Monmouth Beach Hotel — “Summer White House”
A President of the United States of America did visit Monmouth Beach or what it was to become (the area was officially part of Ocean Twp. from 1849 to 1906).
According to a June 1924 Long Branch Daily Record report, Benjamin Harrison, America’s 23rd President, was a regular guest here in the mid-1890s when the location was an exclusive coastal resort community run by the Monmouth Beach Association. The Red Bank Register in January 1930 stated that the president spent “summers” in town. According to an October 1894 Shore Press report, ex-President Harrison and his daughter, Mary Scott McKee, and grandchildren had just summered in a “Monmouth Beach cottage.”
Thus, by some indications an early “Summer White House” may well have been in “Monmouth Beach.” President Harrison — who served from 1889 to 1893 — owned a 10,000 square-foot custom-built mansion in Indianapolis at the time. Today it’s his presidential museum. He ran the last of the “front porch” campaigns and prevailed in the narrow 1888 US Presidential Election — winning the Electoral College but losing the popular vote (sound familiar?)
Ohio born in August 1883, Harrison had a record of responsibility and prestige before his presidency. He had considerable success as a Civil War general, US senator, and prosperous Indiana lawyer. Plus, he had the pedigree — his grandfather was William Henry Harrison (the nation’s ninth president in 1841) and his great-grandfather (also Benjamin Harrison) signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Among his distinctions in office: Harrison is the only President to serve between the two terms of another (those of Grover Cleveland); he opened Ellis Island and was an early advocate for voting rights; 6 states joined the Union during his term, most ever; he was the last president to wear a beard (five of the previous seven had them) and the first to have his voice recorded; and the first to have electricity in the White House. His wife died in 1892 while he was campaigning for re-election (and lost the race by 3% out of 12 million votes cast).
A fiery and effective speaker — the larger the crowd the more effective he became. Democrats called him “Little Ben.” At 5 feet, 6 inches in height he only tops one other President, James Madison was shorter by 2 inches. And even with all his love of our shore area, he never carried New Jersey, losing the state in both presidential races. President Harrison died in March 1901 in Indianapolis at age 67.
According to a July 1897 New York Times report, President William McKinley was scheduled to stay at the clubhouse hotel that summer as a guest of the Houghtons, the owners. I couldn’t confirm he made the visit. According to a July 1902 Waterbury Evening Post story, President Teddy Roosevelt passed through Monmouth Beach by train where a crowd at the station cheered him and waved flags. With the president was his wife Alice, NJ Governor Franklin Murphy, and US Senator John Kean — all on the way to see the national guard encampment at Sea Girt.
According to a September 1916 Washington Herald report, Vice President Thomas Marshall and his wife stayed in Monmouth Beach for a weekend prior to joining President Woodrow Wilson at Shadow Lawn.
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When it comes to presidential visits to New Jersey, our neighbor to the south, the city of Long Branch, played the big time — hosting seven American presidents in its heydays, including the Republican Harrison — MORE HERE.
Beginning in 1867, soon-to-be-elected President Ulysses S. Grant visited Long Branch and fell in love with the area. He would return every summer during his eight years (1869-1877) as the nation’s chief executive. He owned a home in Long Branch and may even have visited the Monmouth Beach area. According to Entertaining a Nation, the hero general loved to get around. He was known to “wildly” race his horse & buggy up and down the beach for miles.
The seven American presidents (with their terms in office) to visit Long Branch were: US Grant (1869-1877), Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), James A. Garfield (1881), Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885), Harrison, William McKinley (1897-1901), and Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921). Garfield died in Elberon from his assassination wounds.
Local News and the President …