It’s the ultimate beach town — folks have been coming to Sea Bright for the sand, sea and sun for 125 years. Young and old, rich and poor, near and far, fat and skinny, alone and groups, happy and troubled — all are known to visit borough beaches in the summertime.
For most beach-goers it’s about relaxation, but for others it’s a business. At present, the borough has 8 beach clubs in operation — seven private and one public. All the clubs took a pounding from Superstorm Sandy. All have recovered to bask in the sunshine again.
The private beach clubs of Sea Bright are unalike — different people, different ways — so I’m told by the locals. Each is unique yet all agree on one thing: Sea Bright is a summertime paradise.
The town’s private clubs (north to south) are:
• Ship Ahoy Beach Club
• Sands Beach Club
• Surfrider Beach Club
• Seabright Beach Club
• Chapel Beach Club
• Edgewater Beach Club
• Driftwood Cabana Club
A large public beach, recently expanded and improved at the center of town, charges a modest fee. A surfer’s beach, the Anchorage, is free but unguarded.
“Sea Bright is beyond doubt the coolest summer place.”
—Red Bank Daily Register, May 1955
Several beach clubs in town have come and gone. Among them: the Peninsula House Beach Club, Trade Winds Beach Club, Surf ‘n’ See Club, Ocean Side Surf Club, Anchorage Pool and Surf Club, Sandlass Beach Club, Harbor Light Beach Club, Surf Bathing Pavilion (opened in June 1926 by Jack Schickling), and Emery’s Beach Club among others.
Here’s a photo-essay about Sea Bright beach clubs through the years. Please enjoy and I welcome feedback, additions or corrections: HERE.
The Sea Bright shore near Tradewinds, July 2022.
Boats and bathers share a busy Sea Bright beach, 1950s.
Plenty of Beach — the Sea Bright coast, Summer 1955. The Peninsula House is at upper left.
“Discover Sea Bright … Not Just a Beach,” promo ad, 1960s.
“Sea Bright Bathing Grounds,” 1906.
Bathers at Sea Bright, 1904. Some aughts sunscreen?
Early beach day in Sea Bright, 1910.
Sea Bright shore near the Rumson Bridge, 2018.
Postcard perfect beach day at Sea Bright, 1940s.
Beach clubs side-by-side in the setting sun, 2019. From left: the Ship Ahoy Beach Club and Sands Beach Club with Tim McLoone’s Rum-Runner restaurant in the foreground.
“Beach Club Row,” 1927. By the 1960s, Sea Bright had 12 beach clubs.
Sea Bright coast looking north, 2020.
Sea Bright coast looking north, 1964. In 1986, Mayor Cecile Norton, a borough resident since 1939, called the beach clubs “good neighbors” who “pay their taxes.”
Ship Ahoy Beach Club
Ship Ahoy Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1940s.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club, 1940s. In May 1935, Otto A. Gillig, Sr. recieved town approval to open and operate a private club with liquor license, which he restricted to “refined and congenial people.” In 1948, “The Skipper” died and his son, Otto, Jr., took over.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club, 1940s. When first opened the ocean-side facility had 164 bathhouses, a grill room and soda fountain, reception room, lounge, and offices. George Woolley & Son did all the dock/fountain work.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club & Motel, 1950s. The club was greatly expanded and remodeled in the postwar years. A riverside motel was opened and all the rooms had porches overhanging the Shrewsbury River allowing for easy fishing.
Ship Ahoy — where “childhood dreams were made.” Summer 1965 (Helen Apy Photo).
Ship Ahoy Beach Club & Motel, 1957. The club’s 14-room riverside motel first opened in June 1952, it was expanded to 28 rooms in 1956, and by 1958 it had 42 units. It was torn down in October 1978.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club and Motel, late 1960s. Dual ocean-side pools were added in 1959; wrecked in 1962 and quickly rebuilt.
Ship Ahoy club damage remains after Superstrom Sandy, 2012.
Ship Ahoy storm damages, 2013. Like all town beach clubs, members and owners looked upon ruin after Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
Ship Ahoy after Sandy storm damage, 2012.
“Rising after the fall” — the regal new Ship Ahoy Beach Club post-Sandy superstorm, 2015.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 2019. Darryl and Marie Jackson own the club today.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club painting by Jennifer Smith Donaldson. The club founder, Otto A. Gillig, Sr., was born in Brooklyn in 1885.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club, 1960s.
Ship Ahoy Motel, 1953. The 14-unit complex seen from the Shrewsbury River was built across the street from the beach club in 1952 by Otto Gilling, Jr. It replaced the Ship Ahoy restaurant-club that burned the year before.
Ship Ahoy Club-Restaurant, 1950 (Dorn’s Image). Known as a “swank eating place,” it all burned in a massive wind-swept fire in March 1951.
Ship Ahoy Club-Restaurant on the river, 1940s.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club postcard, 1940s.
The Lombardi family enjoys a day at Ship Ahoy, June 1968. A borough legend is that “The Coach” was a lifeguard here in 1935?
Ship Ahoy ad, APP May 1959. Robert Jackson took control of the club in January 1959 and the family still operates the facility today.
New Ship Ahoy Beach Club construction after Superstorm Sandy, 2013.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club pool area, 2019.
Ship Ahoy Beach Club restaurant and bar on Ocean Avenue at its Grand Opening, Summer 1935. Construction was done by Town and Country, Inc.
Seabright Beach Club
Seabright Beach Club, early 1900s. The club was organized in 1895 by wealthy Rumson summer residents seeking a private oasis. If so, that would make it the oldest beach club in Sea Bright.
SBC, 1908. William A. Street was the club’s founding president. Also a founder of the Seabright Lawn Tennis & Cricket Club in Rumson, he died in 1924.
Seabright Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1909. It was started on July 1, 1894 by nine families on the old Samuel B. Dodd property, according to an April 1921 Long Branch Daily Record report. By 1869, Dodd had become a key Sea Bright founder (a partner with Mifflin Paul) who had multiple town interests including the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge, the Ocean Avenue to Sandy Hook highway, the railroad, and developing Sea Bright as a resort.
Seabright Beach Club, 1938. The club made several large and wise land expansions early on: acquiring the nearby Mason cottage in 1913; picking up the Colonel Lewis estate (150-feet of prime oceanfront) in 1919; and buying the Howland property in 1922.
Seabright Beach Club pool area, 1930s. Captain Miller Newman was the club’s first superintendent starting in 1894 and held the post for about 30 years.
Seabright Beach Club painting by Audrey Perkins.
Seabright Beach Club, 1920s. Captain Cyril A. Smack was superintendent for most of the 1920s. As far back as 1924, according to APP reports, he was fighting ocean population from NYC.
Seabright Beach Club behind the SB railroad station, early 1900s.
Seabright Beach Club after Superstorm Sandy, 2012.
Seabright Beach Club after Superstorm Sandy, 2013.
SBC, 1930s. It had “more millionaires connected with the organization than any similar club in the state,” according to the Long Branch Daily Record, February 1926.
Seabright Beach Club, 1940s. Thomas Edison visited the club in July 1917 and “was more than impressed.”
Seabright Beach Club, 1905. By Summer 1908 the club registry included 50 families.
Seabright Beach Club, late 1800s.
Seabright Beach Club after Hurricane Sandy, 2012. Guy Wilbanks was the club manager from 1969 to 1993.
Seabright Beach Club after Hurricane Sandy, 2012.
Chapel Beach Club
Sea Bright Presbyterian Church, built in 1890. Will Sandlass’ first son, Bill, leased the church for the Sandlass Bros. Bathing Pavilion in Sea Bright from 1915 to 1923 when it was located between the Seabright Beach Club and the Peninsula House. Today, the location is the Chapel Beach Club.
Sea Bright Presbyterian Church side view, 1901. Later to become the Chapel Beach Club.
Chapel Beach Club (c) when it was the Sandlass Brothers Bathing Pavilion, 1930s.
Chapel Beach Club when it was the Sea Bright Bathing Pavilion, 1949.
Sandlass Brothers Bathing Pavilion, late 1920s. Later to be the Chapel Beach Club.
When notable Rumson financier John A. Mulheren, Jr. acquired the club in 1988 for $1.5 million — it was called the Sea Bright Bathing Pavilion.
Chapel Beach Club, 2019.
Chapel Beach Club, 2019. Mulheren’s 2003 New York Times obit called him “a charismatic Wall Street trader.”
A busy Chapel Beach Club, 2018. Born in the Bronx, Mulheren was a graduate of CBA in Lincroft.
Chapel Beach Club lobby, 2019.
Chapel Beach Club after Superstorm Sandy, 2013.
Chapel Beach Club after Hurricane Sandy damage, 2012.
Chapel Beach Club pool area, 2010s.
Chapel Beach Club under repair after Hurricane Sandy, 2013.
Prayers for sun and sand — answered. Long Branch Daily Record, September 1940.
Sandlass Bros. Bathing Pavilion on Ocean Avenue, 1920s. Located south of the Seabright Beach Club and north of the Peninsula House hotel, the spot later became the Chapel Beach club (Susan Sandlass Gardiner Photo).
Surfrider Beach Club
Surfrider Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1963. At this time the club included an Olympic-sized pool, 350 lockers, 21 cabanas and a snack bar.
Surfrider Beach Club, 2000s. First opened in June 1955, it proved so popular the club was expanded two years later.
Surfrider Beach Club ad, 1977.
Surfrider Beach Club, 2010s.
Surfrider, 2020. Members say that the Lo Biondo family run operations here with class. They’ve owned the Ocean Avenue beach club since 1985.
Surfrider summer morning — a metropolis on the horizon, 2020.
Surfrider Beach Club seen from the beach, 2000s.
Surfrider Beach Club ad, APP, June 1962. The club’s origin dates to the mid-1950s when Carl Fleming was manager and W.A. Burkhardt was director.
Surfrider the long view, 2010s.
Borough firefighters battle fire at Surfrider Beach Club, August 1976.
Surfrider Beach Club, June 2022.
Edgewater Beach Club
The Stavola name is deeply tied to both the Edgewater and Driftwood beach clubs in Sea Bright, according to Asbury Park Press news archives, going back 65 years. Prior to being beach clubs, the Ocean Avenue property was a 37-room mansion owned by William Nelson Cromwell, the top lawyer for the Panel Canal company in 1902.
Edgewater Beach Club entrance, 2020.
The club took a real pounding from Superstorm Sandy, 2013.
Edgewater Beach & Cabana Club, 2019. In February 1958, Stavola brothers John, Frank, Joseph, and James came together to built the Edgewater Beach Club just north of their brother Michael’s new beach club called Driftwood.
“Relax … and Let Yourself Be Pampered” at Edgewater — sketch from a APP ad, March 1987 .
“You deserve the finest” — Members Wanted! APP ad, August 1984.
Edgewater Cabana Club after winter snow, 2021.
Edgewater Cabana Club sketch, APP 11/1985. The club was greatly expanded over state DEP objections in the late 1980s.
Driftwood Beach Club
Driftwood Beach Club sketch proposal. Long Branch Daily Record, 1957. Frank A. Amodio was the architect.
Driftwood Beach Club with rainbow and US flag, Sept. 2022.
Driftwood by the Sea logo, 1959. In November 1956, Michael J. Stavola of Middletown Twp. got it all started by acquiring the 320-feet of oceanfront property of the old “Edgewater Beach Hotel & Restaurant” and surrounding land.
Driftwood Beach Club aerial image looking south, 1960s.
Driftwood Beach Club main entrance after a fire, August 1969.
Driftwood Beach Club ad. APP, May 1959.
Driftwood, 1960s. Michael J. Stavola built the original club for $200,000 in 1958. Whatever he touched — beach clubs, contracting, quarrying, horse-farming, real estate — it came up a big winner. The Jersey City native died in December 1998 at age 81.
A major expansion to the Driftwood Beach Club. Red Bank Register, April 1987. Covering 1,200-feet of oceanfront over 8 acres, the project cost $3.5 million. The Stavola brothers overcame NJ state DEP regulations and won a NJ Supreme Court ruling to build “the last of the old-time cabana clubs.”
Driftwood cabanas, 2018.
Driftwood Beach Club damages after Hurricane Sandy, 2013.
Driftwood Beach Club damages after Hurricane Sandy, 2013.
Post-Sandy repairs at Driftwood Beach Club, 2013.
Driftwood Beach Club from above, 2020.
Driftwood Beach Club pool area, 1960s.
Driftwood Beach Club damages after Superstorm Sandy, 2012.
Driftwood Beach Club took a real pounding from Superstorm Sandy, 2012.
Driftwood Beach Club damage post Sandy, 2012.
Edgewater Beach Hotel & Restaurant after fire, May 1954. When it burned down, SB Councilman John Picknally, Jr. was the owner. He’d acquired the property for $20,000 in 1948 and opened the business in June 1950. Within 5 years the area was the Edgewater and Diftwood beach clubs.
Sands Beach Club
The SAND LASS Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1940s. Today, the location is the Sands Beach Club.
Twins Lights of Navesink seen from Sand Lass Beach Club, 1940s. In 1924, Bill Sandlass moved on and built another SB beach club: “The Sand Lass Beach Club” on Ocean Avenue across from today’s Rum Runner Restaurant.
Sand Lass Beach Club on Ocean Avenue in SB, 1940s. Bill Sandlass was the proprietor until 1963 when his younger brother, Henry, bought the beach club which remained in the family until 1975.
Sands Beach Club, 2010s. John Chimento acquired the property in May 1975 from the original owners who built the beach club in the 1920s and changed the name. The Chimento family still runs the club today.
Sands Beach Club, 2017. The original building survived until it washed out to sea during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Sands Beach Club after a snow, 2021.
In 1963, John Chimento acquired a classic seashore mansion in Monmouth Beach (above) hoping to create a new private beach club there. The home was built by the McKesson family, the pharma giants. Borough officials rejected the plan. By the next decade the house would fail, replaced by high-rise condos.
Borough beach clubs taken by time and tide …
Peninsula House Beach Club & Hotel
Perhaps the most elaborate of the oceanfront beach clubs was The Peninsula House hotel and beach club. The original P House (c) was built in 1881 and burned in 1986.
Claims of “better-than-ever facilities” after a devastating March storm. APP, Summer 1962.
The P House — Postcard Perfect, 1940s. The iconic seashore structure dates back to Sea Bright’s late 19th century resort glory days.
Tons and tons of beach at the P House beach club, 1950s.
P House beach area aerial image, 1930s.
P House in its glory, 1940s. Constructed in 1881 by Mifflin Paul, the unofficial founder of Sea Bright, for his daughter, Martha Dederer.
Surf ‘n’ See Club
“Surf ‘n’ See Club” on Ocean Avenue, APP, July 1966 — “the first and only private beach club for surfers on the East Coast.” Built for $80,000, it was previously called “Ferndocks” — a popular surf spot for local teens. Club Owners were: John Stavola, Ernest Beattie, Bill Minder and Charlie Kuhns. By November 1967, it was the Ocean Side Surf Club.
Surf ‘n’ See Club ad, 1966.
“The Castiles” band with Bruce Springsteen (c) perform at the “Surf ‘n’ See Club” on Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright, August 1966. The oceanfront club hosted many up-and-coming bands and musicians.
Sandlass Beach Clubs in Sea Bright
No report on Sea Bright beach club history is complete without mentioning the Sandlass family name. Their family historian Susan Gardiner is out with a new book, Sandy Hook’s Lost Highland Beach Resort ($21.99; Arcadia Publishing). “Only the Sandlass family has owned and operated three beach clubs/bathing pavilions in Sea Bright between 1909 and 1963,” Susan explains. “Starting in 1888, the Highland Beach resort area was considered its own neighborhood and real estate development project until it was annexed by Sea Bright in 1909.” When it came to the beach, Susan said her family “were eager entrepreneurs in the industry.” Our thanks.
The SAND LASS Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1947. Built in the 1930s, It was owned and operated by Bill Sandlass. Purchased by the Chimento family in 1975, today the location is the Sands Beach Club.
Sandlass Brothers Bathing Pavilion on Ocean Avenue, 1927. The business was run by Bill Sandlass, older son of Will Sandlass. His younger brother, Henry Sandlass, was a silent partner. Today, this spot is the Chapel Beach Club.
Sandlass Brothers Bathing Pavilion, 1920s.
Harbor Light Beach Club on fire, 1963. Robert Osgoodby acquired the 8-acre property along the Shrewsbury River in 1953. He also ran a football camp there.
Harbor Light Beach Club ad, Red Bank Register, June 1972. This is the old Sea Bright beach club with a pedestrian bridge over Ocean Avenue. The steel overpass linking the club’s pool and parking lot area with the beach opened for Summer 1966. Bob Osgoodby was the club owner which he grew to 8 acres along river and ocean. The town had rejected the bridge in October 1961.
Downsea Beach Hotel at 150 Ocean Avenue, 1930s. Captain Frank Downs acquired the North Beach property in the mid-1930s and built up the beach club and hotel. He was the US Coast Guard unit leader at Sandy Hook before retiring in 1925. He sold the Downsea business shortly before his death in April 1949.
Downsea Beach ad, 1941. Sometimes called a “roadhouse.” A large saltwater pool was added in 1962. It was badly damaged in a September 1958 fire when owned by Andrew and Joeseph Zurich.
Downsea Beach Hotel aerial image, 1960s. It had 15-rooms and offered boating, bathing with resturant and cocktail lounge. The spot later became Gaiter’s.
Gaiter’s, 2011. The restaurant and marina was owned by Victor Scudiery, who chaired the Monmouth County Democratic Party for many years.
Anchorage Pool & Surf Club
Anchorage Pool & Surf Club on fire, June 1982. The fire was ruled arson — the facility had been abandoned since 1980. Vincent Russo and Joseph Lynch were the owners. The Ocean Avenue spot was the location of the old Emery Beach Club owned by Victor Emery from 1956 to 1964.
Trade Winds Beach Club
James A. Scymser house (l) and cottages along Ocean Avenue in Low Moor, 1903. He was the wealthy president of Pan-American Cable Company and John Roebling Steel. The area would become Trade Winds Beach Club in the 1950s.
James Scymser cottage up close, 1904. The 26-room house was built in 1900 costing $600,000. The spot would become the Trade Winds Hotel & Beach Club when sold in December 1951 by Bennett Galef.
Trade Winds Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1970s.
Trade Winds Beach Club, 1970s. Starting as a beach club in July 1955, it grew and grew. Irwin Levy, Jr. acquired the club, according to an April 1961 APP story, buying 450-feet of oceanfront. He was adding a new pool, 115 bathhouses and a row of 15 cabanas in time for that summer. The previous owners were: Beverley Anderson, Ira Crouse, and Ada Soden. Levy also ran the Sea Bright Motel.
The original Trade-Winds-by-the-Sea beach club on Ocean Avenue, 1950s. In 1962, the new Trade Winds Beach Club under construction got a liquor license from the old Sea Bright Motel, both owned by Irwin Levy.
Trade Winds Beach Club, Red Bank Register, January 1963.
Trade Winds Beach Club, 1970s. The club opened an in-door swimming pool in 1964. By the late 1980s, it was considered the biggest beach club in the state. Architect Jerome Larson did a big redesign in 1976.
Trade Winds Beach Club on Ocean Avenue, 1970s. Ed Levy and family reopened the nearby nightclub in 1976 after a three-year hiatus. The club closed after the Summer of 2003, replaced by 20 multi-million dollar homes.
Trade Winds Beach Club, 1970s.
Trade Winds Beach Club sketch, May 1961. A large plastic bubble — then the biggest in the nation– was placed over the pool area in November 1961 to allow for winter swimming. The cost: $25,000.
Trade Winds Beach Club new indoor Olympic-size pool. Long Branch Daily Record, May 1964.
Flooding on Ocean Avenue near the Trade Winds Beach Club, Sept. 1966.
Trade Winds Beach Club ad. APP, October 1972. “See Our New Look — Trade Winds Winter Club”
Trade Winds nightclub says “Thank you and Goodbye,” 2002.
Trade Winds nightclub musicians, 1980s.
“Final Curtain” — Trade Winds Night Club at the end, 2003.
Hurricane Sandy leftovers, 2012. The nightclub, an important part of the Jersey Shore music scene for 30 years, operated until December 2002. At its peak, the club could accommodate 1,200 patrons indoors.
Trade Winds Beach Club peak, early 2000s.
Sea Bright Beach Pavilion
Sea Bright Beach Pavilion, 2020. The “town’s beach” is a real wow.
Sea Bright Beach Pavilion, 2019. The borough’s modern seashore facility cost $4 million.
Sea Bright Beach Pavilion on a gray winter day, 2021.
SB public beach, 2019, (Frank Snead Photo).
Sea Bright Bathing Pavilion, 1948. The new municipal beach facility opened for Summer 1948. The $22,000 project included 400 lockers. The club grossed nearly $36,000 in revenues that summer.
Sea Bright Bathing Pavilion, 1940s.
Hurricane Sandy damage on Ocean Avenue, 2012.
SB Beach Club, early 1900s.
• Highland Beach: Grand Playground of the Past — HERE
• Monmouth Beach Bathing Pavilion — HISTORY & PHOTOS
• Monmouth Beach Club — HISTORY & PHOTOS
• Long Branch Pier: Seaside Fun & Games — HERE