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From the 1890s until 1910, there was a progressive growth in Highlands’ population when the summer populace peaked in this vacationer’s paradise. Gambling, horse racing and parlor games were popular until 1894, when anti-gambling forces were successful in effecting a statewide ban. Horse racing and legal parlor games could no longer be enjoyed throughout the state of New Jersey. After 1900, Asbury Park rivaled Long Branch and Atlantic City as the most popular resort.

Highland Beach excursion resort, Sandlass House & Bamboo Bar, c. 1910. Courtesy of Sandlass Family archive

New transportation modes enhanced the success of Highland Beach.

As the new decade of 1910 arrived, so did the first sightings of a new and life changing device—the automobile. Up until this point, visitors to Highland Beach arrived by train or boat, and destinations were limited to locations serviced by mass transportation, or limited by the duration of a buggy ride. With the advent of the car, things started to change. The first challenge for Sandlass was how to provide parking on a strip of land so narrow it barely held the pedestrians during busy weekends. As roadways improved, so did the traffic, and what started in this decade would prove to foreshadow bigger challenges in the future. With all three modes of transportation in use during 1910, it was, in fact the busiest summer ever at the resort.

--Chris Brenner

"Got Ocean Grove Beat A Mile! RWB"

Lazy days among the houseboats, tents, and bungalows afforded a perfect playground for anyone wishing to get away from the heat and hectic pace. Power yachts and canoes cruised the shores by the scrub marshes filled with nature’s wildlife, providing ample room to make this one of the most popular resorts of its day. According to contemporary reports, it was hard to find a rendezvous with more houseboats moored in one harbor in the late 1880s than the one between Highlands and Highland Beach.

A wooden walkway nearby led to a seventy-five-foot steamboat dock on the Shrewsbury River where incoming passengers could easily disembark for a short walk to the attractions at Highland Beach. At the far end of the Sandlass property, closer to the military reservation on Sandy Hook, twenty-five summer bungalows grew over time, beginning with one houseboat owner’s request to winter onshore. The colony continued to evolve spontaneously following the response to the man who asked Sandlass if he could put his houseboat on the property that winter. Will Sandlass saw an opportunity to lease the land. Soon, many others came to request space next to the bathhouses at the north end of the excursion resort. As the requests started to increase, a new business developed when Will agreed to lease the lots. Each occupant who was willing to erect a summer cottage could lease space to build their summer home. The bungalows were filled with generations of families who returned each summer for decades to come.

Christy family at Highland Beach Resort, Bungalow Colony c. 1890s. Courtesy of Christy & Walters family.

Learn more about Highlands and Highland Beach. Stories and artifacts of a bygone era await you in Gallery 1 at the Twin Lights Museum. Read the recent book, Sandy Hook’s LOST Highland Beach Resort, found in the museum store recounting a fanciful era in a town glittering with stars from Broadway and the early years of silent film.





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