This summer, Historic Havens invites you to come spend a day at the beach as we travel to the north end of the Belmar boardwalk to learn about the Belmar Fishing Club. This two-story, white Spanish mission-style building’s history dates back to 1909 when the original 49 charter members formed this thriving club. They held their first meeting in Charles Reimuller’s Hardware Store on F Street, near 8th Avenue in Belmar. On Sept. 9, 1909, they drafted the constitution and by-laws and appointed the first committee. Then the original 49 members were enrolled and paid their initial annual dues – a whopping sum of $1 for the year.
The club formed a partnership with the Ocean Pier Company and began planning the construction of the headquarters. It would include a meeting space/clubroom referred to at that time as a commodious clubroom.
Exactly 10 years later, the trustees of the Belmar Fishing Club were able to gain full control of the club property from the Ocean Pier Company, a move that would allow them to build a larger clubhouse.
Under the guidance of first club President Benjamin Farrier, construction began almost immediately in the summer of 1929. The old clubhouse was sold for the handsome sum of $200 and was moved to 207 15th Ave. in Belmar.
This is the building you see today. It was dedicated on May 30, 1930. Farrier’s daughter, Sally, was an accomplished fishing enthusiast and became the Women’s National Surfcasting Champion on Aug. 18, 1928. Following her lead, the Belmar Fishing Club casting team went onto win the 21st annual National Surfcasting Championship on Aug. 8, 1931.The Club House was designed to be a well-appointed haven for surf fishing. The club described it as “a fisherman’s paradise – truly a shrine for sportsmen.”
The club has a dining room called the Myers Vista room, named after former club President Bill Myers. There is also a banquet/party area, a bar and a bait house on the pier. Downstairs, there is a cozy lounge with a big stone fireplace and trophy showcase. The upstairs of the club houses the offices and oceanfront bar which includes a large and magnificent inlay of a compass on the floor.
There are many interesting items on display in the club. Some of those include a letter from Ernest Hemingway and a signed photograph from heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey. There is also a signed photo of President Warren G. Harding, proudly showing off his catch, and a tranquil photo of President Franklin Roosevelt, relaxing with a fishing pole.
On a unique albeit a somber note, five club members were up late, playing cards on Sept. 8, 1934. There was a violent storm raging when these members, the only eyewitnesses, saw a bolt of lightning strike the Morro Castle and reported it to the Coast Guard. As a memorial, you will see one of the Morro Castle’s actual portholes, hanging on the wall.
The club itself became a victim of bad weather when on Sept. 14, 1944, the pier was destroyed in a hurricane which also damaged the clubhouse and front boardwalk.
The club repaired these damages and expanded the clubhouse once again to include a new kitchen. They also renamed the hallway between Vista Room and Farrier Room as Peacock Alley.
On Sept. 9, 2009, the Belmar Fishing Club celebrated its 100th anniversary as a vibrant community of fishing and sporting enthusiasts. The club is private, though anyone can enjoy dining there in the company of a club member.
Historic Havens would like to thank Stephanie Engelstad, manager of the Belmar Fishing Club, for her help and guided tour of this gem on the Jersey Shore.