12. Wesley Lake Section, Part 3
On Our Way to the Palace Amusements
(We Look Around a Bit)
We stroll out the Casino Arcade, pass through the Crown and onto the sidewalk. Here we find ourselves faced with a number of important Asbury elements.
Image 1.12.1. Lake Avenue and the Wesley lake Area.
See the red dot I put on the sidewalk? That's us leaving the Crown. The Palace Amusements, our super-diverting destination, is the building with the double-hip roof, clerestory windows and Ferris wheel, which you see across the street, a little down Lake Avenue. At the right of the photo is the old Plaza Hotel. To our left is Wesley Lake, of course. Before strolling over to Palace Amusements, we're going to walk back toward the boardwalk a bit, to the little restaurant in the lower left of the photo. We do this because I want to be in position to look straight up Ocean Avenue and be in line with the next photo. Okay, stand under one of the yellow awnings as though you are ordering something and then turn around...
Image 2.12.1. Ocean Avenue, looking north. (Photo by Chuck Agreen.) Click HERE to see a very similar photograph taken about 1910!
On our right is the First Avenue Pavilion. The white building next to it is the Natatorium (the indoor Boardwalk pool). In the farther distance we see our old friends the Paramount Theater and the Berkley Carteret Hotel. The white building to the far left of the scene is the Albion Hotel. Popular establishments such as Mrs. Jays (a bustling eatery), and the Wonder Bar (so-called World's Longest Bar) were found on the west side of Ocean Avenue. Some gaming spots, featuring skee-ball and other amusements, also resided on the this side of the street. The present photo does not allow us to turn our heads much; but the parking lot on our left belongs to a magnificent hotel, the COLEMAN HOUSE. The Coleman was torn down in the '50s and replaced by a modern motel, the Empress. Here is a photo of the Empress:
Image 3.12.1. The Empress Motel.
The black and white photo above approximates our view of the Empress Motel. The right side faces Ocean Avenue. If you really want to see another photo of the Empress, click HERE.
(We Take a Little Walk)
Okay, let's amble back to the front of the Casino Crown. We have another detour to make before we go to the Palace Amusements. We're going to walk around the Casino Crown to the edge of Wesley Lake. Then we'll go behind the colonnade of the heating plant and - "Hold everything!" you exclaim. "The heating plant again?" "Fret not," I reply. "I hasten to address the marvel."
Image 4.12.1. The Heating Plant today (a bit computer-cleaned).
Above is a head-on shot of the Heating Plant (computer-cleaned but still decayed). Were it not for the arty deco exterior it would have been an ugly sight. The style is that interesting combination of Moorish, Venetian and Egyptian that we have seen (and will continue to see). Now let's go up to the passage behind the row of lakeside arches at right and turn around. Wow! Nice angle!
Image 5.12.1. Wesley Lake and a few of its attractions.
In my opinion, this is the quintessential Asbury Park postcard from the '50s. All the colors are correct. In the foreground is the famous Swan Boat all loaded and ready to go. We see the ticket booth for the Swan and for the other water-borne attractions - the Motorboats (see them at right on their little course), and the U-Peddle Boats (see them dallying freely out on the lake). There's the chalky-green Palace Amusements (our eventual destination) across the street. As you can see, the Palace Amusements is made up of two sections, the corner, with its red roof looking like a beveled, flattened pyramid; and the more box-shaped Annex further down the block. The Ferris wheel divides the two parts.
Do you see that great Spanish-Moorish palace across the street from the Annex? That is the magnificent Mayfair Theater, which we will go into later on. It plays an important role in what the Wesley Lake area was all about. Practically attached to the north side of the Mayfair Theater is another movie palace, called the Saint James (right under the "Asbu" in the word "Asbury" on the postcard).
You can't see it very well, but the low building just above the Swan's head is a wonderful old bus station. It was appealingly antique, of old white stucco, with a gilt ticket window and worn white tiles. The tower at the left of the scene, in the distance, was the Renaissance clock tower of our department store, Steinbachs. It is on Cookman Avenue, our main shopping district. Steinbachs looks distant in this photo but it's really only a few blocks from here, a really easy walk. By the way, if you'd like to see the nighttime version of the above postcard, click HERE.
Now I'd like to drag you to one other spot before we head for the Palace Amusements. I will show you what was my favorite section of the Boardwalk. Come on! Let's go through the corridor of the Heating Plant and back onto the boards, on the other side of the Casino. You can use the wooden stairs if you like.
Photo 6.12.1. South side of the Heating Plant. Part of Ocean Grove's old North End Hotel (which we will soon see) is to the right.
If you use the stairs, be careful not to fall into the lake. You don't want to end up on the front page of The Asbury Park Press, do you? God forbid!