Lots of sand in SB …
It’s the ultimate beach town — folks have been coming to Sea Bright for the sand, sea and sun for 125 years. Young and old, rich and poor, near and far, fat and skinny, alone and groups, happy and troubled all are known to visit borough beaches in the summertime.
For most beach-goers it’s about relaxation, but for some it’s a business. At present, the borough has 8 beach clubs in operation — seven private and one public. All took a pounding from super storm Sandy — all have recovered to bask in the sunshine again.
The town’s private clubs (north to south) are:
• Ship Ahoy Beach Club
• Sands Beach Club
• Surfrider Beach Club
• Seabright Beach Club
• Chapel Beach Club
• Edgewater Beach Club
• Driftwood Cabana Club
The private beach clubs of Sea Bright are unalike — different people, different ways — so I’m told by the locals. Each is unique but all agree on one thing: Sea Bright is a summertime paradise.
A large public beach, recently expanded and improved at the center of town, charges a modest fee. A surfer’s beach, the Anchorage, is free but unguarded.
Several beach clubs in town have come and gone. Among them: the Peninsula House Beach Club, Tradewinds Beach Club, Anchorage Pool and Surf Club, Sandlass Beach Club, Harbor Light, Surf Bathing Pavilion, and Emery’s Beach Club among others.
Here’s a photo essay about the SB beach clubs through the years. Please enjoy and I welcome feedback, additions or corrections: HERE.
In the beginning … when Sea Bright was called “Nauvoo,” 1868.
“Sea Bright Bathing Grounds,” 1906.
A family of bathers at Sea Bright, 1904. “Some aughts sunscreen” ?
A day at the beach in Sea Bright, 1910.
SB south coast, 2010s.
SB coast, 2018.
Postcard perfect beach day at Sea Bright, 1940s.
“Beach Club Row” in SB, 1927. By the 1960s, the borough was home to 12 beach clubs.
SB coast looking north, 2020.
SB coast looking north, 1964.
Seabright Beach Club
Seabright Beach Club, early 1900s. The club was organized in 1895 by rich Rumson summer residents seeking a private oasis. If so, that would make it the oldest beach club in Sea Bright?
SB Beach Club, 1908. Captain Miller Newman was the club’s first superintendent starting in 1894 and held the post for about 30 years.
Seabright Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1909. It was started on July 1, 1894 by nine families on the old Samuel B. Dodd property, according to an April 1921 Long Branch Daily Record report.
Seabright Beach Club pool area, 1930s.
Seabright Beach Club painting by Audrey Perkins.
Seabright Beach Club, 1920s. Captain Cyril A. Smack was superintendent for most of the 1920s. As far back as 1924, according to APP reports, he was fighting ocean population from NYC.
Seabright Beach Club backs the SB Railroad Station, early 1900s.
Seabright Beach Club, 1930s. “More millionaires connected with the organization than any similar club in the state”– Long Branch Daily Record, Feb. 1926.
Seabright Beach Club, 1940s. The club made several large and wise land expansions early on: in 1913 it acquired the nearby Mason cottage; in 1919 it picked up the Col. Lewis estate (150-feet of prime oceanfront); and in 1922 it bought the Howland property.
Seabright Beach Club, 1940s. Thomas Edison visited the club in July 1917 and “was more than impressed.”
Seabright Beach Club, 1905.
Seabright Beach Club after Hurricane Sandy, 2012. Guy Wilbanks was the club manager from 1969 to 1993.
Seabright Beach Club after Hurricane Sandy, 2012. By Summer 1908 the club registry included 50 families.
Chapel Beach Club
Sea Bright Presbyterian Church, late 1900s. Will Sandlass’ first son, Bill, leased the church for the Sandlass Bros. Bathing Pavilion in Sea Bright from 1915 to 1923 when it was located between the Seabright Beach Club and the Peninsula House. Today it’s the Chapel Beach Club.
Chapel Beach Club (c) when it was the Sandlass Brothers Bathing Pavilion, 1930s.
Sandlass Brothers Bathing Pavilion, late 1920s. Later to be the Chapel Beach Club.
Chapel Beach Club, 2019. Notable Rumson financier John A. Mulheren, Jr. acquired the club in 1988 for $1.5 million — it was then called the Sea Bright Bathing Pavilion.
Chapel Beach Club, 2019. Mulheren’s 2003 New York Times obit called him “a charismatic Wall Street trader.”
A busy Chapel Beach Club, 2018.
Chapel Beach Club lobby, 2019. Born in the Bronx, Mulheren was a graduate of CBA in Lincroft.
Chapel Beach Club after Hurricane Sandy damage, 2012.
Chapel Beach Club pool area, 2010s.
Chapel Beach Club under repair after Hurricane Sandy, 2013.
Surfrider Beach Club
Surfrider Beach Club, 1963. By this time the club included an Olympic-sized pool, 350 lockers, 21 cabanas and a snack bar.
Surfrider Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 2000s. First opened in the Summer of 1955, it proved so popular the club was expanded two years later.
Surfrider Beach Club, 2020. Members say that the Lo Biondo family runs things here with class. They’ve owned the beach club since 1985.
A summer morning at Surfrider — a metropolis on the horizon, 2020.
Surfrider Beach Club seen from the beach, 2000s.
Surfrider Beach Club ad, APP, June 1962. The club’s origin dates to the mid-1950s when Carl Fleming was manager and W.A. Burkhardt was director.
Surfrider the long view, 2010s.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club
Ship Ahoy Beach Club, 1940s. In May 1935, Otto A. Gillig, Sr. won town approval to open and operate a private club with liquor license, which he restricted to “refined and congenial people.” In 1948, “The Skipper” died and son, Otto, Jr., took over.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club, 1940s.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club & Motel, 1950s. The club was greatly expanded and remodeled in the postwar years. A riverfront motel was opened and all rooms had porches overhanging the Shrewsbury River for easy fishing.
Childhood dreams being made at Ship Ahoy, Summer 1965 (Helen Apy Photo).
Ship Ahoy Beach Club & Motel, 1957. The club’s riverside motel opened with 14 rooms in 1951, was expanded to 28 rooms in 1955 and by 1962 it had 42 units. It was all torn down in the fall of 1978.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club and Motel, late 1960s. Dual ocean-side pools were added in 1959; wrecked in 1962 and quickly rebuilt.
Ship Ahoy remains after Superstrom Sandy, 2012.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club damages after Hurricane Sandy, 2013. Like all town beach clubs, the membership and owners looked upon ruin after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club after Sandy storm damages, 2012.
“Rising after the fall” — the regal new Ship Ahoy Beach Club after the storms of Sandy, 2015.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 2019. Darryl and Marie Jackson own the club today.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club, 1960s.
Ship Ahoy Motel, 1953. The 14-unit complex seen from the Shrewsbury River was built across the street from the beach club in 1952 by Otto Gilling, Jr. It replaced the Ship Ahoy restaurant-club that burned in March 1951.
Ship Ahoy Restaurant, 1950 (Dorn’s Image). The place burned in a massive wind-swept fire in May 1951.
Ship Ahoy Restaurant-Club on the river, 1940s.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club postcard, 1940s.
The Lombardi family enjoy a day the at Ship Ahoy, June 1968. Legend is that “The Coach” was a lifeguard here in 1935?
Ship Ahoy ad, APP May 1959. J. Robert Jackson took control of the business in 1959 and the family still operates the facility today.
New Ship Ahoy Beach Club construction after Superstorm Sandy, 2013.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club after winter snow, 2021.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club pool area, 2019.
Edgewater Beach Club
The Stavola name is deeply tied to both the Edgewater and Driftwood beach clubs in Sea Bright, according to Asbury Park Press news archives, going back 65 years now. Prior to being beach clubs, the property was a 37-room mansion owned by William Nelson Cromwell, the top lawyer for the Panel Canal company in 1902.
Edgewater Beach Club entrance, 2020.
The club took a real pounding from Hurricane Sandy, 2013.
Edgewater Beach & Cabana Club, 2019. In February 1958, Stavola brothers John, Frank, Joseph, and James came together to built the Edgewater Beach Club just north of their brother Michael’s new beach club called Driftwood.
“Relax … And Let Yourself Be Pampered” at Edgewater — sketch from a APP ad, March 1987 .
“You deserve the finest” — Members Wanted! APP ad, August 1984.
Edgewater Cabana Club after winter snow, 2021.
Edgewater Cabana Club sketch, APP 11/1985. The club was greatly expanded over state DEP objections in the late 1980s.
Driftwood Beach Club
Driftwood Beach Club sketch proposal. Long Branch Daily Record, 1957. Frank A. Amodio was the architect.
Driftwood logo, 1959. In November 1956, Michael J. Stavola of Middletown Twp. got it all started by acquiring the 320-feet of oceanfront property of the old “Edgewater Beach Hotel & Restaurant” and surrounding land.
Driftwood, 1960s. Michael J. Stavola built the original club for $200,000 in 1958. Whatever he touched — beach clubs, contracting, quarrying, horse-farming, real estate — it came up a big winner. The Jersey City native died in December 1998 at age 81.
Driftwood cabanas, 2018.
Driftwood Beach Club damages after Hurricane Sandy, 2013.
Driftwood Beach Club damages after Hurricane Sandy, 2013.
Post-Sandy repairs at Driftwood, 2013.
Driftwood from above, 2020.
Driftwood Beach Club damages after Hurricane Sandy, 2012.
Driftwood damage post Sandy, 2012.
Edgewater Beach Hotel & Restaurant after fire, May 1954. When it burned down, SB Councilman John Picknally, Jr. was the owner. He’d acquired the property for $20,000 in 1948 and opened the business in June 1950. Within 5 years the area was the Edgewater and Diftwood beach clubs.
Sands Beach Club
The SAND LASS Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1940s. Today, the location is the Sands Beach Club.
Twins Lights of Navesink seen from Sand Lass Beach Club, 1940s. In 1924, Bill Sandlass moved on and built another SB beach club: “The Sand Lass Beach Club” on Ocean Avenue across from today’s Rum Runner Restaurant.
Sand Lass Beach Club on Ocean Avenue in SB, 1940s. Bill Sandlass was the proprietor until 1963 when his younger brother, Henry, bought the beach club which remained in the family until 1972.
Sands Beach Club, 2010s. John Chimento bought the Sands in 1972 from the original owners who built the beach club in the 1920s and changed the name. The Chimento family still runs the club today.
Sands Beach Club, 2017. The original building survived until it washed out to sea during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Sands Beach Club after a snow, 2021.
In 1963, John Chimento acquired a classic seashore mansion in Monmouth Beach (above) hoping to create a new private beach club there. The home was built by the McKesson family, the pharma giants. Borough officials rejected the plan. By the next decade the house would fail, replaced by high-rise condos.
Borough beach clubs taken by time and tide …
Peninsula House Beach Club & Hotel
Perhaps the most elaborate of the oceanfront beach clubs was The Peninsula House hotel and beach club. The original P House (c) was built in 1881 and burned in 1986.
Claims of “better-than-ever facilities” after a devastating March storm. APP, Summer 1962.
The P House — Postcard Perfect, 1940s.
Tons and tons of beach at the P House beach club, 1950s.
P House beach area aerial image, 1930s.
P House in its glory, 1940s.
Sandlass Beach Clubs in Sea Bright
No report on SB beach club history is complete without mentioning the Sandlass family name. Their family historian Susan Gardiner is out with a new book, Sandy Hook’s Lost Highland Beach Resort ($21.99; Arcadia Publishing). “Only the Sandlass family has owned and operated three beach clubs/bathing pavilions in Sea Bright between 1909 and 1963,” Susan explains. “Starting in 1888, the Highland Beach resort area was considered its own neighborhood and real estate development project until it was annexed by Sea Bright in 1909.” When it came to the beach, Susan said her family “were eager entrepreneurs in the industry.” Our thanks.
The SAND LASS Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1947. Built in the 1930s, It was owned and operated by Bill Sandlass. Purchased by the Chimento family in 1975, today the location is the Sands Beach Club.
Sandlass Brothers Bathing Pavilion on Ocean Avenue, 1927. The business was run by Bill Sandlass, older son of Will Sandlass. His younger brother, Henry Sandlass, was a silent partner. Today, this spot is the Chapel Beach Club.
Harbor Light Day Beach Club on fire, 1963. Robert Osgoodby acquired the 8-acre property along the Shrewsbury River in 1953. He also ran a football camp there.
Downsea Beach Hotel at 150 Ocean Avenue, 1930s. Sometimes called a “roadhouse,” it was badly damaged in a Sept. 1958 fire. A large saltwater pool was added in 1962.
Downsea Beach Hotel aerial image, 1960s. The spot later became Gaiter’s.
Gaiter’s, 2011. The restaurant and marina was owned by Victor Scudiery, who chaired the Monmouth County Democratic Party forever.
Anchorage Pool & Surf Club on fire, June 1982. The fire was ruled arson — the facility had been abandoned since 1980. Vincent Russo and Joseph Lynch were the owners. The Ocean Avenue spot was the location of the old Emery Beach Club owned by Victor Emery from 1956 to 1964.
Tradewinds Beach Club
Tradewinds Beach Club, 1970s. Starting as a beach club in 1955, it grew and grew. Architect Jerome Larson did a big redesign in 1976.
The original Tradewinds-by-the-Sea beach club on Ocean Avenue, 1950s. In 1962, the new Tradewinds Beach Club under construction got a liquor license from the old Sea Bright Motel, both owned by Irwin Levy.
Tradewinds Beach Club, 1970s. The club opened an in-door swimming pool in 1964. By the late 1980s, it was considered the biggest beach club in the state.
Tradewinds Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1970s. Ed Levy and family reopened the nearby Tradewinds nightclub in 1976 after three year hiatus.
“Final Curtain” — Tradewinds Night Club at the end, 2002.
Hurricane Sandy leftovers, 2012. The nightclub, an important part of the Jersey Shore music scene for 30 years, operated until December 2002. At its peak, the club could accommodate 1,200 patrons indoors.
Sea Bright Beach Pavilion
Sea Bright Beach Pavilion, 2020. The “town’s beach” is a real wow.
Sea Bright Beach Pavilion, 2019. The borough’s modern seashore facility cost $4 million.
Sea Bright Beach Pavilion on a gray winter day, 2021.
SB public beach, 2019, (Frank Snead Photo).
Sea Bright Bathing Pavilion, 1940s. The building was torn down in 1948. Sometimes called the “Surf Bathing Pavilion.”
Sea Bright Bathing Pavilion, 1940s. Elliott and Shropshire were SBBP owners from 1924 until selling to John Chimento in 1964.
Hurricane Sandy damage on Ocean Avenue, 2012.
SB Beach Club, early 1900s.
• Highland Beach: Grand Playground of the Past — HERE
• Monmouth Beach Bathing Pavilion — HISTORY & PHOTOS
• Monmouth Beach Club — HISTORY & PHOTOS
• Long Branch Pier: Seaside Fun & Games — HERE