Avalon History Center
215 39th Street
Avalon, NJ 08202
Open: Sunday Closed/ Monday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-3:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
The Avalon History Center is at 215 39th Street in Downtown Avalon, NJ
Recently I took a tour of small Jersey shore towns and their historical societies. These interesting little museums are packed with information on the history and development of these towns. The progress of these towns from fishing and hunting villages for the Native Americans to the modern day resorts and permanent residence’s have a fascinating history.
The Avalon History Center was the last museum on my visit to the shore that day and it had become very gloomy outside. The town was relatively quiet when I got there on a late Thursday night. I ended up having the whole museum to myself to tour. The curator came out and greeted me nicely and said that they were working in the back and if I had any questions to come get them. Outside that, I was the only one touring the exhibitions.
When you enter the building, the rooms are broken down in section by display. The Avalon Police Department has a wonderful exhibition of the history of the department. There are all sorts of police gear, mannequins with old uniforms and all sorts of police gear and pictures of the department through the ages. Near that is the Brendan Borek High Tide Memorial Fund.
The Early Avalon Room contains the history of the many hotels that used to dot the town during the Victorian era that have either burned down or succumbed to the ocean currents. Of all the hotels that existed only the Sea Lark B &B (See my review on TripAdvisor) still greeting guests. There are all sorts of dishware from the old hotels, menus and silverware that show the opulence of the time when pleasure travel lasted longer than present day.
My review on TripAdvisor:
There was a section on the Founding of the town and its development over time. The town used to be Native American place to fish and hunt to the Victorian resort it became with the railroads. There was extensive history of the Railroad system that was so important to the growth of these shore towns. This was until 1937 when the rail system became obsolete with the advent of the automobile. There was a nice display of the old Avalon Pier.
The back of the building was dedicated to local businesses that have since closed, This shows old signs, pictures and menus of watering holes that were popular for generations. There was an interesting display from the Avalon Hotel’s ‘Phil’s Bongo Room’, a popular place for bands.
On the other side of the front of the museum is an interesting display on the Avalon Shore Patrol, a much dedicated group of men and women that play such an important role in a shore community. The museum displayed an restored patrol boat surrounded by other artifacts. Pictures of generations of Beach Patrol members proudly line the walls.
The Beach Patrol display
The museum also has landscaped grounds to walk outside either to some of the smaller historical buildings or to the gazebo to relax on a nice day and just enjoy the breezes. It is nice to walk along the flowering beds and just enjoy the sunshine.
History of the Avalon History Center:
(from a recent AHMS Newsletter)
The current facility opened its doors in September of 2001 to the public and began to share Avalon’s past, historical photographs, artifacts, memories and recollections lovingly collected and recorded by members of the Avalon Museum and Historical Society.
After several years of discussion, 1997 saw a historical society being formed at last in Avalon, supported by the enthusiastic endorsement of Mayor Marty Pagliughi and Borough Council President Nancy Hudanich, Doris Hanna and Jean Losch even secured a $10,000 donation from the Avalon Women’s Civic Club, as seed money for a building. Borough Council agreed to provide a location at 39th Street as well as a modular building-the old Public Works Headquarters, which did not prove suitable. The Avalon Museum and Historical Society got to work.
In June 1997, the first election of the Avalon Museum and Historical Society officers occured, along with the adoption of a constitution and bylaws. Among those first officers were Robert Jaggard, President, Lucille (Sue) Jacobson, Vice-President, Jan Jaggard, Secretary and Gordon Smith, Treasurer. Among thefirst Trustees were Jean Losch, Doris Hanna, Betty Shoemaker, Marvin Wells Jr., Joseph Koen and Robert Penrose Jr.
In early 1998, as the AMHS held its first fund drive, Doctors John and Elizabeth Ruskey agreed to honor the previous owner’s wish to donate their recently purchased house (location on 111st Street in Stone Harbor) to the effort. The Avalon Museum and Historical Society had support, money, a location and a building. Now all they had to do was move the house from Stone Harbor to Avalon, which is exactly what happened on November 6th, 1998. The groundbreaking took place on January 22nd, 1999.
Once in place, work on putting the building back together and creating a museum space continued, inside and out. Items had been donated, collected and stored in the homes of the officers and trustees. It was the work of the AMHS to organize fundraising events to finance the project.
In mid-September 2001, the officers opening day arrived at last and AMHS President Pary Woehlcke, together with Mayor Marty Pagliughi cut the ribbon on Avalon’s very own local history museum.
Since then, there have been many changes at 215 39th Street, including the merger and incorporation of the Avalon Museum and Historical Society into the Avalon Free Public Library. We are now the Avalon History Center.
One thing that remains constant is the commitment, enthusiasm and passion from History Center staff and the Historical Society Board and members. Our mission remains to bring Avalon’s past alive and make it accessible for all. This year has been a challenge but one we hope we have met as we continue to keep the doors open, broaden our outreach online, entertain, educate and amuse our patrons.
Mission of the Avalon History Center:
The Mission of the Avalon History Center is to collect, chronical and preserve the history of the Borough of Avalon in the County of Cape May, New Jersey.
Peermont Self-Guided Walking Tour:
This self-guided tour of a section of Peermont (25th to 42nd Streets) will lead you from the Avalon Post Office at 33rd and Dune Drive through to 30th Street and ending at the Boardwalk and Beach Patrol on 32nd Street. It should take about one hour of gentle walking.
History of the Area:
(from the Avalon History Center pamphlet)
In October of 1888, Philadelphia entrepreneur George Rummel and the Avalon Beach Improvement Co. (ABICO) purchased from Joseph Wells at 17 block area of Seven Mile Island from 25th to 42nd Streets. The tract excluded the vast beachfront but included large areas of boggy meadowlands west of Third Avenue. This section of Seven Mile Island became known as the ABICO tract.
Rummel’s first priority was to build a hotel, which he named “The Peermont”. The railroad station which went up at the same time also became known as Peermont and so the ABICO tract followed suit. Peermont was on the map.
Building lots were very quickly offered for sale so many that those in the Avalon section began to feel somewhat behind. Lots were also sold and bought in the meadowlands between Third and Forth Avenues on the assumption that they would be drained, filled, graded and curbed. Unfortunately 25th Street to Gravens Thoroughfare was the only roadway made passable. Rummel did however tear down the dunes, fill in and grade the ponds and marsh areas along the beachfront section of the ABICO tract, in order to build a seawall and then a boardwalk.