History of Asbury Park

Founded in 1871 by James A. Bradley, a broom manufacturer from New York City, Asbury Park is known for being a progressive city. This was one of the visions of its founder.

Bradley, who had converted to Methodism at the time, visited a summer camp meeting in Ocean Grove to the south, and set his sights to the north by purchasing about 500 acres of oceanfront land. This land would eventually become Asbury Park.

Bradley paid $90,000 for the property in 1871, and named it after Francis Asbury, the first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. From the very beginning, Bradley instituted progressive and innovative designs into Asbury Park, including a boardwalk with pavilions, electrical systems, trolley systems, and an artesian well. Other implementations included wide streets lined with trees, parks, churches, and a thriving business district at the oceanfront.

More than 600,000 people vacationed in Asbury Park annually in the city’s early years, and the city flourished from the later part of the Victorian era to the 1960s.

In 1880, Coney Island impresario George C. Tilyou opened up his steeplechase amusements on Ocean Avenue, and brought his iconic and smiling “Tillie” face to Asbury Park. In 1888, the Palace Merry-Go-Round was installed at the corner of Lake Avenue and Kingsley Street, and many other amusements and attractions soon followed.

In 1929, the current Convention Hall and Casino buildings were introduced, and the city became a cultural and shopping destination, not only for fine stores, but for movies, theater, and concerts.

From the early days of John Philip Sousa and Arthur Pryor through the big band and jazz eras, the city has more than its fair share of musical history. Contemporary musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Southside Johnny all played at Asbury Park.

Clubs along Springwood Avenue on the city’s Westside were frequented by the likes of Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and many other jazz and blues icons.

Over the years, Asbury Park has been visited by millions of tourists and music lovers alike. But, like many urban areas, the advent of the Garden State Parkway, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, and major shopping malls took tourists, businesses and shoppers away from Asbury Park, and the city saw hard times from around 1970 to the turn of the century.

Today, thanks largely to the many residents, newcomers, and organizations, like the Asbury Park Historical Society, Asbury Park is once again becoming the place to be, with a rejuvenated boardwalk, downtown, and residential area.

We invite you to visit us and learn more about our beautiful and iconic city!