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Photos courtesy of Spring Lake Historical Society

Historic Havens: Spring Lake

By Lori Draz

In this month when the whole world is Irish, there is a place where Irish lives all year. Spring Lake has one of the largest Irish populations per capita in New Jersey, earning it the nickname, “the Irish Riveria.” This beautiful town has many pubs and restaurants that supply a bottomless mug of Irish pride and fellowship, but Spring Lake has so much more to see and appreciate.

This town is a portrait of elegant life at the Jersey Shore. Known for its attraction-less boardwalk, charming shopping district, picturesque lake, glorious estates, pristinely manicured lawns and wide streets, a simple drive through town is a joy. This month, we will take a closer look with the assistance of Nancy Smith of the Spring Lake Historical Society.

A great place to start is at the Spring Lake Historical Society Museum. The museum is housed in a Classical Revival building originally built in 1897 as a public school for students in first through eighth grade. As the town grew, so did the need for a larger school which was built on Tuttle Avenue in 1922. The original school was extensively remodeled and served as a Masonic Lodge. It includes Corinthian columns as is traditional in the classic architecture style, along with arched ceilings. You’ll also notice Masonic symbols imbedded in the plasterwork. The museum features many beautifully displayed, captivating artifacts including antique postcards, photos and vintage clothing. The Spring Lake Historical Society moved into the building in 1979. Its Main Gallery houses the permanent collection. The society also hosts rotating exhibits, offers research services and provides more at SpringLakeHistoricalSociety.org. There, you’ll find information on the 43rd annual House Tour on Thursday, June 6; it’s your chance to visit many of these historic private residences and see their gardens. 

Photos courtesy of Spring Lake Historical Society

There are historic sites just about anywhere you look, but Smith suggests some of the following locations. 

The Essex & Sussex Hotel sits majestically at Ocean and First Avenue, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Jersey Shore.” Designed as a world-class hotel that opened in 1914, its commanding stance overlooking the Atlantic made it a favorite resort of the rich and famous, and every summer this hotel accommodated more than 400 guests daily. In the early 2000s, the hotel transitioned into a luxury condominium residence for active adults 55 years and older. It was restored to its original grandeur where its residents enjoy attractive common areas and breezy outside balconies.  

Another one of Spring Lake’s most memorable sights is St. Catharine’s Church, the finest high style example of Classical Revival architecture in Monmouth County. This stunning limestone and buff Pompeian brick church stands opposite the gorgeous Spring Lake and was built in 1901 by Martin Maloney to honor his daughter, Catharine, who died at the age of 17. Roman artist Gonippo Raggi decorated the interior to showcase glorious, imported marble, intricate statues and stained glass as well as more than 27 canvasses and fresco paintings which include replicas of the masters and original works. The central dome features a depiction of the Pentecost using life-sized figures, with four evangelists in the panels below. The church recently completed a major exterior and interior renovation, upgrading its glory to even higher levels. It is a Roman Catholic Church, but it is really a place of reflection for all thanks to the generosity of Maloney.

Photos courtesy of Spring Lake Historical Society

Another house of worship is the 141-year-old Carpenter Gothic-style Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, located at Monmouth and Third Avenue. 

While you’re at Third Avenue, be sure to stroll the charming Third Avenue shopping district. It’s full of historic buildings as well as historically owned businesses and plenty of great dining and shopping. 

As you drive, look for historic plaques which, at the owners’ option, are displayed in homes more than 50 years old. 

Spring Lake also has numerous seasonal events including The Spring Lake 5, a five-mile run held Memorial Day weekend; the Sidewalk Sale, held Saturday, May 25; the Downtown Spring Lake Irish Festival, held Saturday, June 15 ; three Downtown Summer Art Walks on Saturday, July 6, the weekend of Aug. 10 to 11 and Saturday, Sept. 21, which is the same day as the Italian Festival. They are also bringing back the popular Christmas Inn/House Tour on Saturday, Dec. 7. To learn more, visit SpringLake.org or contact Liz Capone at greaterslcoc@gmail.com or 732-449-0577.  To connect with the Historical Society, visit SpringLakeHistoricalSociety.org. 

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