23. Other Beachfront Elements
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Thus far, we have concentrated on those elements of the beachfront and near-beachfront that have most defined Asbury Park. Where character is concerned, a great many "loose ends" remain. I will touch on a just few of these below.
Ocean Avenue has a north-to-south parallel thoroughfare called Kingsley Street. I've mentioned it only a couple of times. The Monte Carlo Pool, The Monterey Hotel, MRS. JAY'S BAR AND GRILL, the Wonder Bar and many other establishments, were either on or between Ocean and Kingsley.
People still call the combined route of these two streets "the Circuit." On summer weekends, visitors to Asbury - especially local teenagers - would circle the crowded circuit in their cars, receptive to whatever adventure befell them. Round and round they'd go, picking up friends, talking from car to car, changing cars, stopping for a hamburger or a pizza. Sometimes they would dash to nearby beach towns and back. The image has become typical of the 'Fifties; and we see this kind of activity in films such as American Graffiti. I am amazed at the extent to which Asbury Park achieved "perfection of a type." In form and content, Asbury typified so much Americana that it is difficult to account for all of it.
Image 1.23.1. Ocean Avenue at Night. This photo was taken by local photographer Chuck Agreen from the top of the Casino.
I cannot count for you the number of hotels and other hostelries that little Asbury Park once boasted. "Over 200" was one estimate made in the years gone by. Among the most notable surviving large hotels is the Metropolitan, on Asbury Avenue and Heck Street, off library Square, and a block or so northwest of the Saint James Theater. The name "Metropolitan Hotel" appears, in the same place, on a 1889 map I have of Asbury Park. Originally a wooden frame structure, it was redone in concrete around 1915, perhaps the first use of the material for building in Asbury Park. The establishment was noted for keeping a Kosher kitchen and therefore catered to many Jewish clients. In appearance, the Metropolitan was a classic seaside grand hotel. Even a simple photo of it can conjure up a sense of time, place and adventure.
Image 2.23.1. The Metropolitan Hotel.
Image 3.23. That's all for the Metropolitan. (March 2008)
One building that truly has survived is the Baronet Theater, on Fourth Avenue, a few doors west of Kingsley Street. Over a ten-year period, the present owners conscientiously restored this small gem to the deco splendor it had when owned by Walter Reade. (It was built in 1913 and originally called the Ocean Theater. Vaudeville was its early fare. It was first owned by the Rockefellers in conjunction with a nearby hotel.) The auditorium's 550 recliner seats are among the original elements retained. The mirrored lobby boasts a sizable vintage popcorn machine by the Manley company.
Image 4.23.1. The newly restored Baronet Theater.
Image 5.23.1. The newly newly restored Baronet Theater.
I don't recall having been in the Baronet when I was a kid. This is probably because the theater ran a lot of foreign films and "art" flicks (my taste for these developed when I was in my later teens). I believe the first time I ever went inside was when Danny DeVito had a showing, for family and friends, of his short film Minestrone. This was in 1975. The Baronet currently hosts a variety of fare, including children's shows, musical and cultural programs.
Other hotels still active in the 'Fourties and 'Fifties included the Albion, on Second Avenue, half a block from the beach, which included the Rainbow Room, a popular nightclub.
Image 6.23.1. The Albion Hotel. Click HERE to see some positively delightful images of the Albion and the Ranibow Room. Note: bring your top hat!
The Jefferson Hotel was on the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Kingsley, as was The Brunswick, across the street. Of course, there was the Plaza Hotel (which we have already seen); it was the Palace Amusements' neighbor to the east. Click HERE to see images of these hotels.
Many of the smaller hotels and rooming houses, just off Kingsley Street on the eight numbered east-west avenues, are now duel-family dwellings. While some are a broken shadow of their former selves, restoration by private individuals has been on the upswing. Anyone with eyes can tell that these houses are simply too attractive and architectually important to waste.
Image 7.23.1. Third Avenue and Kingsley Street
The Kingsley Arms Hotel (below), on Deal Lake Drive and Kingsley Street, is today a senior-citizen establishment. The following postcard shows the hotel in its heyday, with a portion of the sparkling Monte Carlo Pool in front.
Image 8.23.1. The Kingsley Arms Hotel with the Monte Carlo Pool in the foreground. Deal Lake Drive, and Deal Lake, is to the right. The Santanter Hotel is in the distance, behind the flag.
The list of once-exciting places could easily continue. Suffice it to say that the Asbury Park beachfront, in the eight-or-so blocks from Deal Lake to Wesley Lake, was filled with the kind of sights that typified a classic seaside resort (but rarely with the gaudiness that some places had). While exposure to the Asbury of old has left a glowing impression in the minds of visitors, the effect is probably greater for those of us who lived there year round. In the final chapter, I will tell in a lyrical-analytical way the "structure" of Asbury Park as it survives inside me.
So pour a glass of wine, relax and get into the"far-off" mood.