Officer's Row

Officer’s Row, Sandy Hook (Fort Hancock).

Since Fort Hancock was deactivated in 1974, most of these houses have just sat around, doing nothing.

After years with no clear plan for the future of Fort Hancock, in 1999 the National Parks Service looked at a bunch of submitted proposals for what to do with the various fort structures. They selected Rumson developer James Wassel to renovate the buildings Fort Hancock:

The developer had planned to spend $70 million-$90 million on restoring the buildings that lie within the NRA’s Sandy Hook unit. Sixteen Officer’s Row homes were envisioned as bed-and-breakfast inns. A dorm once used for U.S. troops was proposed to be transformed into classrooms for Rutgers University or perhaps Brookdale Community College. Mess halls, gymnasiums, even the old mule barn and the officer’s club also were part of the deal. And the NPS would spend $2.2 million on a new dock so he could ferry conferees over to Fort Hancock from Manhattan (Repanshek 2010, para. 3).

Sounds great, right?

Well, the funds didn’t come through, and nothing at all has been done with the buildings since then. Wassel’s 2004 lease for most of the Officer’s Row buildings (which technically never went through) was canceled in 2009, and his 2007 lease for three other buildings (Post Chapel, Post Theater, and the old park service headquarters) was canceled in 2010, even though he’d renovated them. The structures further deteriorated since Wassel’s involvement (or lack thereof) in 1999, so now they’ll be even MORE of a hassle to restore, IF any developers can be convinced to take on the project now.

Every time my family drives by Officer’s Row, my dad shakes his head in disbelief. “This is waterfront property,” he says. “The land alone must be worth a fortune. I’m sure there are young couples who’d jump at the chance to restore one of these things. But look! Everything is just rotting! What a waste! What a shame!”

After that whole fiasco, the Gateway National Recreation Area officials are understandably wary of leasing out all the buildings for one big development project, and officials are reputedly seeking individual tenants for a “a more efficient building by building rehabilitation strategy (Repanshek 2010, para. 5).”

But finding lessees is hard, and keeping them may be even harder. The Audubon Society, one of three organizations permitted to stay in its Officers’ Row building after Wassel’s lease, just decided to close down its operations in late December 2011 (Sheehan 2011).

On the brighter side, as of last week, the National Park Service had plans to negotiate a lease for one of the buildings with the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children (National Park Service 2012). So at least it doesn’t seem like they’ll be bulldozing the whole area immediately.

(P.S. I actually took this photo back in 2007 when MCDP was fully active, but I guess I didn’t like it for some reason. Upon second review, I don’t think it’s too bad at all.)



National Parks Service. (2012). “Gateway enters negotiations with AIDS Research Foundation for Children to Lease Fort Hancock Building.” Atlantic Highlands Herald.

Repanshek, K. (2010). “National Park Service Officials Again Debating What To Do With Historic Officers’ Quarters at Fort Hancock.” National Parks Traveler.

Sheehan, L. (2010). “Fort developer loses lease for three buildings.” Independent.

Sheehan, L. (2011). “Audubon to fly the coop at Sandy Hook location.” Independent.


Asbury Park Casino, fall 2011

Every time I go back to Asbury Park, the casino looks different. Above is how the Ocean Grove side of the casino looked in 2011…

Asbury Park Casino, summer 2007

…but THIS is how it looked four years ago, in 2007.

I originally posted that bottom photo here, and mentioned that there were some plans to recreate the beach side of the Casino.

Thus far, this has not happened.

Here’s what the ocean-side of the Casino looked like in early 2007 (click the photo for a link to its original post):
Asbury Park Casino, February 2007

…and here’s what it looked like in late 2011:
Beach side of the Asbury Park casino, September 2011

It’s interesting to watch this stuff happen over time.


A big trend nowadays on the Jersey Shore is using your car to proclaim that you’re a local (and not, heaven forbid, a benny) AND what town you’re from (in the manner long practiced by European countries). They make stickers like these for all of the shore towns, but these were the only ones I saw A) on parked cars B) while I had a camera handy.

Ushers' March

I’m going to quote Leonard Sweet (SoulSalsa) because I really can’t phrase this better:

There is no more vintage moment steeped in the Ocean Grove tradition than to watch as a couple dozen ushers fan out across the vast amphitheater in their white pants and blue blazers to collect the offering in old-fashioned wicker baskets. When the offertory anthem is finished, they emerge from everywhere and nowhere to waltz back to the front and line up for the offertory prayer while Gordon Turk plays on the great organ the tune of “The Ushers March” [composed by Clarence Kohlmann, O.G. organist from 1924-1945]. it’s quaint. It’s campy. It’s the signature of Ocean Grove. There’s only one problem. All the ushers have been, from the opening day of Ocean Grove, male. (There are a couple of services each year when women usher. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule.)

(You remember the Great Auditorium, right? And the inside? Incidentally, that photo I took at last year’s choir festival is no longer possible, since there is a new organ taking up the whole balcony behind the sound guys.)

A kite takes flight!

Some people get a kick out of flying kites at the beach. After 5:00PM, there’s plenty of space, it’s still beautifully light, and the shore winds are pretty good.


(Did I know the family whose kites I was photographing? No.
Did I introduce myself to the family whose kites I was photographing? No.
Did I do ANYTHING except stand in the middle of their fun and aim my camera upwards? No.
Is this rude and sketchy? Yes.

On the plus side, I didn’t make any motion to conceal the fact that I was taking photos of the kites, which is a step for me.

Baby steps, baby steps…)

empress hotel

The Empress Hotel began as a luxury resort for vacationing families in the 1950s. By the 1980s, it was pretty much out of business, and by 1991, it was boarded up. But in 1998, famous radio DJ Shep Pettibone bought the property and opened a nightclub inside. The Paradise Nightclub “lured crowds of gay travelers away from Fire Island and instead to the beaches of Asbury Park;” the hotel portion reopened 6 years later in 2004 and continues to attract a LGBT clientele. According to Wikipedia, “It is one of the Jersey Shore’s most chic resorts, as well as its only Hotel which caters to the gay community.”

And: CHECK OUT MY MAP OF ASBURY PARK! <–clicky clicky
It allows you to put all I’ve said in some sort of spacial context. 🙂

This concludes Asbury Park Feature Week (what’s that? You didn’t know I was doing one? Go back and read my last 5 posts! 🙂 ). I am actually in North Carolina for a few days, so I will be relying on “automatic posting” and I’ll be unavailable for comments.


What is this?

Painted on Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar, this is a reproduction of the original ‘Tillie’ faces found on the walls of Palace Amusements.

“Tillie?” You go around naming murals on walls?

George C. Tilyou, better known as the owner of Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park (and the father of the contemporary amusement park), had a marketing strategy for his Coney Island parks: “his trademark image of a grinning face (replete with twice the usual number of teeth) appeared on the entrance, tickets, and all printed material.”[1]

Here’s a photo of the George C. Tilyou’s Coney Island face, photographed in March 2008:

In an “homage” to Tilyou’s original funny-face icon, Worth Thomas designed a similar (though not identical, under threat of copyright infringement) fifteen-foot tall face in the mid-1950s, painted twice–for two walls of Palace Amusements.[2] Why a giant grinning face, of all things to pay homage to? According to the Palace Museum Online, the face “stylistically continued a tradition begun in 1897 when Coney Island amusements impresario George Cornelius Tilyou introduced a fun face as the logo of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. Tilyou so successfully integrated the image throughout his park that most other amusement entrepreneurs followed with designs of their own.”[3] (I’ve never heard of other parks using the face, though.)

So, to answer the original question: Tilyou–> Tillie. That’s all.

Okay, so why reproduce a random mural? It’s just a face.

Tillie is/was one of the most recognizable icons of the Jersey Shore. Don’t ask me why.

When there were plans to demolish the Palace Amusements building, a whole SWARM of people stood up and fought it for years. They called themselves ‘Save Tillie’ and managed to have the building listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. But, well, they didn’t own the property; eventually economics won out, and the building was demolished in 2004… but NOT before Save Tillie managed to salvage the murals. (Here’s a picture.)[4]

So… where’s Tillie now?

In storage somewhere, waiting for an appropriate opportunity for display to arise.[5]


[1] Ford, Robert C., and Ady Milman, George C. Tilyou–Developer of the Contemporary Amusement Park, August 1 2000; accessed June 15 2008.

[2] Mister Snitch, A Tale of Two Tillies, August 2 2005; accessed June 15 2008.

[3] Palace Online Museum, 1955-1956, 2005; accessed June 15 2008.

[4] Palace Online Museum, Save Tillie, 2005; accessed June 15 2008.

[5] Crane, Bob, Asbury Park redevelopers disregarding historic artifacts, May 11 2008; accessed June 15 2008.
(If that link doesn’t work, try

(This bibliography is absolutely improper, but hey, at least I’m citing my sources.)

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