Bridges, Boats and a Boisterous Inn
Since Monmouth Beach is pretty much surrounded by water — a creek, a river and an ocean — bridges are necessary. The borough once had two water overpasses, today just one remains.
The Patten Avenue Bridge, connecting Monmouth Beach and North Long Branch, over Manahasset Creek (an indentation of Pleasure Bay) was built in the 1920s. According to borough records, in its early years the bridge could be opened for boats.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the bridge-tender was borough resident, Billy Meyer. To open the structure a t-bar was inserted into a gear that drove a large turning table underneath that swung open the bridge. Sometimes motorists helped Meyer turn the gears. The bridge also had a small keeper’s hut.
Fishing and pleasure boats would pass through and dock into the borough’s Manahasset Creek. A waterfront house in North Long Branch was where catches of oysters were shucked. Other buildings in the area were occupied by the Patten family, who owned and operated the Long Branch Steamboat Company (known as the Patten Line). The 120-foot-long boats largely served Shrewsbury River and Pleasure Bay ports and offered trips to Battery Park in NYC. Boat names included the SS Thomas Patten, SS Mary Patten, SS Pleasure Bay, SS Elberon, and SS Little Silver.
“It takes both sides to build a bridge.”
The company was organized in 1890 by Thomas Patten, Sr. A wealthy member of the New York Stock Exchange, he built a large mansion on the banks of Shrewbury River, now the Patten Point Yacht Club. His son, Thomas, served as company president and was also a Democratic U.S. Representative for New York from 1911 to 1917. The company went into receivership in 1918, the year Tom, Jr. was appointed Postmaster of New York City. Patten Avenue in town is named after the family. By 1938, the Patten line was done with the boats sold for firewood to the city of Long Branch.
In the 1943, a 500-foot-long fixed wood bridge was built to replace the swing one. The cost was $20,000. In 2005, thanks to $4.7 million in Monmouth County funds (which owns the structure), the bridge was closed for a year and completely demolished, expanded, and modernized. The new bridge was 12 feet wider and 5 feet higher above the water. Marbro Inc. was the contractor.
A little research shows drama at the bridge through the years. In August 1932, there was a murder nearby; the body was found in the salt grasses by the bridge. In July 1949, a borough couple sued the county for $25,000 for injuries suffered while walking on the bridge. In 1950, the bridge was damaged from a fire due to a tossed cigarette. In July 1956, an 18-year-old was killed during a car crash on the bridge. In April 1976, police suspected thieves from a burglary tossed their booty (jewelry and silverware) into the creek from the bridge.
In August 1908, a day-long carnival was held in celebration of the opening of another new bridge from Monmouth Beach into Long Branch. The wooden river overpass was at the west end of Valentine Street over Manahasset Creek. According to a New York Times report, the festivities included land and water sports, a marine pageant, and a reception at Manahasset Hotel on the Long Branch side. The Manahasset Park Association had begun development of the area in 1894.
In 1917, one of the first official acts of a new MB borough council was a street name change. Two road names were changed to create Valentine Street. The old roads, divided by Riverdale Avenue (which was once called Fresh Pond Road), were Conover Road (eastside) and Manahasset Street (westside). Nearby Cherry Street, which is actually surrounded by Long Branch, is a noncontiguous part of Monmouth Beach.
In 1940, the county made $12,000 in emergency repairs to the narrow wooden bridge which had been closed off due to its bad condition.
The 380-foot Valentine Street bridge — at one time heavily trafficked and also owned by the county — was removed in 1965 with an agreement that the Patten Avenue Bridge would be improved (a promise fulfilled 40 years later). Monmouth Beach officials had long wanted the decaying bridge removed but Long Branch city officials and area residents, and EAI employees wanted to keep the Valentine bridge open for access reasons. County officials at the time said the water under the bridge had the highest pollution count in the whole Shrewsbury River.
The Monmouth Beach Inn …
Resting near the old Valentine Street bridge was the legendary Monmouth Beach Inn, a sometimes-raucous boarding house and bar. Between 1933 and 1967 the MBI had 10 different proprietors (including William Benequit, Martin Lavine, Anne McEvoy, Lillian Bade, Richard and Ethel Carter, Ted Susyski, and Nell and Howard Baurband), the last owners being Dan and Terry Carmody.
The property covered three acres and facility included two bars, a pool table and shuffleboard, kitchen, four dinning rooms, and 16 rooms for rent upstairs. It also offered “television entertain for patrons” in 1948. The location was a summer retreat for the East End Democratic Club of Newark in the early 1930s. The spot was also known as the John F. Monahan Club and The Shore Club. By 1950, Valentine Street residents were calling the inn a “public nuisance” with too much noise, profanity, and late night organ and juke box music.
Famous for its parties and people with “character,” the MBI closed operations in April 1967 and was mostly destroyed by a January 1968 fire (during an ice storm). Firefighters back then estimated the building was 100 years old. After the fire it stood for several years as an empty shell surrounded by weeds. Today the land is the Sands Point South condominium complex.
The Howag Corporation, an investment group led by Walter Mihm and Oscar Williams, acquired the liquor license from the defunct MBI. The license sat dormant for years and was later used for the Haul Out Restaurant on the river at the end of West Street which opened in 1978. It later became Sallee Tee’s Grille (1999-2012) and today is the Beach Tavern.