32. Asbury Park

From Kingsley Street to Main Street

Main Street

Main Street runs about eight blocks north to south, from Deal Lake to about the foot of Wesley Lake. The RR tracks run parallel to it, a short block west. Main is not as much a small-town street as Cookman and is not as charming overall. Rather, it is bigger, more diverse; it has larger businesses, and used to have a couple of auto showrooms. It's the kind of Main Street that belongs to a small city (which, of course, Asbury Park is).

Near the foot of Cookman Avenue was the main train station (below). I remember this station in an atmospheric way. I recall the powdery romantic daylight inside it which hushed through the tall arched windows. Orderly rows of benches, like church pews, striped the interior. A large, ornate clock told the time. God bless it, this was one of the great small American stations! Somebody get my fedora hat!

Image 1 .32.2. The old Asbury Park train station. In the background is the post office. To the right is Main Street, to the left is the RR tracks, behind the station.

The main train station was torn down in the late 70s (or early 80s) and replaced with the James J. Howard Transportation center, a kind of all-municipal-purpose jumble. (Howard - 1927-1988 - was a U.S. representative from New Jersey.) Click HERE to see a modern approximation of the above image.

Image 2.32.2. The Asbury Park Post Office.

The Post Office was built in 1912. It is still in use. Architecturally the train station complimented it.

Moving south to north, a number of interesting buildings can be found on Main Street. One of these is the old Y.M.C.A. building, on the NE corner of Sewell Avenue and Main. The New Jersey National Bank Building (below) is typical of those great classical "vaults" that were found on many American Main streets. The very look of such places told you that your money was secure. In the photo below, the bank needs a bit of exterior cleaning (which would include, I hope, removal of that alien-looking cheese-wheel of a sign). (Update: They removed it. Thanks! Now get rid of that rusty old car!)

3.32.2. The New Jersey National Bank Building (formally the Asbury Park and Ocean Grove Bank).

The firehouse on the corner of Asbury Avenue and Main (below) is still in use. It was built in 1899 (dedicated in 1900) as the headquarters of the fire department.

4.32.2. Main Street Firehouse. The birds seem to like it. (Firebirds?) Click HERE to see an older image of the station.

Asbury Park had two train stations. Though the town is only eight blocks long, a trip between north and south Asbury in horse-and-buggy days took longer than it does today. North Asbury Depot is between Fifth and Sunset and is still standing (though it has been expanded in an boxy utilitarian way and is no longer used as a station). The western edge of Sunset Lake is just a block east of Main Street here.

5.32.2. North Asbury Depot. Click HERE to see an interesting bird's-eye-view.

Naturally, a large number of stores populates Main Street. Some, like Home Drug, are old; others are newer or new. A great many changes have taken place on Main through the years. Recently, a few attractive vintage buildings have undergone restoration.

I remember watching parades on Main Street. I must have been very little because I recall how the pounding of the bass drums made my stomach vibrate. I would often ride from place to place with my grandmother in her big green and white Flash-Gordon Oldsmobile. I recall the various luncheonettes, their candy counters, sofa fountains and magazine racks; the Asbury Diner, across from the firehouse; the bicycle shop on the northeast corner of Sewell; Tabor's restaurant, a block east of North Asbury Station; Hymie's luncheonette across from the main station. Men in fedora hats and women in longish navy blue skirts stick out in my mind. For people who grew up in Asbury Park, the city was like an extension their living room. On Main or elsewhere, the stores and all other places were like pieces of furniture. The streets were hallways. In a sense, every nook and cranny belonged to us. This was our kingdom. We were perfectly at home.

Click HERE to see a few modern shots of Main Street.

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Here ends our overview of Kingsley to Main. Our next and concluding look at Asbury Park concerns the West Side, the residential area across the RR tracks.

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