount of property needed to accommodate the turning loop, few, if any, other turning loops were built in New Jersey and today the Bay Head Loop is the only turning loop in New Jersey. The New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office has previously determined that the Bay Head Loop is part of the eligible New York and Long Branch Railroad National Register Historic District.


  1. Although the town founders had named their new company and development Bayhead, the train station had its sign painted with two words instead of one, which eventually became the accepted spelling (Schoettle 1966: 11).


Cunningham, John T. The New Jersey Shore. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1958.

Donatiello, Eugene E. and John G. Leary. Brick Township. Charleston, South Carolina: Images of America Series, Arcadia Publishing Co., 1999.

Fischer, Ramsay M.B. All Saints' Church. Bay Head, New Jersey: The First 100 Years (1889-1989). Bay Head, NJ: self-published, 1989.

Fischer, Ramsay M.B. The Bay Head Chapel: Our First Century (1889-1989). Bay Head, NJ: self published, 1989.

Guzzo, Dorothy. Consultation Comments for the North Jersey Coast Line, Long Branch, New Jersey, dated August 20, 2004.

"Grenville Arms, Bay Head, New Jersey." American Architect and Building News. November 16, 1901 (v.74, p.56, pi. 1351).

Heritage Studies. Cultural Resources Survey of Bay Head. 1995.

Heyer, Gail. Chronological History of Bay Head. 2003.

Jahn, Robert. Down Barnegat Bay: A Nor'easter Midnight Reader. Mantoloking, NJ: Beachcomber Press, 1980.

La Bonte, Richard. In Old Bay Head. A Centennial Souvenir. Bay Head, NJ: Privately printed, 1966.

Miller, Pauline. Ocean County: Four Centuries in the Making. Toms River, New Jersey: Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission, 2000.

Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission. "New Jersey Historic Sites Inventory: Ocean County Historic Sites Survey." 1980-1981. On file with the Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission, Toms River, NJ.

Oxenford, David. The People of Ocean County. Point Pleasant Beach: The Valente Publishing House, Inc., 1992.

Salter, Edwin. A History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Bayonne, NJ: E. Gardener & Son, 1890.

Schoettle, William C. Bay Head 1879-1911. Bay Head, NJ: Privately printed, 1966.

Silverman, Justin, "Bay Head Borough." Ocean County History website.

"United States Life-Saving Station, Bay Head, New Jersey." American Architect and Building News. September 13, 1884 (v.16, p.126, pi. 455).

Wacker, Peter. Land and People. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1975.

Whittacker, J.H. Map of Bay Head for the Directors of the Bay Head Land Company. Trenton, NJ: 1883.

Wilson, Harold. The Story of the Jersey Shore. Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. 1964.

Woolley, Jerry A. Point Pleasant. Images of American Series. Dover, New Hampshire: Arcadia Publishing, 1995.

† Ulana D. Zakalak, Historic Preservation Consultant, Borough of Bay Head, Bay Head Historic District, Ocean County, NJ, nomination document, 2005, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Bay Head Historic District Map

Street Names
Bayberry Lane • Birch Place • Bridge Avenue • Club Drive • East Avenue • Egbert Street • Forsyth Street • Goetze Street • Grove Street • Harris Street • Holly Avenue • Howe Street • Johnson Street • Karge Street • Lake Avenue • Lake Avenue West • Main Avenue • Maple Drive • Meadow Avenue • Metcalf Street • Mount Street • North Street • Osborne Avenue • Park Avenue • Route 35 • Strickland Street • Twilight Road

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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