Jun 10, 2019

Eden Woolley House and Township of Ocean Museum

By Lori Draz

Eden Woolley House and Township of Ocean Museum nj

The Township of Ocean recently celebrated the 170th anniversary of its founding. To mark this event on Feb. 21, Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon gave the mayor and council a digital reproduction of the first recorded hand-drawn map of the Township depicting Ocean Township’s original footprint which encompassed all lands from Sea Bright south to the Shark River and west to encompass Eatontown and Neptune. Ocean Township may be smaller today, but it’s still an active commercial and residential place. Just feet off busy Route 35, on Deal Road, is the Ocean Township Library. As you enter the library parking lot, you will pass the Museum of Ocean Township located in the historic Eden Woolley House, one of a few 18th century homes surviving in the area.

Eden Woolley House and Township of Ocean Museum 5

The story started in 1970 when the Township of Ocean Historical Society was formed to advance public awareness of community history and preserve historic artifacts and materials. After years of meeting in the public library, the society moved the artifacts to a classroom in the former Oakhurst School to establish the museum and form the Township of Ocean Historical Museum Association in 1983.

The community embraced the museum, sharing photos, mementos and stories of their memories. The organization grew steadily, and many founding members are still actively involved in the day-to-day operation of the museum.

Eden Woolley House and Township of Ocean Museum 2

In 2001, the mayor and the Township Council began working with the developer who owned the corner lot of Route 35 and Deal Road to spare the historic Eden Woolley House from destruction. In 2005, it was moved 1,100 feet from that original location to its present location. Volunteers performed the historical restoration of the house named after Eden Woolley, Ocean Township’s first elected committeeman, gentleman farmer, surveyor and moneylender. The historical restoration was completed in April 2009, and the museum was permanently opened to the public on July 5 that year.

The house has two sections. The original home is to the right with the newer section to the left.

Eden Woolley House and Township of Ocean Museum 2

This uniquely charming museum takes full advantage of its status as a former home. It’s welcoming and has homey energy. The main room of the newer section, called the Richmond Gallery, hosts well-planned rotating exhibits with numerous artifacts out for close inspection. The current exhibit is “Wet as the Atlantic Ocean: Prohibition in NJ,” and its collection of articles, historic photos and items illustrates the political debates along with the glamour and violence of the Roaring 20s. This exhibit will be on display until July. You will see one of President Woodrow Wilson’s real desks, clothing from the flapper era, learn about “wet as the Atlantic” Gov. Edward Edwards, rum runners, the Klu Klux Klan and more.

The Hearth and Home Gallery is located in the original section of the Woolley House. That part was built in the 1700s and the beams, fireplace and decorative woodwork are all original to the space. This exhibit offers a fascinating look at life in coastal New Jersey from the 1700s to the 1900s. The gallery is filled with pieces of how life used to be, from coal and wood stoves, kitchen implements and other items of everyday life on the farm.  You will also see a delightful tribute to the Old Oakhurst School with many items from the old school, including desks, photos and original items used in schools 100 years ago.

There is also a section called the Our Town Gallery which explains the different sections of the township –Oakhust, Wannamassa and Wayside. This is where the map given to the society by the County Clerk is on display.

The Eden Woolley House is located at 703 Deal Rd. in Ocean. The museum is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 pm and Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 pm March 15 to Dec. 15. It’s also open from 1 to 4 pm on the first and second Sundays of the month.

The museum is an all-volunteer organization. They are always looking for help with projects and events. For more information or to get involved, call 732-531-2136 or visit OceanMuseum.org.