Jan 02, 2018

New Year’s Resolution to Explore Historic Monmouth County

By Lori Draz

Once again, we challenge you to get to know the rich history of Monmouth County and New Jersey during this new year. We were happy that many readers made the resolution to learn more, see more, and experience more of what makes New Jersey great, as suggested on last January’s Historic Havens page. While many did not finish the list, they did say that visiting the historic sites has given them a real appreciation and a sense of gratitude for the legacy of New Jersey, and gave them a new weekend activity.

New Jersey played a key role in this nation’s history and Monmouth County has some of the oldest historic destinations in the nation, all within a short drive. The state’s rich culture celebrates the sea, the soil, religious and political freedoms, celebrities, science, and even some scandal.

This month’s Historic Havens will suggest 12 locations to visit – one for each month – to learn more. You can be sure there are many more. Even if you only get to a few, you will be amazed at what New Jersey holds. Here they are, in no particular order:

1)    The Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County, 310 Mounts Corner Drive in Freehold. Visit www.jhmomc.org.

2)    Historic Walnford, 62 Walnford Road, Allentown. Visit www.monmouthcountyparks.com.

3)    Holmes-Hendrickson House, 68-74 Longstreet Road, Holmdel. Visit www.monmouthhistory.org.

4)    Old First Church and Cemetery, 69 Kings Highway, Middletown. Visit www.oldfirstchurchnj.org.

5)    NJ Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and Vietnam Era Educational Center, 1 Memorial Lane, Holmdel. Visit www.njvvmf.org.

6)    Barnegat Light Museum, 501 Central Avenue, Barnegat Light. Visit www.bl-hs.org.

7)    The Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey, 400 Fred Wehran Road, Teterboro. Visit www.njahof.org.

8)    Bell Works, 101 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel. Visit www.bell.works.

9)    T. Thomas Fortune House, 94 Dr. James Parker Boulevard, Red Bank. Visit www.tthomasfortuneculturalcenter.org.

10)  The Trenton City Museum Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park, Trenton. Visit www.ellarslie.org.

11)  St. George’s by the River, 7 Lincoln Avenue, Rumson. Visit www.stgeorgesrumson.org.

12)  National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey, Sea Girt Avenue and Camp Drive, in Sea Girt. Visit http://www.nj.gov/military/museum.

 

One of the great introductions to area history is the Monmouth County Park’s System’s “A Weekend in Old Monmouth” event. Dates for 2018 have not been released, but the event is traditionally held on the last weekend of April/first weekend of May. During this weekend, nearly all the historic sites throughout Monmouth County open their doors, all at the same time, to visitors with an interest in local history. Admission fees are waived during the event and most locations feature costumed volunteers who tell you all about the history of the location. Many also have demonstrations and activities, making it a great way to sample lots of historic places in just a few days.

The park system has many other historic-themed events throughout the year, so visit www.monmouthcountyparks.com often to see what’s happening.

If the winter’s chill is keeping you indoors, you can still visit many historic locations and learn by reading some great books. Here are some of the most well-researched and intriguing books on our area: History of Monmouth County by Franklin Ellis, A History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties by Edwin Salter, The American Revolution in Monmouth County by Mike Adelberg, Steam Vessels Built in Old Monmouth by Leon Reussille, Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore by Rick Geffken and George Severini, Up and Down the Beach by June Methot, Those Innocent Years by George H. Moss Jr. and Karen L. Schnitzspahn, and The Story of Shrewsbury Revisited, 1965-2015 by Rick Geffken and Don Burden. That list should get you through the winter and you are sure to be amazed by what you learn.

If you wish to really get involved in preserving history, there are a number of wonderful historical societies that you can join. The Monmouth County Historical Association collects, preserves, and interprets its extensive museum, library, and archival collections that relate to Monmouth County’s history and culture and makes these resources available to the widest possible audience. They are always looking for volunteers and the ways to lend a hand are diverse. From becoming a costumed demonstrator, or a docent, to an archivist, there’s something for every personality. Visit www.monmouthhistory.org to learn more. Shrewsbury has a particularly active and friendly historical society. Attend one or two meetings and you will meet many knowledgeable members full of fascinating, even star-studded, tales of the area. Visit www.shrewsburyboro.com/historical-society for information. As profiled in a previous Historic Havens, the Monmouth County Archives is another treasure trove of historic records and photographs. Many are unfamiliar with the volumes of data available, including some of the oldest documents in the state, and they are always looking for volunteer archivists. Visit www.co.monmouth.nj.us and look under “Archives” to learn more.

The next time you approach an old cemetery, stop for a quick visit and look at just how old some of the tombstones are. Let your mind wander to what life was like in those days and what those earliest of residents would think of the New Jersey we know today.

History is all around us; explore and enjoy!