Beach Haven Historic District
Photo: Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS NJ-1102], David Ames, photographer, fall 1991.
The Beach Haven Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from the Beach Haven Multiple Resource Nomination.  Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Beach Haven Historic District is among the few highly intact concentrations of late 19th century resort architecture surviving on the New Jersey coast. Beach Haven was built to serve the upper middle classes of New York and Philadelphia, a role which it fulfilled until recent years. As a result, most of the buildings constructed — both private homes and large hotels — were generous (if not opulent) examples of the prevailing styles of the era, primarily employing Queen Anne elements. Although fire, storms, and replacement have taken their toll (especially along the now motel-lined beach front, not included in the historic district), what remains is a remarkable array of resort architecture evoking the sense of the town much as it was in its heyday in the last quarter of the 19th century.
Aside from the major buildings in the Beach Haven Historic District, there are also a number of no less important structures which do not appear to have been the work of an architect. Most of these buildings were probably designed and built by local craftsmen. Many of these homes are large vernacular structures such as the clapboard houses of Pharo and Smith on Second Street. Later buildings of this size were sheathed in shingle and employed Queen Anne elements similar to those found in the grand cottages on Coral Street.
Like many beach resorts, less expensive lots were available a few blocks from the ocean front and were often bought by middle class families. In Beach Haven the middle class built their homes on small lots west of Beach Avenue. Similar to the larger homes these structures were built by local craftsmen and some of their details are found in the more elaborate structures in the historic district. In these buildings Queen Anne and Victorian Gothic elements are common.
The Beach Haven Historic District benefits from its period of primary construction, one in which irregularity of form was common. However, this diversity of parts combines to create a whole which is unified by style. While only a few buildings can be called similar in design, most share one or several of the elements common to residential architecture at the end of the last century; irregular massing, a variety of roof types, dormers, Queen Anne sash, towers and the ubiquitous porch, usually with turned elements in the balustrade, posts, or valence band, and often with ornate sawn brackets. Porches were important to the late 19th century exurban home, and even more so in the seaside resorts where the function of inhaling the sea breezes was added to that of sitting and rocking. Thus, nearly every structure in the Beach Haven Historic District has an expansive porch, more akin to a veranda than to the urban stoop, adding to the irregularity of the massing; porches seem to become a necessary part of the public face of a building, regardless of the structure's function, in the same sense that all buildings must also have a main entrance; thus, even the Holy Innocents Mission Church (now the Long Beach Island Historic Association) has an ornate porch, although one does not normally envision rocking on the front porch of a religious building.
The Beach Haven Historic District with cohesive, unified streetscapes, containing not only large houses but also churches, retail uses, smaller houses, and hotels are reminiscent of the Beach Haven of a century ago. Intrusions and severely altered buildings are few, with the result that the blocks of large late-19th century houses continue to make a strong statement about Beach Haven Historic District's early years.