Read Our Asbury Park Featured Articles
Founded in 1871 by New York City broom manufacturer James A. Bradley, Asbury Park has always been a very progressive city, which was one of the visions of its founder.
Bradley, who had recently converted to Methodism, visited a summer camp meeting in Ocean Grove to the south and set his sights immediately to the north by purchasing about 500 acres of oceanfront land, which would eventually become Asbury Park.
Bradley paid $90,000 for the property in 1871 and named it after Francis Asbury, the first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America.
From the very beginning Bradley instituted very progressive and innovative designs into Asbury Park, including a boardwalk with pavilions; electrical and trolley systems; an artesian well; wide, tree-lined streets; parks and churches, and a thriving oceanfront and business district.
More than 600,000 people vacationed in Asbury Park annually in the city's early years and the city flourished from later part of the Victorian era to the 1960s.
In 1880 Coney Island impresario George C. Tilyou opened up his Steeplechase amusements on Ocean Avenue and brought his iconic and smiling Tillie face to Asbury Park. In 1888, the Palace Merry-Go-Round was installed at the corner of Lake Avenue and Kingsley Street and many other amusements and attractions soon followed.
In 1929 the current Convention Hall and Casino building were begun and the city became a cultural and shopping destination, not only for fine stores but for movies, theater, and concerts.
From the early days of John Philip Sousa and Arthur Pryor, through the big band and jazz and blues era, to contemporary musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Southside Johnny, the city has more than its fair share of musical history.
Clubs along Springwood Avenue on the city's Westside were frequented by the likes of Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and many other jazz and blues greats.
Over the years Asbury Park has been visited by millions of tourists and music lovers alike.
But, like many urban areas, the advent of the Garden State Parkway, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, and major shopping malls took tourists, businesses and shoppers away from Asbury Park and the city saw hard times from around 1970 to the turn of the century.
Today, thanks largely to the many residents, newcomers, and organizations, like the Asbury Park Historical Society, Asbury Park is once again becoming the place to be, with a rejuvenated boardwalk, downtown, and residential area.
- AP Historical Society