“Celebrating the Golden Age of the Jersey Shore”
Originally part of “Wardell’s Beach,” the beginnings of Highland Beach as an iconic seashore resort date to Gilded Age times. Located on the barrier beach were it seems Sandy Hook, Sea Bright and Highlands converge, it is the first ocean access spot along the NJ Shore.
The area’s major developer/owner, William Sandlass, Jr., first got involved in 1888, and the family built up and ran the popular resort for 75 summers. The location was annexed by Sea Bright in 1909. By 1962, sadly, the good times at Highland Beach were over. The state acquired the 5-acre property and 1,200-feet of oceanfront from Henry Sandlass to develop a new state park
Highland Beach offered ocean and river swimming, boating and fishing, sun-bathing, a restaurant and nightclub, a movie theater, roller-coaster and merry-go-round, a hotel, bathhouses and private cottages. Most of the buildings were in the Victorian style of architecture and access to the resort could be had by train, boat or auto.
The Surf House Hotel/Basket Pavilion served up to 1,000 meals a day in the Highland Beach excursion resort’s heyday. Mrs. Sandlass’ “$1 Shrewsbury Dinner,” full of seafood choices, rivaled the best around.
Have a look at the Navesink Studio’s video Destinations Past: Highland Beach which explains why “time, technology and politics washed away one of the first tourist destinations on the Jersey Shore.” Also, a member of the Sandlass family, Susan Gardiner, wrote a fine new book on the area, Sandy Hook’s Lost Highland Beach Resort ($21.99; Arcadia Publishing). ORDER HERE. Also, many of the photos in this post are part of her collection — my thanks to her.
Also visit the Jersey Coast Heritage Museum for more on Highland Beach — history and photos.
Navesink Beach and Highland Beach Improvement Company promo sketch, 1889.
“The Famous Highlands of Navesink from Highland Beach, : 1895.
“Aquarium” — home of Ferdinand Fish at Navesink Beach, 1889.
Highland Beach “cottages” along Ocean Avenue, early 1900s.
Highland Beach seen from the Atlantic Ocean, 1891 (Library of Congress photo).
Crowds await entry into the Highland Beach resort, early 1900s.
A Highland Beach banner day, 1930s.
All that remains of the Highland Beach resort glory days, July 2021. Built in 1893, the structure was home to three generations of the Sandlass family. The “Sandlass House” was at the heart of the Sandlass Pavilion business operations, according to Susan Sandlass Gardiner.
Surf House hotel and dinning room at Highland Beach, built in 1891. The buildings were torn down in 1932.
Highland Beach — swimming in the bay, 1905.
An idyllic summer day at Highland Beach resort, 1912.
Highland Beach resort — photo taken from the Highlands bridge, 1930s.
Bamboo Garden at Highland Beach, early 1900s. Will Sandlass got the “bamboo” idea from his winter trips to Cuba. Later he had a railroad car full of the stuff shipped to NJ for the construction.
Highland Beach connection bridge, 1920s. At right is the Surf House and Basket Pavilion.
Twin Lights seen from Highland Beach over the bridge, August 1887. The first lighthouse was built in 1828 and replaced with the twin towers in 1862. Lighthouse operations ended in 1952 and by 1962 it was a museum.
Sandlass beach and boardwalk postcard, 1938.
“The Visionary” — William Sandlass, Jr., 1912. Known as Will to family and friends, he was born in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania in March 1862. He died in November 1938.
A very young Henry Sandlass with his clam bucket at Highland Beach Photo Gallery, 1919
Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge, 1933. Highland Beach resort is in the background — access could be had by train, auto, boat or on foot.
Asbury Park Press story on the beginnings of Highland Beach, July 1888. “No Coney Island about this place.”
Highland Beach letterhead, 1888.
Highland Beach, early 1900s.
Sandlass Baths at Highland Beach, 1940s.
A view from Highlands to Highland Beach across the bay, 1900.
Highland Beach, early 1910.
Central NJ Camelback train stopped at Highland Beach (the resort merry-go-round is in back), 1928.
“The Breakers at Highland Beach, NJ” postcard, early 1900s (Lester Horner Photo).
Highland Beach, early 1900s.
Train wreck at Highland Beach, September 1889.
Sandlass Beach Club, early 1900s. Opened in 1887.
Sandlass Beach Club, 1905.
Sandlass Pavilion at Highland Beach, late 1800s.
Sandless Bamboo Garden at Highland Beach during winter, early 1900s.
Highland Beach — turn of the century shore scene, early 1900s.
Highland Beach candy store, early 1900s.
Boating ladies at Highland Beach, 1910s.
Great Switchback Railroad (roller coaster) at Highland Beach, 1890.
Great Switchback Railroad at Highland Beach, 1890.
Patrons ride the Great Switchback Railroad at Highland Beach, 1889.
Highland Beach bridge, 1906.
Highlands of Navesink and Twin Lights seen from Highland Beach, early 1900s.
Highland Beach, 1932.
Surf House Pavilion at Highland Beach, early 1900s. Opened in 1890.
The Oracle, a Highland Beach resort newsletter, Sept. 1895.
Highland Beach, 1910s.
Surf House at Highland Beach, 1910.
Sandlass Baths, 1950s.
Highland Beach post card, 1905.
Highland Beach post card, 1910. Shown are the Candy Store, Merry-Go-Round and Bathing Pavilion Entrance.
Fruit & Cigar Store at Highland Beach, 1893.
Highland Beach bathers, 1890s.
Highland Beach post card, 1910.
Highland Beach post card, 1914.
View from the Sandlass Beach Club of Twin Lights, 1920s.
Bridge connection to Highland Beach, early 1900s.
Summer Sunday morning at Highland Beach, early 1900s.
Highland Beach: Traffic backups even then, 1925.
Sandlass Pavilion at Highland Beach, 1915.
Bamboo Room at Sandlass Beach, 1940s.
The Bamboo Room tropical cocktail lounge opened in 1941.
Bamboo Bar, 1950s.
The Bamboo Room bar, 1940s.
Full bar at the Bamboo Room, 1940s.
Bamboo Garden cabaret, 1915.
Highland Beach, 1910s.
Sandlass Beach Club, 1950s.
Highland Beach merry-go-round, 1910.
Bamboo Garden airdrome, 1917.
Ocean bathing at Highland Beach, 1905.
William Sandlass wedding announcement.
Mother & Son: Helen and Henry Sandlass at Highland Beach, 1932.
Henry Sandlass with his wife Midge (Sheehan). The couple married just before he when to war in 1942. They guided the resort during important post war seasons making for super summers for generations of families.
Gertrude Ederle (in pink dress) awards swimming trophies at Sandlass Beach, 1960. Ederle (1905-2003) was an Olympic Gold Medal champion and the first woman to swim across the English Channel.
Sandlass family home at Highland Beach, 1950s.
Sandlass family home, early 1960s. Around the time the family gave up their Highland Beach property to the park service.
Sandlass family home, 2016.
All that remains of the Sandlass-Highland Beach resort, 1990s. The Sandlass family lost the property to the federal government in June 1962.
Highland Beach resort plan map, 1880.
Once Upon a Time at Sandy Hook