Since its founding in 1969, the Historical Society of Ocean Grove has pledged to preserve, document, and encourage community interest in Ocean Grove.
The purpose of this nonprofit Society is to sustain the heritage and honor of being designated a State and National Historic District.
The Historical Society aims to:
- Advocate for the protection of Ocean Grove’s historic structures, material culture, and built environment.
- Maintain Ocean Grove as the largest assemblage of authentic Victorian architecture in the nation, and its establishment as a 19th century planned resort community.
- Enrich the Camp Meeting heritage of Ocean Grove and the town’s unique heritage.
Historical Society of Ocean Grove History
Founding and Incorporation. Welcome to the Historical Society of Ocean Grove! The HSOG was founded in 1969 by Edith Aschenbach, Wayne T. (Ted) Bell, and others when Robert and Mary Skold, donated Centennial Cottage[Link to Centennial Cottage] to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association to honor the 100th anniversary of the founding of Ocean Grove. The HSOG was given responsibility to host and maintain the Cottage.
Volunteer-Run Nonprofit. In 1970, the HSOG applied to be an official charitable organization and the IRS granted it tax exempt status (aka Ruling Year) in 1971. The organization is almost completely volunteer-run, and has been since its founding over 50 years ago. It is only through the tireless dedication, enthusiasm, and passion of generations of volunteers, supporters, and friends that the organization has been able to grow and thrive through today.
Moving Toward a Permanent Home. The HSOG’s first Museum was in one room of Centennial Cottage, which the organization quickly outgrew. It then moved to the third floor of the former OGCMA headquarters building near the current Post Office on Main Avenue. The HSOG had to put its collection into storage when the OGCMA later sold that building. In 1986, the HSOG reopened at 53 Central Avenue and outgrew that space as well. In 1994, the OGCMA invited the HSOG to display some of its artifacts in the foyer of its new building at 54 Pitman Avenue. Ultimately, in 1997 the HSOG purchased the front first floor and basement of 50 Pitman Avenue across the street from Auditorium Park and the Great Auditorium.
The HSOG began a six-month renovation of its space. The false ceiling was removed, a staircase to the basement replaced a trap door, hardwood floors were laid, lighting, fans and a security system were installed. Much time was spent with Township authorities to fulfill requirements for heating and air conditioning. Finally, antique doors and a black and white tile entry were added to the entrance. None of this would have been accomplished without the financial support of the HSOG’s members, supporters, and friends. Then, as now, it is gratifying that so many in the community support the HSOG’s efforts. The organization dedicated a plaque recognizing all levels of gifts in May 1999.
The HSOG Today. Each year the HSOG offers a multitude of exhibitions, events, tours, and educational programs to residents and visitors, peaking in the summer months. We offer a permanent exhibition, History of Ocean Grove, and three special exhibitions every year, each on an interesting aspect of Ocean Grove culture or history. Our Exhibitions, Events, and Education sections describe them all! Our Museum is filled with an extensive collection of artifacts from Ocean Grove’s history, and we’ve highlighted a number of important pieces in the Collection section. Don’t forget to save some time for our Museum Store when you visit.
In addition to the Museum, Centennial Cottage and Garden, the Beersheba Well, the Fitzgerald Fountain, and several historic urns around town provide fascinating glimpses of how people lived, what was important to them, and the culture of the time in a Victorican shore community at the turn of the 19th century.
From the casual researcher to the academic scholar, we offer an extensive Archives and an onsite and online Research Library. There are many ways to become involved with the HSOG whether you are an individual, a company, or a government or nonprofit organization. You can volunteer a little or a lot, join one of our membership programs, and we always appreciate donations. Our Support section has all the details.
HSOG Expansion. In 2020, the HSOG will double its space by purchasing the rear first floor and basement of its space at 50 Pitman Avenue. The organization launched an expansion capital campaign to properly fit out the spaces for:
- Educational programs and events.
- Increased exhibition space that will allow the Museum to have more of its collection on view in more expansive ways.
- Visitors with a more welcoming and comfortable experience.
- Better connection of the Museum with the Ocean Grove community.
Please visit our Expansion Capital Campaign section for more information and to donate.
Ocean Grove History
This Introduction to the History of Ocean Grove, New Jersey was written by Wayne T. (Ted) Bell (1932-2019). Ted established himself as a local historian and wrote either singly or with coauthors, several books including Images of America: Ocean Grove (2000), Ocean Grove in Vintage Postcards (2004), and The Great Auditorium: Ocean Grove’s Architectural Treasure (2012). He also wrote many articles and essays on Ocean Grove and the region. Ted was an HSOG founding member and initiated the 1975 proposal, and helped lead the effort to have Ocean Grove placed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in 1975 and 1976, respectively. He was a former HSOG Board President, and served as HSOG Curator, helping homeowners and businesses conduct historical research on their buildings.
The State and National Historic District of Ocean Grove, located on the North Jersey Shore in Neptune Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey, is a living example of one of few remaining religious camp meeting sites from the Holiness Movement after the Civil War. In 1869, when a small group of Methodist ministers and laymen came to the area seeking a place to establish a religious community, there were only four residents living between Long Pond and Goose Pond, now Wesley Lake and Fletcher Lake respectively. The Rev. William B. Osborn of Farmingdale, New Jersey, inspired by a camp meeting he had attended some years earlier, scoured the Jersey Coast for the perfect place to establish one, and traveling alone came upon what is now known as Ocean Grove.
Religious Revival Period. Camp meetings and religious revivals trace their lineage to the Great Religious Revival Period (1781-1805) that began in the southern frontiers of Georgia and the Carolinas. One religious camp meeting in 1801 involved some 3,000 to 5,000 people traveling to a farmer’s field and woods near Cane Ridge, Kentucky. The 4-5 day outdoor revival featured ministers preaching from rustic planked platforms and fresh cut tree stumps, leading their flocks both night and day with sermons on sin and atonement. Emotionally exhausted worshipers would retire to their covered wagons and tents for rest, only to reassemble again when the camp bell rang the call to worship and, hopefully, salvation. Over the next two centuries, attendance at camp meetings and revivals would ebb, flow, and evolve, depending on economics, social conditions, and leadership.
Social Change in Post Civil War. The end of the American Civil War in 1865 brought rapid social change, due in part to the new technologies which provided more efficient methods to produce war materials. Farmers left the farms and rural churches to move to the cities where work and better wages offered new opportunities. Railroads and steamship lines provided fast and easy transport for middle class families eager to escape the crowded cities for a summer vacation at fashionable water resorts such as Saratoga and Coney Island, New York; and Long Branch and Atlantic City, New Jersey. This new mobility coincided with a new era of religious awakening and the emergence of revivals within various Protestant denominations.
Founding Ocean Grove. In 1867, Reverend William B. Osborn, a Methodist preacher, attended a week long outdoor holiness camp meeting in Vineland, New Jersey. Osborn’s enthusiasm knew no bounds and, eventually, he found an ideal camp meeting site, a secluded community on the North Jersey Coast, where spiritual and physical health could be renewed. Thus, on July 31, 1869, a group of ministers and friends camped at Thompson Park (now called Founders Park) and, after a candlelight prayer service, dedicated themselves to establish a permanent Christian camp meeting community called “Ocean Grove.” From this simple beginning there would emerge a permanent town by the sea with police and fire departments, postal and telegraph services, water, sewerage, and electricity all servicing the needs of a growing Christian resort.
Incorporation. A petition was presented to the New Jersey Legislature to incorporate the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. On March 3, 1870, a state charter was issued to the newly formed Association granting the 26 Trustees (13 ministers and 13 lay persons) the authority to purchase and hold real and personal estate, to construct and provide all necessary works to supply said premises with water and artificial light and other improvements deemed necessary or desirable. The charter also gave the Trustees the power to appoint peace officers as deemed necessary for the purpose of keeping order on the camp-grounds and premises of the corporation.
Town Planning. Streets, and eventually 1,971 lots, were laid out, with the first lot being purchased by James A. Bradley for $86. Another 372 lots, 30’ by 60’ in size, were quickly sold by the end of 1870. Bradley, a New York businessman, would later purchase and develop the land to the north as the city of Asbury Park.
A new town-planning design utilized the “set-back” concept. Beginning two blocks from the ocean, each structure approaching the beach was successively set back from its adjoining neighbor, thus assuring a view of the ocean from each home.
The Camp Meeting Association established various rules and regulations, including perhaps the most famous: a ban on all carriages and automobiles on the streets on Sunday, a ban on Sunday beach bathing, and a prohibition of the sale of liquor within a mile around Ocean Grove.
President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, in 1875, arriving by carriage on Sunday at the chained gates of Ocean Grove, simply tethered his horses and carriage at the gate and walked the half mile on sand streets to his sister’s house on Wesley Lake, then to the open air auditorium where 5,000 children, adults, and Civil War veterans welcomed him in voices of praise. Several more presidents have visited Ocean Grove in subsequent decades.
State and National Registers of Historic Places. In 1975 and 1976, Ocean Grove received designations as State and National Historic Districts. Designations were based on the Historic District’s significance as an important and intact example of a 19th century planned community (i.e. town layout, flared building setbacks); and its unique aggregation of historic architecture, including residences, businesses, and religious structures in late 19th and early 20th century seaside vernacular architecture styles. The District contains the largest collection of Victorian and early 20th century structures in America. Neptune Township established a Board of Architectural Review and created exterior design standards that would ensure that the District would maintain its architectural heritage. To correspond with state and national historic preservation standards, Neptune Township later replaced the Board with the current Historic Preservation Commission and new Design Guidelines for Residential and Commercial Structures.
Tent City. At one time, 660 tents were leased or owned on individual lots throughout Ocean Grove. Now 114 tents remain, surrounding the Great Auditorium. Each spring, by May 15, the canvas tents are brought out from their backroom sheds to be erected over front wooden platforms transforming them into living rooms, to be furnished with couches, beds, chairs, rugs, lamps, and pictures. Meanwhile, outside along the walks, flowers are planted by the tenters, many of whom are proud to be fourth and fifth generation summer Ocean Grovers.
Similarly, throughout the Historic District, pre-season events begin as residents and businesses rush to complete last minute touch-ups to their homes, shops, restaurants, and hotels, in preparation for the arrival of family, friends, and visitors. The summer camp meeting then continues as it has over 150 years until the fall, when the tent canvases are taken down and stored until next season.
Ocean Grove, created in the 19th century, is truly a model for the 21st century.
This is Ocean Grove, now a year-round community where neighbors care about and help each other, a place where one can find rest, recreation, and personal renewal.
Matching the deep history and relaxed environment of the Jersey Shore’s most special resort town, the HSOG’s unique event space includes Centennial Cottage Garden. This is a flexible space that can accommodate various size groups and different types of events.
Whether you’re planning a spring, summer, or fall wedding; an intimate celebration, or a small company or nonprofit gathering, our area caterers will bring your vision to life with delicious fare presented beautifully and served with choreographed precision.
For rental and catering information, please email Info@OceanGroveHistory.org.
Reduced rental rates available during off-peak months of January – April.
Centennial Cottage Garden
Transport your guests to a Victorian garden as they stroll through the Centennial Cottage Anna DeYoung Skold Memorial Garden, enjoying the outdoor beauty of this one-of-a-kind venue. Open May through September, this Garden surrounds Centennial Cottage, which is a charming, picturesque, Victorian period house. The House and Garden are at the corner of McClintock Street and Central Avenue – on which the Garden opens.
The Garden is a flexible space that accommodates receptions, seated tables, or screenings. With sunny and shady areas, the Garden features lovely shade trees, beautiful seasonal flower beds, and a lush lawn, all perfect for photos. This is an excellent space for intimate gatherings for celebrations, special events, and entertainment events.
Capacity. Reception: 40 guests. Seated: 32 guests. Screening: 40 guests.
Dimensions. 20′ x 40′.
Welcome to the HSOG’s Newsroom. Here you will find coverage on HSOG in the news, our press releases, and newsletters.
The Coaster – Ocean Grove Historical Society Donates to Hospital – April 1, 2020.
Asbury Park Press – Ocean Grove Fountain of Hope that dates back to 1907 gets rededicated – July 27, 2019.
The Coaster – In Ocean Grove: Vintage Bathing Costumes on Display at Museum – July 17, 2019.
Asbury Park Press – Women in history explored in Ocean Grove – August 11, 2014.
The New York Times – Ocean Grove’s Own Museum – June 7, 1992.
None at the moment.
To request historic images from the HSOG Collection, and images of the HSOG Museum, Centennial Cottage, Beersheba Well, or Fitzgerald Fountain, please email us at Info@OceanGroveHistory.org.
Leadership and Management
Member at Large
Member at Large
Standing Committee Chairs
Administration and Finance
Constitution, Bylaws, and Parliamentarian
Volunteers and Staff
Operations and Facilities
Museum and Cottage
Centennial Cottage Garden
Well, Fountain, and Urns
Information Technology and Systems
David Matteo, On-Site Computer Service, Inc
Collections and Conservation
Curator and Historian
Lyndell O’Hara, PhD
Archives, Library, and Research
Archives and Library
Erik Landsberg, LLC, Cultural Heritage Digitization Consulting
Exhibitions and Interpretation
Events and Programs
Adult and Children’s Events
Jennifer Shaffer, PhD
Annual/Individual Giving and Membership
Government/Foundation Giving and Membership
Corporate Giving and Membership
Marketing and Communications
Website and Social Media
Website Management and Design
Steven Kass, ShoreSite Web Designs LLC.
- Neptune Township Historic Preservation Commission. The HSOG is not related to this official municipal government office, which is part of the Neptune Township Land Use Department. You need to start here if you want to change or build the exterior of your current or new house or business in Ocean Grove – Neptune Township’s Historic District.If you would like to research your Ocean Grove building’s history, our Research page is a good place to start.
- Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. The HSOG is a separate, independent organization from the OGCMA. However, the HSOG Collection, Archives, and Library do contain much information about the organization.