Virtual New Jersey Shore
Long Branch, NJ

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Long Branch, one of the largest cities on the Jersey Shore, was one of the most earliest and glamorous resorts in the country from the 1860's to the First World War. The resorts first clientele originally came from Philadelphia, then from New York after the the Civil War. Although Mrs. Lincoln visited in 1861, It was President Grant's first visit in 1869 that gave Long Branch its cachet. Grant visited every summer he was President and many summers after that. In 1870, a racetrack opened and casinos soon thereafter, and during the 1880's and 1890's, the communities reputation as a fashionable place was at it's height.

Other famous people who visited Long Branch include the Astors, Fiskes, Goulds, Biddles, and Drexels, high liver Diamond Jim Brady, General Winfield Scott,, actors Edwin Booth, Lillie Langtry, and Lillian Russell, painter Winslow Homer, and writers Bret Harte and Robert Louis Stevenson. Beside Grant, seven other Presidents also visited Long Branch, including Chester A. Arthur, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson and James Garfield. Garfield was a frequent visitor, and after an attempt on his life he was brought here in the hope the sea air would help him recover. In fact, a half-mile railroad spur from the main line to a cottage was built so his journey could be more comfortable.

Long Branch's era of splendor lasted only until the early 1920's, and its decline as a major seashore resort was gradual but steady. Eventually, laws laws forbidding gambling stopped the flow of money on the card and dice tables which in turn, stopped the rich and famous from visiting the town in the Summer. Storms eroded it's beaches and other communities along the Jersey shore were more attractive to summer visitors. By the late 1960's, elements of organized crime allegedly settled into town and some gangland murders seriously tarnished the resorts image. Urban blight, in the form of of run-down buildings and shabby streets, along with problems associated with too many people on welfare tarnished its image even further. Long Branch once boasted the longest pier on the Jersey coast, which was built in 1902, from which visitors could fish all day long, all year round, However, the pier burned down in the 1980's.

LONG BRANCH TODAY
Although Long Branch is enjoying a rebirth, not much of it's former elegance remains. Built in 1879 as St. James Episcopal Church,this church still remains where these seven presidents worshipped and is now known as Church of the Presidents at 1260 Ocean Avenue. The Church is now a museum run by the Long Branch Historical Society and is opened by appointment.

Despite these problems, Long Branch has survived the years as a resort town. Families from Northern New Jersey and New York still visit the community, people still go to the beach to swim and sun, and the boardwalk still attracts crowds to the beachfront at night. Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, a 33 -acre county park has facilities for swimming, boating, fishing and picnicking. High-rise hotels and condominiums have replaced some summer bungalows and a stretch of the wooden boardwalk has been replaced by a cement promenade.

THE FUTURE
The hopes for the future of Long Branch are promising, and hopefully it will experience a rebirth that could very well bring back memories of its glory days. Developers want to recreate a first-class resort that will encourage the return of the rich. There are hopes the old pier will soon be rebuilt and the old armory is to be converted into a sports complex which would include an ice-skating rink. The presence of the Ocean Place Conference Resort could initiate the towns renaissance.



GSP to Exit 105. Route 36 East into Long Branch.


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