Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
This innocent strip of sand looks like many others on the Atlantic coast and if you’ve ever been out to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, you’ve passed right by here. You might not have realized that at one time, this spot was the home to a storied summer playground that provided years of memories for hundreds of thousands of visitors. – Chris Brenner, Destinations Past: Highland Beach documentary, 2017, https://www.destinationspast.com/Highland-Beach
In the 1890s, Highlands had acquired a new train station. Even so, there was something missing. It had hotels, steamboat docks (with Merchant and Patten lines making several stops a day), boarding houses, bars and the famous Twin Lights attraction, but no ocean bathing and no boardwalk. Even though Highland Beach had one hotel, it, too, lacked something.
The large number of hotels, boardinghouse accommodations and bars were across the bridge in Highlands. A symbiotic relationship developed between the town of Highlands and Highland Beach. William Sandlass’s Highland Beach excursion resort was decidedly one of the several elements that influenced the successful development of Highlands as a major tourist destination, mentioned by John King in his book Highlands, New Jersey.
New developments affected life at Sandy Hook in the 1950s. Until this time, the Sandlass Baths, Highland Beach served day trippers and locals who filled the river and ocean beaches at the summer resort. The late 1940s middle class grew larger when the baby boomer population was born after World War II. This population explosion placed a new emphasis on the family. The difference was evident at the beach resort in this new era; the focus changed from adult excursion parties to family and child-friendly activities. As a new decade began in the 1950s, the resort’s identity as a bathing destination was transformed. The business operation evolved into a private beach club for the ever-increasing local families. The conversion from a public bathing establishment to a private beach club opened the five hundred bathhouses to memberships during the summer months. The Bamboo Room cocktail lounge remained open to the public as the “popular” night spot.
Generations of families returned on a yearly basis with children and grandchildren in tow seeking the enjoyment of a shared summer experience. Faces became familiar year after year as the children grew and families expanded, all wanting the same magic of a summer vacation in a favorite spot. Even though trains and steamboats had disappeared, the experience remained.
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.
SANDY HOOK’S LOST HIGHLAND BEACH RESORT
THE PERFECT GIFT FOR THE HISTORY HOUND ON YOUR LIST!
TLM Museum Store Online, Order Here! https://www.twinlightslighthouse.org/product-page/sandy-hook-s-lost-highland-beach-resort
ARCADIA PUBLISHING & THE HISTORY PRESS