Town Hall / Municipal
701 Main Street
701 Main Street
(732) 776-2999 x27
Fax: (732) 775-1782
Chamber of Commerce
Executive Director & Notary Public
501 Main Street, Suite #1
Bradley Beach, NJ 07720
732-455-3382 - Fax
515 Main Street
511 4th Avenue
Colfax Plaza • 2510 Belmar Blvd., Suite I-17, Wall, NJ 07719 • Phone: 732-280-8800
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BRADLEY BEACH
By Shirley Ayres, Borough Historian
Bradley Beach is a beach resort town with a year round population of about 5,000 people and over 25,000 summer visitors and residents. It is located south of Ocean Grove and north of Avon, and is separated from both towns by lakes.
After the American Civil War ended in 1865, the religious retreat was founded in Ocean Grove. Methodists from New York and northern New Jersey were drawn to Ocean Grove and spent summers enjoying the cool ocean breezes, far from the hot cities of home. Two of the visitors were James A. Bradley, a wealthy Manhattan brush manufacturer, and William B. Bradner, a rich business man from Newark. Both men saw the potential in ocean front property that lay south of Ocean Grove across Fletcher Lake. The land was mostly pine forests and sand dunes, but both Bradley and Bradner bought many acres of land in what would become Bradley Beach. James Bradley explored north of Ocean Grove and started buying property in what would become Asbury Park. In the 1870s, only Ocean Grove was starting to develop. The two business men laid out building lots and designed future streets because they both knew that this property would become popular with summer visitors, but they thought it would be a religious retreat like Ocean Grove.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the railroads were bringing summer visitors to Bradley Beach because business people were building hotels to receive guests. There were several large hotels that would send carriages to the train station to pick up their guests. Businesses were starting to flourish and trolleys were running up and down Main Street, from Long Branch south to Belmar. Some visitors were buying houses in which to spend the summer months. Single family houses were being built at a rapid rate. James Bradley donated some of his property for the Methodist, Catholic and Episcopal churches as well as for the school and library.
The biggest and most elegant hotel was the LaReine Hotel on Ocean Avenue. It was built in 1900, had 100 rooms, and was well known as one of the finest hotels in the area. Each room had an ocean view. There were two kitchens, one to serve kosher foods and the other served all the rest of the meals. When kosher food is prepared, all cutlery and dinnerware, pots and pans, and serving dishes must be used only for kosher food. The refrigerators, stoves, ovens and counter work spaces must be separated from other food preparation to be considered kosher.
In April 1974, the beautiful LaReine Hotel burned to the ground in an early morning fire. It was never rebuilt and today, several townhouses stand in its place.
The first public school classes were held above a Main Street store. In 1883, a small wooden structure was built on the east side of Main Street between Evergreen and Monmouth Avenues. A newer school was built in 1886 on Fifth Avenue. The present school was built in 1911 and was considered totally fireproof and was the state of the art school in Monmouth County. In 1927, a large gymnasium was built and over it, in 1960, a new wing of the school was added.
In the summer of 1929, Bradley Beach was the first town in New Jersey and in the entire United States to issue beach badges. They were metal and had the year engraved on each one. The badges were issued free to residents and guests of the hotels. Others, wanting to use the public beaches, were charged a fee for a bath house. That was the only way outsiders were allowed on the beach. Today, everyone pays to get on the beach. Season badges are $70.00 and daily badges are $7.00.
To honor the two hundredth anniversary of the United States, Ross Rowland, Jr., a New York commodities broker and railroad steam engineer, had the idea to help celebrate the Bicentennial with a traveling exhibition of artifacts from two hundred years of American history. The result was the steam powered American Freedom Train, filled with over five hundred treasures of Americana. The twenty-five car train carried such artifacts as George Washington's copy of the Constitution, the original Louisiana Purchase, Judy Garland's dress from "The Wizard of Oz", Joe Frazier's boxing trunks, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s pulpit and robes, and a rock from the moon. From April 1, 1975 until December 31, 1976, more than seven million Americans visited the train during the tour of all forty eight contiguous states. Tens of millions more stood trackside to see the train go by. On Labor Day weekend, 1976, the train, whose cars were painted red, white and blue, was parked at the Bradley Beach/Neptune siding. There was always a line to get in to see the pieces of our American history. Inside the train, visitors stood on a moving walkway that took them past the cases of memorabilia. At the Freedom Train site, the Bradley Beach post office had a substation made out of a mail truck with an awning over the back door of the truck. Two postal employees sat in the back of the truck, selling special stamps and cancelling letters with a Freedom Train postmark.
The coastal towns of Monmouth County have suffered a lot of property damage over the years to hurricanes in the summer and northeastern storms in the winter. The last really bad northeastern storm was in December, 1992 when most of the boardwalk from Asbury Park to Spring Lake was torn up and scattered throughout the towns like so much kindling wood. In 1993, before the start of the summer season, Bradley Beach replaced its boardwalk with paving tiles. Flower beds have been planted and professional bocce courts and gazebos have been installed, making Bradley Beach's beachfront enjoyable and pleasing to the eye. We are very proud of our beautiful town.