29. Asbury Park

From Kingsley Street to Main Street

Cookman Avenue

When I was a kid, my family spent more time shopping on Cookman Avenue than on any other street, including Main. I recall the intimate hustle and bustle of Cookman, the well-dressed people and the fresh-headed ambiance of classic small town shopping street. It had its own department store, five-and-ten, drugstore and an array of other shops.

About six blocks long, Cookman runs crookedly from the front of the Saint James Theater to Main Street and parallels Lake Avenue. Press Plaza is its center. Two other streets converge here: Mattison Avenue and Emory Street. Looking south down Emory Street you can see Wesley Lake a block away and the Victorians of Ocean Grove on the other side. On the southeast corner of Press Plaza (at Cookman and Emory) was liggetts Drug Store. I remember that they made great tuna sandwiches at their lunch counter. (It's so great to have a drugstore with a lunch counter!) I would go there with my grandmother; and there were always a few people at the counter whom she knew - woman with silk scarves around their necks and guys in fedora hats and charcoal suits who looked like detectives.

Image 1.29.2. Liggetts Drug Store, SE corner of Press Plaza, Cookman Avenue and Emory Street. Wesley Lake is a one short block down Emory, to the right. (Liggetts occupied the old Sea Coast Bank Building. ( To see an interior photo of the bank in its heyday, click HERE.)

Steinbachs department store is on Cookman just across the street from Liggetts. Steinbachs (or what is left of it) has been in this location since 1897. It is considered Monmouth County's largest pre-1930s store building.

Image 2.29.2. Press Plaza, looking north. Steinbachs department store is across Cookman. To the left is Asbury Park Trust Company Building (fomerly the post office), where Woodrew Wilson had his 1916 campaign headquarters. The Asbury Park Press Building is just outside the photo, on Mattison, next to the Trust Company building,

The Renaissance-style clock tower was added to the Steinbachs building in 1921. (The tower was destroyed by fire in the 1980s.)I remember that Steinbachs was something like Macys. It had an elegant aspirations, with lots of glass counters downstairs. One fond memory I have of Steinbachs is the little ting, ting, ting of the arriving elevators. There was such magic in those golden belltones.

Three blocks east up Cookman, just past Grand Avenue, was Flo's Luncheonette (on the SW corner of Heck Street and Cookman). This was a great old-fashioned neighborhood establishment, with the green horizontal decals (a sheet-metal-effect) on the lower parts of the windows. On the east side of the store was a long lunch counter. On the other side was the cash register with the metal stair-step candy rack beside it. A number of small tables occupied the center of the room.

Image 3.29.2. Cookman Avenue, Looking west. That's "Flo's" at left (here called "Nace"). Note the Steinbach tower in the distance. (Photo from Dorn's Photography Unlimited, Red Bank.)

On the south side of Flo's, down Heck Street and across the street from Wesley Lake, was the New York Bus Terminal. It was a longish building of white stucco. It always looked a bit "western" to me; I half expected to find cowboys sitting in the waiting room. Most of the building was a parking place for the buses. The actual waiting room was just a small capsule of a spot on Lake Avenue. It had gilded ticket windows, a floor of small white tiles, lockers, and an old-fashioned mirrored vending machine that sold combs, nail clippers and other things you take with you on a trip. For people who love great light (e.g., photographers) this room was extraordinary. During the late day, it simply glowed with a powdery illumination that made you feel that you had stepped back in time. It was always great to sit in there are look out at the lake and at the Victorian houses of Ocean Grove beyond.

bus

Image 4.29.2. Here is a photo of the Heck Avenue entrance of the bus station (Lake Avenue, on Wesley Lake, is is the other street).  Flo's Luncheonette was down the block to the right, on the corner of Cookman and Heck. The large downstairs windows belong to the waiting room. To see a gorgeous photo of the bus station that I took in 1988, click HERE.

Now back to the heart of Cookman Avenue. Half a block south of Press Plaza, on the south side of the street, was J.J. Newberry Co. (called simply Newberrys).

Image 5.29.2. Newberrys, looking southeast on Cookman Avenue. I know, I know - this is what you call a Boring Postcard. I admit that Newberrys was not a very attractive building, but as a kid I didn't seem to mind. At least it fit in flush with the rest of the block. Newberrys was there since 1926.

I ought to mention that four department stores sat next to each other on Cookman. From east to west, they were Newberry's, Green's, McCrory's and Woolworth. (Thanks to Helen Pike and others for figuring this out.) It was quite a nice line-up.

Newberrys was a five-and ten, a lot like Woolworth. A lunch counter flanked part of the west side of the interior. The rest of the place offered goods of every kind in the same design and arrangement as Woolworth. There was also a downstairs, or basement. Exiting downstairs would put you on Lake Avenue. (You don't really think about it, but Cookman to Lake Avenue is actually a hill.) My mother often would park on Lake Avenue and enter the store through the basement. I recall that, as a child, I noted how beautiful the view was across Wesley Lake. I remember it was summer. What a sight you could enjoy when you paid a simple visit to a five-and-ten!

Image 6.29.2. A pleasant view of Ocean Grove across Wesley Lake as seen from a spot near the back entrance of Woolworth, on Lake Avenue.

Back on Cookman: Remember "Captain" Johnny Richardson? For 60 years he sold newspapers and magazines in front of Newberrys. Disabled from polio since childhood, he always had a smiling face that inspired good-humor and courage.

A nice selection of stores, small and large, lined tree-trimmed Cookman Avenue. The following photo was shot half a block from Newberrys, looking west.

Image 7.29.2. Cookman Avenue, looking west. Main Street intersects just past the farthest building at left. I took this photo in December 2001. A few new stores have begun to appear to recent years.

Before we look at Main Street, we are going to browse around a bit on the streets just north of Cookman Avenue. There's some interesting architecture coming up. Go back to the top of this page, have a soda at Liggetts and then click on "Next Page" below.

 

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