9 THINGS YOU (MAYBE) NEVER KNEW ABOUT WANAMASSA 07712
“You live where? Wana-who? Wanamassa? Oh, yeah, that’s a cute area…what’s the story with it?” That’s pretty much how the conversation usually goes when someone says they live in the Wanamassa section of Ocean Township.
I wanted to learn more about the beautiful area’s history and story, so I went right to the experts at the Ocean Township Historical Museum on Deal Road and discovered a ton of fun and interesting trivia, including…
1. In 1687, Gavin Drummond, a Scottish surveyor, purchased the land which is known today as Wanamassa from Lenape Indian Chief Wanamassa for one gun and kettle, five coats and two pounds of “weight” powder.
Chief Wanamassa believed land was for everyone to use and share and had no idea of Drummond’s plan to populate it. Eventually, the Lenape Tribe was pushed west.
2. Ross-Fenton Farm – located across from the Locust Drive area of Asbury Park, in what was the Wanamassa Woods – was owned by former vaudeville performers Charles Ross and Mabel Fenton.
Because of their entertainment background and the celebrities they attracted, Ross and Fenton managed what was considered a “rocking nightclub” for the time. Beginning at the club’s launch in the summer of 1889, a motor boat picked guests up at the end of Deal Lake, by the Asbury Park Boardwalk and took the glamorously dressed women and men to the “farm” for an evening of fine dining, live music, internationally known performers and dancing on an outdoor stage. Rumor has it that gambling also took place at the resort.
The cover charge for the club was $25 – a huge sum of money at the time. An original menu at the museum revealed a filet mignon dinner was $2.50 ($60 in today’s dollars); cold lobster was $2; shrimp cocktail was $1 and something called “Crab Flake Ross-Fenton” was $1.50.
Wanamassa locals, who couldn’t afford the cost of admission to the farm, were known to sit on Sunset Bridge or in canoes on Deal Lake and listen to the world-class entertainment.
Fenton managed the summer resort until her death in 1931, followed by Walter Reade of movie chain fame (and seasonal area resident). The resort burned to the ground for the second time in 1950.
3. In 1890, John and Rob Drummond (descendants of Gavin) built a half-mile racetrack in the area now known as Colonial Terrace. The Monmouth County Fair was held at the track for years.
4. Until the 1920’s, the custom of dressing young boys in dresses – because it was cooler and easier to change their diapers – was common. A few of the outfits are on display at the Ocean Township Historical Museum.
5. From approximately 1900 to 1920, the YMCA owned what is known as Wanamassa Point (east-pointing peninsula on Deal Lake, north of Sunset Avenue), and used it as a camp meeting and revival location. The “Point” was also home to the YMCA Auditorium, used as a community club for balls and fireman’s fairs. Locals say the peninsula was an artists colony at some point in it’s history.
6. No commercial district was allowed in Wanamassa until 1930 because residents thought it would hurt the character of the area. Today, a quaint local shopping district is centered at the intersection of Sunset Avenue and Wickapecko Drive.
7. The Wanamassa-area building boom surged after World War II, when veterans came looking for affordable housing. Brower Homes was one of the largest builders of Cape Cod-style homes in the area.
8. During the mid-1900’s the end of Logan Road, a dirt road at the time, was considered “Lovers Lane.”
9. The soda fountain at Kuskan Pharmacy, on Wickapecko Drive, was the meeting place of-choice for local youth in the 50’s and 60’s. “Every kid in town would ride their bikes to Kuskan’s and stay for hours,” said Barbara Metcalf, museum volunteer and former Asbury Park Baby Parade Princess. “That sense of community still remains here today.”
Many thanks to all the wonderful volunteers at the Ocean Township Historical Museum, most especially Howard Richmond and Barbara Metcalf.
Click here for info about a recent historic find homeowners discovered and donated to the museum.
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