In the early to mid 1900’s Ross Fenton Farm, a supper club and resort located in the Wanamassa section of Ocean Township, was where the beautiful and fancy pants mingled during the summer months.
The bold-faced names of the day, including Irving Berlin, Helen Morgan and Eddie Duchin, would converge at the resort and dinner theatre on Deal Lake for a night of the finest food and dancing after rowing over from Asbury Park or arriving via sea plane from New York and Philadelphia.
Called a “fairyland” by guests because of its lush beauty Ross Fenton opened each year on Decoration Day (Memorial Day) with huge potted palm trees lining the porches and colored lanterns hanging from the ceilings. Fresh flower arrangements were delivered daily for the dining room from Matovsky’s Florist in Deal. Guests dined on lobster cocktail for $1.25, Chicken a la King for $2.25 and a dessert of Coupe Ross Fenton for $1.
Though Ross Fenton Farm burned down in 1950 and the land was parceled off by Walter Reade for single family homes, the memories live on through personal stories and exhibits at the Township of Ocean Museum as well as through the architectural remnants that can still be seen on the perimeter of the lake.
Recently, the property owners of one of the homes on the former resort’s land made an architectural discovery while repairing their dock. I spoke with Marty and Pat Martino and Brenda Wityk, executive director of the Township of Ocean Museum about the find.
TBP: While you were making repairs, you came across something special.
Marty Martino: We found an ornate white concrete banister for what is believed to be the second waterside entrance for Ross Fenton Farm (the first was made of wood). It was sitting under our dock on the edge of the lake, underwater for at least 60 years. Our contractor found it when he pulled up the planks to our dock.
There are two large columns we maintain on our property that identify the entrance and stairway from the lake but we thought the pieces to the actual dock had been removed or washed away. We were so surprised at this find.
Pat Martino: Our neighbors have part of the original outdoor brick circular dance floor on their property. We love the history of Ross Fenton and were excited to find this piece.
TBP: You donated the banister to the Ocean Township Museum. Like everything, the banister is something special. The small white stones in the concrete shimmer in the light.
Wityk: This is the only original post the museum has from Ross Fenton. It designates where the guests would enter into everything the property had to offer – two casinos, restaurants, a lakeside hotel, guest cottages, greenhouses, a working farm. It brings us closer to the glory days of that time in our area.
Marty Martino: When you think of everything that went on around here, it is really amazing. When you see the old postcards of Ross Fenton, you can picture people coming up to the speakeasy and feel the excitement here.
Finding things like this banister just makes it more exciting to live here.
Pat Martino: People still come to see the pillars at the entrance. Our neighbors and others in the community still share the feeling of what was Ross Fenton and want to be a part of it.
We had our son’s engagement party down by the entrance on the lake and a friend’s wedding there. It is just wonderful.
Visit the Township of Ocean Museum to learn more about Ross Fenton Farm. The museum is packed with interesting history that is relevant to you and is a quick visit. OceanMuseum.org.