Seaside Park officials kicked off a year of celebrations just before the weekend got underway, with the official recognition of the borough’s founding as a community.
Seaside Park turned 125-years-old Thursday, March 9, coincidentally the same night that a borough council meeting was being held. It was the perfect opportunity to gather residents, current and former officials together – as well as some local dignitaries – to recognize both the achievements and challenges the borough has experienced during its century-and-a-quarter of existence.
In one of the most impressive displays of the day, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4) read a proclamation on the floor of the House of Representatives marking the occasion and noting some of the major events that have occurred since the borough’s founding. Indeed, few small towns in America have likely seen the significant events Seaside Park has – from a major railroad link to Philadelphia being established, to the establishment of an early U.S. Coast Guard station, to survival in major storms, a boardwalk fire that garnered international headlines, and even a terrorist attack that narrowly avoided human casualties.
“More than a century ago, a group of self-starters, inspired by the beauty around them, began plans to build a park on the Barnegat barrier island in Ocean County,” Smith said on the House floor. “Although the harsh barrier beach sand precluded their dream of building a park, their desire to create a strong, spirited community centered around the island’s natural charm, succeeded with the founding of the Borough of Seaside Park exactly 125 years ago today.”
The borough was incorporated March 9, 1898 as its own town. In 1874, what is now Seaside Park was first settled on a permanent basis – then part of Dover Township – following the construction of an impressive piece of infrastructure: a train link directly to Philadelphia via a rail bridge that crossed Barnegat Bay.
The borough got its name its original nickname – Park City – with the initial cadre of residents hoping to create a “sea side park” similar to many of the grand parks of urban centers at the time, but the imported trees simply wouldn’t grow in the sandy soil. But people kept coming, and the name stuck. Eventually, what we know as “Sea Side Park” (with a slightly different grammatical structure) became a section of the newly-formed Berkeley Township, before the residents petitioned to create their own community. Senate President Foster M. Voorhees, the acting governor at the time, signed a bill March 9, 1898 effectuating the change.
“The borough has never lost its beauty or charm, and proved to be incredibly resilient in the face of some unfathomable challenges,” Smith’s statement to the House said.
Over the course of 2023, Shorebeat will be featuring a number of historical stories from Seaside Park – from tales of early Coast Guard heroism to the influence of a major railroad heading straight to the Jersey Shore – to help celebrate its quasquicentennial.