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Long Branch NJ Brief History:
The town of Long Branch, is one of the largest cities on the Jersey Shore. From the period of the 1860’s through the First World War, it was also the most glamorous.
Long Branch’s early years as a resort town was a virtual “Who’s Who” of society, including such names as Astor, Fisk, & Drexel – and even more notorious names such as Diamond Jim Brady and Lily Langtree. First Lady Mary Lincoln visited in 1861, but it was in 1869 that Long Branch had it’s first presidential visit by President Grant. The President continued to visit every summer that he was president, and continued for many years after that.
In 1870, a racetrack opened, (which is still thriving today) and soon after, casinos. Long Branch was in its heyday, such was its reputation that seven other presidents followed suit in visiting here. Chester A. Arthur, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson and James Garfield were frequent summer visitors. After an attempt was made on James Garfield’s life, he was brought to Long Branch in hopes of a recovery aided by the sea air. Indeed, a railroad spur from the main line to his house was built to make him more comfortable in his travels.
The 1920’s witnessed the beginning of Long Branch’s decline as a fashionable summer destination. Gambling laws stopped many of the rich and famous from visiting, and wicked storms eroded Long Branch’s famed beachfront. By the latter part of the 1960’s, organized crime settled in Long Branch, further tarnishing it’s image. Buildings became run down, houses became shabby, and many locals had to depend on welfare. Sadly, the only remaining structure of Long Branch’s former elegance is the St. James Episcopal Church. Built in 1879, it is where all seven presidents worshipped. It has since been renamed Church of the Presidents and is located at 1260 Ocean Avenue.
Fortunately, Long Branch NJ is now enjoying a rebirth. Visitors to Long Branch will enjoy the beach, the new boardwalk, as well as Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, a 33-acre county park with facilities for swimming, boating and picnicking. Some of the summer bungalows have been replaced with high-rise condos. There is also a large selection of outstanding restaurants as well as a lively nightlife for the young and hip – or the young at heart!