THE DEAL WITH DEAL ESTATES: STORIES FROM THE 1900’s YOU MAY NEVER HAVE HEARD
If Page Six was around in the early 1900’s the team would surely have chosen to summer in Deal rather than the Hamptons. At the time, the New Jersey shore town was home to many of the country’s influencers, movers and shakers.
The Ocean Township Museum’s Deal exhibition reveals many of the fancy-pants personalities who called the city home during the steamy summer months. The insightful, quick walk-through exhibit also reveals a lot about Deal itself – a “planned city” designed, in part by landscape architect Nathan Barrett, for the wealthy who wanted to play in Long Branch and Asbury Park but come home to grander estates with acres of property.
Many are surprised to learn the town was home to Thomas Edison, Robert Lincoln (Abe Lincoln’s son), E.V. Hartford (A&P supermarket founder), Henry Seligman (founder of first investment bank), F.W. Woolworth and others.
Isidor and Ida Straus
Isidor, with his brother founded Macy’s, however this summertime Deal resident was most famous for a little boat trip he took across the Atlantic with his wife, Ida.
Isidor and Ida were passengers on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Their love story was immortalized in the films “A Night to Remember” and “Titanic.” Ida gave up her seat on a lifeboat as the Titanic sank to stay with her husband Isidor. The Straus’ maid took the seat and lived to tell the tale.
The founder of Standard Oil built his 85-acre estate, named Kildysart – after O’Day’s birthplace in Ireland – along Deal Lake in 1903. The 64-room, tudor-style mansion featuring a six story tower was purchased by William Ahnelt in 1914 and renamed Ahnelt. The amazing mansion burned in 1935. Today, Deal Harbor Estates comprises the property with only the grand entrance of the estate remaining off of Monmouth Drive road.
In 1908, Durant founded General Motors – originally Buick, Oldsmobile Corporation, Pontiac and Cadillac – with $2,000 and $12 million in stock. A Buick cost $900 – the brochure detailing the price included “Acetylene headlights and a bulb horn.” For $50 more the car could have a roof.
In 1921, for the second time, he was kicked to the curb by General Motors and launched Durant Motors, which closed in 1933 as a result of the Great Depression.
Guarino “Willie” Moretti
One of the more infamous Deal community members (more than a summer resident) was Willie Moretti, a top underboss of the Genovese crime family. Called the “Tony Soprano” of his day, Moretti controlled New Jersey gambling dens.
Moretti testified before congress in 1950 that he helped Frank Sinatra arrange performances in return for kick-backs. Also, he got band leader Tommy Dorsey to release Sinatra from his contract by threatening to kill him. The incident inspired a similar storyline in “The Godfather”.
Radio comic Joe Penner, famous for catchphrase “wanna buy a duck” purchased Moretti’s home on Poplar from his estate after Moretti was gunned down in 1951 in Cliffside Park.
For more, visit OceanMuseum.org.
Read about the history of Deal Casino: behind the red brick walls of Deal Casino – where industry titans summered.
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