Bridging to Monmouth Beach
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 that connects Monmouth Beach and North Long Branch 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 drivers had to help 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 New York & Long Branch Steamboat Company (known as the Patten Line). The ships 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.
In the 1940s, a fixed bridge was built to replace the swing one. In 2005, thanks to $4.5 million in Monmouth County funds, the bridge was closed for a year and completely demolished, expanded, and modernized.
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 Lodge 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.
The Valentine bridge — at one time heavily trafficked — was removed in 1965 with an agreement that the Patten Avenue Bridge would be improved (a promise fulfilled 40 years later).
The Monmouth Beach Inn …
Nearby 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, and Nell and Howard Baurband), the last owners being Dan and Terry Carmody.
The facility included a large square bar, pool table and shuffleboard, and rooms for rent upstairs. Food was also served. The location was a summer retreat for the East End Democratic Club of Newark in the early 1930s.
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). 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.