OCEAN GROVE, 26.8 m. (20 alt., 1,182 pop.), belongs to the Reconstruction Era and Queen Victoria. The resort was developed in the period of Eastlake architecture, with odd half-houses to which tent fronts are added, with fretwork villas, and with neo-Swiss chalets of the Centennial Exposition type, ornamented with tiers of narrow porches and turrets.
Founded in 1869 for Methodist camp meetings, Ocean Grove has always strictly observed the religious ideals of the founders. From the beginning, vehicular traffic has been forbidden from midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday. The city’s gates are closed during that period and none but pedestrians may enter or leave; nor is bathing or any secular business permitted on the Sabbath. …
Each summer during the last week in August saints and sinners, penitents and probationers, evangelists, singers, and trombone players come from all parts of the country… After hearing the call to repentance and new life, the pilgrims are joined by most of the population of the resort for the “march around Jerusalem,” which closes the meeting
—New Jersey, A Guide To Its Present and Past (WPA, 1939)
Ocean Grove, NJ is an immaculate community that was originally founded as a Christian religious resort in 1869 during the post-Civil War camp meeting movement that fueled settlement of the east coast. Located on the Jersey shore next to rock music mecca Asbury Beach, it also contains some of the greatest examples of Victorian and early-20th century architecture in the United States. The spirit and culture of Ocean Grove then and now revolves around the summer meetings and religious community. Every year around 10,000 religious worshippers come to hear 10 days of sermons and attend close-knit community events. Canvas tents (designed today as they were 100 years ago) erected along the great auditorium are also available to rent. Residents of the community live in accordance with a strict code of rules; in the past they were not even allowed to dance or drive cars on Sundays.
Walking through the neighborhood of beautiful porch-wrapped homes sitting tightly together feels a bit like walking through a museum as everything is unnervingly perfect—it hardly feels lived in. But it’s interesting to see how different groups of people go about creating their personal utopia, and in the case of Ocean Grove they have been successful and are still going strong.
Guide note: Although bathing by the shore is now permitted on Sundays, the hours are limited. The beach is open from 9:30am-5:30pm Mon-Sat and 12:30-5:30pm on Sunday.
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New York City Guide Lydia White was born on the 4th of July and has been an independent spirit ever since. She spends her free time exploring what NYC and the surrounding areas have to offer. White has been photographing interesting people and unusual landscapes for nearly a decade. Follow her on Tumblr at lydia makes pictures or on her website, LydiaWhitePhotography.com.
Here are some “outtakes” from an "In the Weeds" post I wrote on Asbury Park, NJ for the Awl. The Obey Record posters (by Shepard Fairey) were taken down a few minutes after I took this shot. I think they should have left them to fade away. Bottom line: Asbury Park is amazing, and if you’ve never been (or even if you have), it’s totally worth the trip. (You can take the train from NYC.)