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Review: ‘New Jersey: Then & Now’

Of Elephants, Stone Pony, Lighthouses & Other Tales of New Jersey

J. McGinley-Smith//Camden – ‘The man who is tired of New Jersey is tired of life.”   Well, nobody has quite made such a declaration; but given the popularity of at least one television series and of that occasionally pugnacious and bumptious Governor Chris Christie, it can no longer be shunted aside by its larger neighbors.  

   While chary of claiming the historical heft or grandeur of Greece, Rome, or Mexico, author David Veasey’s recently released book, “New Jersey: Then and Now,” does boast of a place with a remarkably rich diversity of historic and scenic sites.

 If far from a bulky compendium of New Jersey history, Mr. Veasey’s neatly packaged book can be likened to a swift jaunt on a Wildwood Boardwalk Tramcar, passing leisurely by the homes of such figures as, Thomas Edison, Walt Whitman, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.

    Besides contrasting earlier photographs of memorable buildings, street scenes and other landmarks, many dating back to the early nineteenth century; Mr. Veasey has written a concise and fluid historical narrative that lends the photos a necessary perspective and context. .

  Moreover, the slender volume – just 143 pages – not only makes a substantive argument for the preservation of places of historic significance, it even gives credence to protecting those we today may think of as quaint or quirky.

   Among the latter examples identified in “Then and Now,” is the behemoth of Margate,  “Lucy the Elephant.”   Erected in 1881 by a Philadelphia native and engineer, James Lafferty’s ‘Lucy,’ was designed to draw attention to an isolated area just south of the flourishing resort town of Atlantic city. It was, says Veasey, “an immediate success.”

  Built by a Philadelphia construction firm of wood and tin sheeting, its spiral staircase arising from within the left-hind leg and its 65 foot height, make the 6-story elephant an arresting vision, by visitors up close or by passing ships. A majestic and much cherished attraction for generations of visitors to Margate, ‘Lucy’  gained national historical status in 1976.

   The link between improving infrastructure – whether by ferries, trains, or turnpikes – and the economic development of  New Jersey’s resorts, is underscored throughout the book. The beginning of train service to Atlantic City in 1854, for instance, gave impetus to what would eventually become home to the Miss America pageant and Casino Gambling.

    Within a little more than a decade of access by  train, June, 1870, it would be necessary to erect a loose arrangement of four-foot wide planks along the beach, providing the first rudimentary boardwalk.  By the 1930’s, larger crowds required a more permanent walkway; resulting in what is essentially today’s boardwalk, a grand boulevard of concrete overlaid with pine-planks and expanding  60 feet in width and laid out in herringbone cross-patterns.

  Of the other vacation spots,  Mr. Veasey’s early photos of Asbruy Park, show a town possessing an exotic resemblance to a city nestled along the Mediterranean. Yet, this alluring distinction soon faded; and it was perhaps in giving way to the more gritty Abury Park of today that appealed to New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen.  Although the “Stone Pony’ bar where Springsteen often performed remains, Mr. Veasey noted that Asbury Park, has since the 1970s fallen on “hard times.”

   The Victorian homes of Cape May -with their Gothic Revival and Italianate styles- are another example of a New Jersey shore town blossoming as a consequence of the inauguration of boat service up the Delaware River in the 1830s. Despite a destructive fire in 1878, Cape May rebuilt and earned status as a National Historic landmark in May of 1976.

   A safe haven for generations of fishermen, the images of New Jersey’s Lighthouses,  including those at Absecon, Barnegat, Cape May and the nation’s oldest, Sandy Hook (1761), reveal stoic structures of enduring utility.

  The city of Camden is recognized by the author as the last home of Poet Walt Whitman.  The Whitman house, at 328 Mickle Blvd., a simple clapboard structure that was purchased for $1,750, was owned by Whitman until his death in March of 1892.

 Whitman’s heirs preserved the property until 1921, when the city of Camden took possession and opened a museum. By 1947 the state of New Jersey had acquired ownership of the house which Mr. Veasey notes contains many of the “original” furnishings, books and pictures.

  If there are any oversights in the book, it’s possibly the failure to mention one or two other sites of significance in Camden; specifically the Nipper Building, home of RCA Victor.  The famous stained-glass windows in its tower have been preserved, and it has recently been renovated into luxury condominiums.

   The disastrous and fiery crash of the German Zeppelin, “Hindenburg” at Lakehurst, NJ, on May 6, 1937 is touched on by Mr. Veasey, who highlights the surviving original Hangar One, seen in the historical photos and films of the crash. The U.S. Navy uses it for research blimps.

   The urban streetscapes of Newark, Jersey city and Trenton are also part of the book’s colorful tableau, which is crowned by the startlingly picturesque scenery of the ‘Delaware Water Gap’ running along the Appalachian mountains between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.           

      

 

Review: ‘New Jersey: Then & Now’

Of Elephants, Stone Pony, Lighthouses & Other Tales of New Jersey

J. McGinley-Smith//Camden – ‘The man who is tired of New Jersey is tired of life.”   Well, nobody has quite made such a declaration; but given the popularity of at least one television series and of that occasionally pugnacious and bumptious Governor Chris Christie, it can no longer be shunted aside by its larger neighbors.  

   While chary of claiming the historical heft or grandeur of Greece, Rome, or Mexico, author David Veasey’s recently released book, “New Jersey: Then and Now,” does boast of a place with a remarkably rich diversity of historic and scenic sites.

 If far from a bulky compendium of New Jersey history, Mr. Veasey’s neatly packaged book can be likened to a swift jaunt on a Wildwood Boardwalk Tramcar, passing leisurely by the homes of such figures as, Thomas Edison, Walt Whitman, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.

    Besides contrasting earlier photographs of memorable buildings, street scenes and other landmarks, many dating back to the early nineteenth century; Mr. Veasey has written a concise and fluid historical narrative that lends the photos a necessary perspective and context. .

  Moreover, the slender volume – just 143 pages – not only makes a substantive argument for the preservation of places of historic significance, it even gives credence to protecting those we today may think of as quaint or quirky.

   Among the latter examples identified in “Then and Now,” is the behemoth of Margate,  “Lucy the Elephant.”   Erected in 1881 by a Philadelphia native and engineer, James Lafferty’s ‘Lucy,’ was designed to draw attention to an isolated area just south of the flourishing resort town of Atlantic city. It was, says Veasey, “an immediate success.”

  Built by a Philadelphia construction firm of wood and tin sheeting, its spiral staircase arising from within the left-hind leg and its 65 foot height, make the 6-story elephant an arresting vision, by visitors up close or by passing ships. A majestic and much cherished attraction for generations of visitors to Margate, ‘Lucy’  gained national historical status in 1976.

   The link between improving infrastructure – whether by ferries, trains, or turnpikes – and the economic development of  New Jersey’s resorts, is underscored throughout the book. The beginning of train service to Atlantic City in 1854, for instance, gave impetus to what would eventually become home to the Miss America pageant and Casino Gambling.

    Within a little more than a decade of access by  train, June, 1870, it would be necessary to erect a loose arrangement of four-foot wide planks along the beach, providing the first rudimentary boardwalk.  By the 1930’s, larger crowds required a more permanent walkway; resulting in what is essentially today’s boardwalk, a grand boulevard of concrete overlaid with pine-planks and expanding  60 feet in width and laid out in herringbone cross-patterns.

  Of the other vacation spots,  Mr. Veasey’s early photos of Asbruy Park, show a town possessing an exotic resemblance to a city nestled along the Mediterranean. Yet, this alluring distinction soon faded; and it was perhaps in giving way to the more gritty Abury Park of today that appealed to New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen.  Although the “Stone Pony’ bar where Springsteen often performed remains, Mr. Veasey noted that Asbury Park, has since the 1970s fallen on “hard times.”

   The Victorian homes of Cape May -with their Gothic Revival and Italianate styles- are another example of a New Jersey shore town blossoming as a consequence of the inauguration of boat service up the Delaware River in the 1830s. Despite a destructive fire in 1878, Cape May rebuilt and earned status as a National Historic landmark in May of 1976.

   A safe haven for generations of fishermen, the images of New Jersey’s Lighthouses,  including those at Absecon, Barnegat, Cape May and the nation’s oldest, Sandy Hook (1761), reveal stoic structures of enduring utility.

  The city of Camden is recognized by the author as the last home of Poet Walt Whitman.  The Whitman house, at 328 Mickle Blvd., a simple clapboard structure that was purchased for $1,750, was owned by Whitman until his death in March of 1892.

 Whitman’s heirs preserved the property until 1921, when the city of Camden took possession and opened a museum. By 1947 the state of New Jersey had acquired ownership of the house which Mr. Veasey notes contains many of the “original” furnishings, books and pictures.

  If there are any oversights in the book, it’s possibly the failure to mention one or two other sites of significance in Camden; specifically the Nipper Building, home of RCA Victor.  The famous stained-glass windows in its tower have been preserved, and it has recently been renovated into luxury condominiums.

   The disastrous and fiery crash of the German Zeppelin, “Hindenburg” at Lakehurst, NJ, on May 6, 1937 is touched on by Mr. Veasey, who highlights the surviving original Hangar One, seen in the historical photos and films of the crash. The U.S. Navy uses it for research blimps.

   The urban streetscapes of Newark, Jersey city and Trenton are also part of the book’s colorful tableau, which is crowned by the startlingly picturesque scenery of the ‘Delaware Water Gap’ running along the Appalachian mountains between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.           

      

 

Review: ‘New Jersey: Then & Now’

Of ElephaImagents, Stone Pony, Lighthouses & Other Tales of New Jersey

J. McGinley-Smith//Camden – ‘The man who is tired of New Jersey is tired of life.”   Well, nobody has quite made such a declaration; but given the popularity of at least one television series and of that occasionally pugnacious and bumptious Governor Chris Christie, it can no longer be shunted aside by its larger neighbors.  

   While chary of claiming the historical heft or grandeur of Greece, Rome, or Mexico, author David Veasey’s recently released book, “New Jersey: Then and Now,” does boast of a place with a remarkably rich diversity of historic and scenic sites.

 If far from a bulky compendium of New Jersey history, Mr. Veasey’s neatly packaged book can be likened to a swift jaunt on a Wildwood Boardwalk Tramcar, passing leisurely by the homes of such figures as, Thomas Edison, Walt Whitman, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.

    Besides contrasting earlier photographs of memorable buildings, street scenes and other landmarks, many dating back to the early nineteenth century; Mr. Veasey has written a concise and fluid historical narrative that lends the photos a necessary perspective and context. .

  Moreover, the slender volume – just 143 pages – not only makes a substantive argument for the preservation of places of historic significance, it even gives credence to protecting those we today may think of as quaint or quirky.

   Among the latter examples identified in “Then and Now,” is the behemoth of Margate,  “Lucy the Elephant.”   Erected in 1881 by a Philadelphia native and engineer, James Lafferty’s ‘Lucy,’ was designed to draw attention to an isolated area just south of the flourishing resort town of Atlantic city. It was, says Veasey, “an immediate success.”

  Built by a Philadelphia construction firm of wood and tin sheeting, its spiral staircase arising from within the left-hind leg and its 65 foot height, make the 6-story elephant an arresting vision, by visitors up close or by passing ships. A majestic and much cherished attraction for generations of visitors to Margate, ‘Lucy’  gained national historical status in 1976.

   The link between improving infrastructure – whether by ferries, trains, or turnpikes – and the economic development of  New Jersey’s resorts, is underscored throughout the book. The beginning of train service to Atlantic City in 1854, for instance, gave impetus to what would eventually become home to the Miss America pageant and Casino Gambling.

    Within a little more than a decade of access by  train, June, 1870, it would be necessary to erect a loose arrangement of four-foot wide planks along the beach, providing the first rudimentary boardwalk.  By the 1930’s, larger crowds required a more permanent walkway; resulting in what is essentially today’s boardwalk, a grand boulevard of concrete overlaid with pine-planks and expanding  60 feet in width and laid out in herringbone cross-patterns.

  Of the other vacation spots,  Mr. Veasey’s early photos of Asbruy Park, show a town possessing an exotic resemblance to a city nestled along the Mediterranean. Yet, this alluring distinction soon faded; and it was perhaps in giving way to the more gritty Abury Park of today that appealed to New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen.  Although the “Stone Pony’ bar where Springsteen often performed remains, Mr. Veasey noted that Asbury Park, has since the 1970s fallen on “hard times.”

   The Victorian homes of Cape May -with their Gothic Revival and Italianate styles- are another example of a New Jersey shore town blossoming as a consequence of the inauguration of boat service up the Delaware River in the 1830s. Despite a destructive fire in 1878, Cape May rebuilt and earned status as a National Historic landmark in May of 1976.

   A safe haven for generations of fishermen, the images of New Jersey’s Lighthouses,  including those at Absecon, Barnegat, Cape May and the nation’s oldest, Sandy Hook (1761), reveal stoic structures of enduring utility.

  The city of Camden is recognized by the author as the last home of Poet Walt Whitman.  The Whitman house, at 328 Mickle Blvd., a simple clapboard structure that was purchased for $1,750, was owned by Whitman until his death in March of 1892.

 Whitman’s heirs preserved the property until 1921, when the city of Camden took possession and opened a museum. By 1947 the state of New Jersey had acquired ownership of the house which Mr. Veasey notes contains many of the “original” furnishings, books and pictures.

  If there are any oversights in the book, it’s possibly the failure to mention one or two other sites of significance in Camden; specifically the Nipper Building, home of RCA Victor.  The famous stained-glass windows in its tower have been preserved, and it has recently been renovated into luxury condominiums.

   The disastrous and fiery crash of the German Zeppelin, “Hindenburg” at Lakehurst, NJ, on May 6, 1937 is touched on by Mr. Veasey, who highlights the surviving original Hangar One, seen in the historical photos and films of the crash. The U.S. Navy uses it for research blimps.

   The urban streetscapes of Newark, Jersey city and Trenton are also part of the book’s colorful tableau, which is crowned by the startlingly picturesque scenery of the ‘Delaware Water Gap’ running along the Appalachian mountains between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.           

      

 

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