Winter 2021-22

Buried Treasures, Rediscovered Gifts

Join us on Dec. 19, for the dedication of Asbury Park’s Time Capsule

Photo by Diana Moore

Books and periodicals detailing everything from sweeping societal changes, to municipal street sweeping schedules. Essays offering the big-picture takeaway on the challenges of the 21st century, and take-out menus representing the
city’s richly diverse smorgasbord of dining experiences. Souvenirs of the waterfront’s celebrated tourism attractions, and mementoes of year-round living in the neighborhoods of this city of summers. Official proclamations and communications from City Hall, and offerings from local students on their favorite activities and diversions. All of it representing contemporary life in the 150th anniversary year of Asbury Park’s founding — and all of it scheduled for rediscovery by a future generation of Asbury Parkers, following a special Time Capsule Dedication and Burial on the afternoon of Sunday, December 19, 2021.

Scheduled for 2:00 pm at the Asbury Park Historical Society’s Stephen Crane House headquarters at 508 Fourth Avenue, the public-welcome ceremony marks the culmination of a project designed to cap a busy Sesquicentennial Year of special events and activities. Here in an interlude that’s seen its share of challenges and sea-changes — from the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing effects of climate change, to the local hot-button issues of gentrification, affordable housing, education, transportation, and shifting demographics — the idea is to present a portrait to the people of the city’s bicentennial year of 2071, of a vital community that came together to forge solutions, find its collective voice, and face toward a future that worked to the benefit of all who made their home here.

In the words of Time Capsule Committee chair and Historical Society officer Susan Rosenberg, the project “belongs to all Asbury Park residents…past, present, and future.”

Working remotely even during her recent travels to the Middle East, Susan consulted with her committee members…a group that also includes fellow APHS trustee and city councilwoman Eileen Chapman, as well as Lisa Bovino and Elena Zazanis…to select a carefully curated collection of donated materials, much of which was then transferred to archival-grade media. The group, a subcommittee of the Asbury Park Sesquicentennial campaign chaired by Celia Morrissette, raised funds for a professional quality, water-tight stainless steel container manufactured by Heritage Time Capsules of Buffalo, NY, as well as a custom plaque designed and installed by Beth and Pete Woolley of Monmouth County-based Peaceable Kingdom Monuments.

Volunteers from the Asbury Park Little League are scheduled to handle the interment of the capsule, at an easily visible site in front of the concrete Mayfair Theatre wishing well that sits just off the front porch of the Crane House. Guests are set to include Mayor John Moor, who drafted a letter to his future successor in office for the occasion — and following the outdoor ceremony, attendees are invited to enjoy Asbury Park 150th Birthday Cake and other seasonal refreshments, during a reception inside the Crane House.

Sealed beneath cement and marked with its plaque, the capsule and its contents will occupy their appointed berth for the next half century, there on a property that has safely and successfully navigated its way through every epic storm, economic upheaval, and major current event of the past 143 years. From there, it’s up to the people of Asbury Park 2071 to retrieve the buried capsule on schedule — and, in the process, discover some intriguing things about the lives of the people who crafted this snapshot of a revitalized, re-energized, ever- fascinating city, way back in 2021.

Celebrate Asbury Park in words, at our annual meeting!

Is there another town of the same small size as Asbury Park that continues to inspire so many written words each year? This past milestone year of 2021 has seen the publication of numerous books on topics related to the city and some of its most famous personalities — from studies of 19th century true crime, Jim Crow, and African American activism (The Rope, Alex Tresniowski) and 21st century social trends (Gentrification Down the Shore, Molly Vollman Makris and Mary Lizabeth Gatta), to big-picture perspectives on the tides of change in this seaside city (Helen Pike’s A Century of Change; Daniel Wolff’s expanded Fourth of July Asbury Park).

There are memoirs by musical movers and shakers (Stevie Van Zandt’s Unrequited Infatuations; Norman Seldin’s You Don’t Know Me); biographical studies of Stephen Crane (Burning Boy by Paul Auster; a new edition of Badge of Courage by Linda H. Davis) and still more forthcoming additions to the ever- growing library of Asbury-centric works — and on Thursday evening, March 17, 2022, the trustees of the Asbury Park Historical Society will be your guides for a Book Tour through some of the most outstanding volumes of recent seasons. Open to the public, and hosted at the Asbury Park Public Library as our meeting program (postponed from January), the presentation finds several of our organization’s board members and supporters reading from and discussing their favorite published works on subjects that are close to the heart of anyone with a passion for all things Asbury Park. It’s a great introduction for interested readers, and a possible first step toward the establishment of regularly scheduled Historical Society Book Club sessions.

Check our official website (, social media, and email blasts for updates on the March 17 Book Tour event — and feel free to share your own thoughts and recommendations on the printed legacy of “little but loud” Asbury Park!

There’s no such thing as an “off season” in Asbury Park…when our diverse and dynamic community gets busy!

Susan Rosenberg
Manning the “outreach table” during October 2’s Monmouth County Archives and History Day…the annual gathering of local historical organizations in Manalapan…Asbury Park Historical Society Secretary Susan Rosenberg maintained her own personal tradition of meeting, greeting, and introducing the public to all that our unique city (and our busy nonprofit) has to offer. In addition to chairing the Sesquicentennial Time Capsule project, the ever-energetic Susan staked out a highly visible presence at such seasonal events as September’s weekend-long AsburyFest, during which the APHS tent rang up more than $1,200 in sales of books, postcards, holiday ornaments, and other Asbury Park- themed merchandise and memorabilia. Thanking her fellow volunteers (including APHS board members Jim Henry, Dolly Sternesky, Teddy Chomko, Andy and Susan Skokos) for a “great big successful team effort,” Rosenberg kept up the pace throughout the fall, whether supervising the refreshments table at various sponsored events, or simply lending her support to happenings like the October 15 Sesquicentennial Roctober Clambake, the downtown evening of seafood and swingin’ sounds coordinated by Celia Morrissette.
Hall of Fame | Photo courtesy Ira Kreizman
Ten notable graduates of Asbury Park High School joined an elite group of their peers on the evening of Thursday, October 14, when the Asbury Park High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame held its ninth induction ceremony at the Eatontown Sheraton Hotel. Newly honored were retired attorney and music historian Douglas E. Friedman (Class of 1960), USAF defense contractor Tyshawn Jenkins (2000), inventor of card and board games Joli Quentin Kensil (1960), retired pediatric orthopedist Dr. Samuel (Skip) Laufer (1961), actress-producer-director and educator Marilyn Michaels (1952), athlete and coach Henry James (Hank) Nonnenberg (1962; deceased), restaurateur and chef John Piancone (1977), honored war hero Gen. Harry Rockafeller (1934; deceased), attorney Melvyn Ruskin (1957), and college professor and author Rasheda Young (1995). The Committee, which consists of Mayor Carl Williams, Judge lra Kreizman, Janice Keener, Oliver Jones, Lorraine Nonnenberg, Marilyn Tomaino, Judge Paul Chaiet, Stanley Smith, Rita Abrams, Joseph Crudup and Historical Society trustee Susan Skokos, plans to induct another class of Distinguished Alumni in 2023.
Tom Hayes Proclamation | Photo by Susan Rosenberg
He entered this world in 1871, the same year in which the place called Asbury Park was founded…and on the night of Wednesday, October 27, Stephen Crane’s own “sesquicentennial” was officially recognized by Mayor John Moor and members of the Asbury Park City Council. The internationally renowned storyteller, poet, and journalist best known for the classsic novel The Red Badge of Courage had the 150th anniversary of his birth (November 1, 2021) declared Stephen Crane Day by formal proclamation…an effort spearheaded by APHS trustee and councilwoman Eileen Chapman, and an honor extended only once before, when in 2018 the city officially proclaimed Danny De Vito Day for a beloved favorite son. NJ Natural Gas executive Tom Hayes…who, as onetime private owner of the Stephen Crane House, rescued that historic home from abandonment and neglect in 1995…accepted the proclamation in memory of Crane, who lived at 508 Fourth Avenue as a young man between 1883 and 1892.
Seldin event | Photo by Kay Harris
The normally hushed rows of the Asbury Park Public Library resonated with the spirit of marvelous music on the evening of Thursday, November 4, when Historical Society members Charlie and Pam Horner hosted a special presentation and book signing event keyed to the release of You Don’t Know Me: the Memoir of Stormin’ Norman Seldin. A pivotal figure in the evolution of The Sound of Asbury Park, the veteran musician/ bandleader/ producer/ record label owner shared vivid recollections from his 60-plus years career, joining co- author Charlie and a roomful of enthusiastic supporters that included some genuine legends of the East Coast musical landscape. Pictured here left to right are songwriter and producer Billy Terrell, doo wop star (and longtime frontman for The Earls) Larry Chance, singer and guitarist Pam McCoy, guest of honor Norman Seldin, the Horners, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Vini Lopez.

Marj as Cora

It was a modestly scaled but momentous occasion…one that represented the first public-welcome event at The Stephen Crane House since February 2020…when on Sunday, November 7, our in-house Lecture Room Theatre hosted actor-playwright and longtime friend of the house Marjorie Conn, in a premiere performance of her new play Cora & Stevie: Heaven and Hell.

Commissioned by Crane House programmer Tom Chesek in observance of Stephen Crane’s 150th birthday, and funded in part by a grant from MonmouthArts, the one-woman show found Marj (whose numerous previous projects at the house have included explorations of figures ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt to Lizzie Borden) illuminating the vivid real-life character of Cora Crane, Stephen’s common-law “wife” and constant companion in the latter years of his brief life. Observing all stated health and safety protocols, an audience that included former Crane House private owner Frank D’Alessandro enjoyed a piece that will be made available for additional stagings in months to come — as well as a first look at recent renovations that boasted enhanced lighting, expanded seating area, refinished floor, plus all-new paint, plaster work and window treatments.

Segregated event | Photo by Pam Horner
The voices of Asbury Park’s Gilded Age past…from the people who lived and fought on the front lines of entrenched racist Jim Crow policies, to the business leaders and opinion makers who resisted the societal sea-changes on the horizon…came to life on Sunday, November 14, when Kay Harris and her Asbury Park Museum team staged the multi-media presentation A Segregated Seashore Retrospective at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel. Drawn from 19th century accounts and the words of figures like Founder James A. Bradley and community activist Rev. James F. Robinson, the program employed the talents of volunteer performers that included actor and AP Museum officer Lorraine Stone, local clergy Rev. Semaj Vanzant, and former APHS president Don Stine. The live presentation inside the hotel’s Johnny & June Room was keyed to the acclaimed “pop-up” lobby exhibit Asbury Park: 150 Years of Change & Transformation; a display that moves to the Guggenheim Memorial Library at funding partner Monmouth University. Continuing the relationship with the Museum, the Berkeley’s lobby plays host to One Voice is Not Enough, a new pop-up exhibit celebrating the early years of Asbury Park’s rich musical legacy.
Greason Wolff
The Asbury Park Historical Society was one of six city-based nonprofit entities joining forces on the evening of Friday, December 3, when The Asbury Hotel hosted authors Daniel Wolff and Dr. Walter Greason for a public-welcome conversation on the topic of A Changing Asbury Park in Context. Presented in partnership with Asbury Book Cooperative, Asbury Park African American Music Project, Asbury Park Arts Council, Asbury Park Music Foundation, and The Asbury Park Museum, the event coincided with the release of a newly updated edition of Fourth of July Asbury Park, Wolff’s acclaimed study-in- snapshots of our city’s complicated history, originally published in 2005. The journalist joined esteemed educator and former Monmouth University dean Greason (himself the author of The Path to Freedom and other works) for an interactive discussion on the challenges, old and new, affecting Asbury Park in the new millennium, as the ever-dynamic city takes the national spotlight again.
Teddy on bus | Photo by Kay Harris
On Sunday, December 5, a favorite annual tradition returned after a one-year hiatus when the New York City Christmas Lights Tour set sail once more from Fireman’s Park in Ocean Grove. The seasonal “fun”raiser (a co-presentation of the APHS and the Ocean Grove Historical Society) offered two busloads of sightseers a guided tour of several Manhattan sites in their full seasonal glory. Included were several of the city’s best-dressed stores (Macy’s Herald Square, Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci), the holiday bazaar at Bryant Park, Greenwich Village, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and, of course, the tree at Rockefeller Center. A three-course Little Italy luncheon was also included with the tour reservation, while trustee Teddy Chomko (left, with Joe Lemme) served as “flight attendant, tour guide, and fearless leader” for the sold-out afternoon and evening of shopping, sightseeing, and trekking the lights fantastic!

Public Programs from the Historical Society

George and Brenda Wirth

Back in early 2020, prior to the pandemic-related restrictions on public events, the Crane House partnered with the nonprofit Musicians on a Mission organization to present a successful “Songwriters” house concert as our contribution to the slate of Light of Day Winterfest events going on around Asbury Park. With the postponement of this year’s Light of Day schedule to March, plans for an encore collaboration with MoaM co-founder Brenda Wirth and her husband, singer-songwriter George Wirth (pictured) had to be put on the back burner…but discussions are underway to once again present an afternoon of acoustic music inside our historic home’s theatre, featuring George in performance with special guest artists in a “house concert” format from the creators of the acclaimed “Rosie’s Café”series. Watch our website, social media and email blasts for updated news on a special Musicians on a Mission fundraiser event in spring 2022…with details on featured performers, tickets, audience safety policies, and designated charity to be announced!

Also in the Pipeline

A personal appearance by award-winning novelist Paul Auster, whose acclaimed book Burning Boy offers the Brooklyn-based author’s unique perspective on the life and work of Stephen Crane…a salute to the life and career of novelist and poet Margaret Widdemer (1884-1978), a daughter of Asbury Park who won an early Pulitzer Prize, and who used places like Asbury, Wanamassa and Ocean Grove as settings for her stories…projected collaborations with the Asbury Park Arts Council, Asbury Park Museum and more! While these proposed events have not been finalized as this newsletter is posted, available updates will be made public as they are confirmed.