A Building Grows in Sea Bright …
“The Break” coming to “The Neighborhood”
The first residential high-rise in downtown Sea Bright is coming together smartly (the image below is a model). As a merger of ocean & river views, it doesn’t get better for a digs.
Fronting on Ocean Avenue “The Break” will be a multistory luxury condominium with 6 units when completed; two will be of the penthouse variety with amazing rooftop water sights (That’s a for sure, I live next door). At the “streel-level” will be 2,800-square-feet of commercial space. There’s even room for under-structure parking (a real bonus during Sea Bright summers).
A triumvirate of professionals who do and dare locally are collaborating on this deal. Mode Architects of Asbury Park has designed, K Shaw Construction of Monmouth Beach has built, and O’Brien Realty of Monmouth Beach is selling a “masterpiece of timeless character and elegance to be enjoyed for generations.” That’s close.
A two-bedroom unit in the building recently hit the real estate market — about 4,800-square-feet and $1.5 million — MORE INFO. The Break is a bold concept and I’ve heard every hammer bang since day one. The construction crew is the most reliable 7:30 am alarm clock in all my lifetime.
Having watched it rise quite literally outside my window I believe the venture is a serious and sturdy investment in Sea Bright’s future, a handsome reflection of its unparalleled shore stage, and a major step in the borough’s growth and recovery from Sandy’s storms. Prosperity to all.
Locals recall that the old Sea Bright Pharmacy previously held the grounds. Read on for more neighborhood history …
Highway Highlights …
“The Break” will join what’s already a pretty cool neighborhood. Historic as well. I rent an apartment in a building on Ocean Avenue — Sea Bright’s very sustenance — next door to where the new condo rises (I’m at 1090 Ocean Avenue). My home, a brick, three-story building, also houses the busy Bain’s Hardware store and several other apartments above.
For each day I reach the pavement outside that spot I’m grateful. Life is Sea Bright offers splendid extremes. My home road, Ocean Avenue, is a state highway after all — NJ Route 36 to be exact. It’s an “all-the-time” road. It has been going back to the late 1940s when the state took over the old railroad right-of-way in town.
The old building — between River Street and South Street — is a Sea Bright antique. The Tocci family of Monmouth Beach has owned it for over 50 years. Louis Tocci, Sr. acquired the property and business in 1969 and ran it for over a decade; he died in 1992. His father Nicholas Tocci had come to Monmouth Beach in the 1920s and purchased old farmland in the borough’s northwest section. He developed the surrounding neighborhood and Tocci Avenue is named for the family.
The building in which I reside was constructed shortly after the Great Sea Bright Fire of June 1891 when a majority of the downtown district was burned, including over 400 residences. The “immense configuration” was started by “a man named Kelly” in the livery stables of J.A. Buckalew on River Street.
E.H. Knapp and Edward West did the work on the new building and opened a grocery there before the 19th Century ended. In 1920, putting business before politics, William H. Mahoney (the Republican Rumson mayor) and J. Elwood Harvey (the Democrat Little Silver mayor) bought the building. They expanded the inventory and promoted it as “Sea Bright’s Big Store.”
In October 1944, William R. Fowler, Jr. acquired the Ocean Avenue building and business. Regrettably, most borough residents don’t know the Fowler name. They should — the family gave to Sea Bright more than most. A borough native and active civic leader, Bill Fowler was a three-term borough councilman, fire chief, school board president, bank director, and church trustee. He was good at commerce too. “Fowler’s of Sea Bright” became a business fixture in the area and “one of the biggest independent stores of its kind” in New Jersey, according to his January 1968 Long Branch Daily Record obit.
He had a good example. His father, William R. Fowler, Sr., began his public service as a Sea Bright councilman in January 1909. He actually won his seat on a coin-toss, according to the Asbury Park Press, after a 148-148 vote tie with an incumbent councilman during November ’08 elections. Fowler remained on council until becoming mayor in 1922. Elected to three mayoral terms, he was in and out of office until 1936 (borough mayors served 2-year terms then). He was also a school board member for over 25 years and a charter borough fireman and a chief. The father of 14 children, he died in October 1941.
In 1994 Frank Bain’s dream of running a “general store” became a reality. Operating under the banner: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” he and a friendly staff worked hard and built a loyal clientele over the past 25+ years. The store withstood the furies of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 — rebuilt and recreated it prospers today. Frank and his family operate three general stores in the area – MORE INFO. Stop & shop! Check out the changing neighborhood before the summer crowds arrive.
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Note: Facts come from the Long Branch Daily Record, Red Bank Daily Register, and Asbury Park Press digital archives (350+ years of combined news coverage) — MORE INFO.
I worked at Sea Bright Hardware when I was in RFH High School. I remember Mr. Tocci — he could be a bit rough around the edges but was a good boss.
I still think of sweeping the sand from out of the old wooden floor and getting small glass bottles of Coke out of an old water cooler he had in his office. He’s also have me do other jobs when it was slow. One was collecting rent from the tenants for him, (I think that’s what the soda was for) or cleaning out the apartments when a tenant left. One apartment had about 100 mugs and bar glasses in it obviously lifted from Ichabod’s among other places.
Mr. Tocci drove a 1967 Imperial Lebaron, brown with cloth interior. It was massive and so elegant. He would leave me running the store (at 15!) because the only gas station that had leaded premium was in Long Branch. He finally sold it when he couldn’t even get that! Those were the days!