By BONNIE GRAHAM
Bob Waitt, President of the Historical Society of Ocean Grove, presented an overview of his organization’s current and future projects and answered questions from the floor at Saturday’s meeting of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association.
The meeting was held in the Camp Meeting Association’s (OGCMA) Community Room on Pilgrim Pathway and was led by OGHOA President Barbara Burns.
“The HSOG wants to have more involvement with the community in historic preservation.,” Waitt said.
He spoke of changes completed and/or underway in the society’s museum, located on 50 Pitman Ave., which include revamping the entrance, placing refurbished bottom-half doors from the Great Auditorium at the front of the museum’s counters, and reconfigurations made to the gift shop area that provide visitors with an easier “flow” through the area.
The HSOG’s exhibits are changed three times a year, Waitt said. He spoke of last summer’s exhibit, “Sun, Sand, and Modesty”, which featured vintage bathing suits and other beach-related memorabilia. Over 4,000 visitors of all ages visited the HSOG’s museum last summer. Their Christmas exhibit included 200 Santa Clauses of various sizes from all over the world, along with a huge doll house.
Waitt spoke at length of the HSOG museum’s archives, with “before and after” photographs of this area. Prior to renovations, this space was basically a “large closet” and was inadequate for storing historical documents and items. Erik Landsberg of Cultural Heritage Digitization Consulting and a retired archivist at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, served as consultant with the HSOG on the archives project. He advised the HSOG of several issues, including replacing wood shelving, as it absorbs moisture, with steel shelving, repairs to the walls, lighting, and installation of a humidification system. He also advised that the HSOG’S storage boxes must be mold-proof and waterproof.
The HSOG’s archive project began in 2018, and included the purchase of archival bags to properly store clothes, boxes, and appropriate shelving. A photograph of a lineup of garment bags was displayed, each having a picture of the enclosed item inside the bag. The contents inside the storage boxes were clearly identified. As per the HSOG’s 2020 Annual Appeal newsletter, the above items were stored under the direction of Patricia Gigon and Deborah Osepchuk, and all lighting was replaced with LED bulbs to protect the collection.
Waitt discussed the 1907 Founder’s Park fountain, which was completely restored and rededicated before a large gathering of local residents, summer residents, and elected officials on Sat., July 27. The HSOG’s “Fill the Fountain” fundraising campaign was chaired by the late Ted Bell and his daughter Cindy Bell. One hundred thousand dollars was raised for the fountain restoration, its own utility station that supplies electricity to the fountain, and a 50-foot well that provides water to the fountain.
Photographs were displayed of the truck that ferried the fountain to the Robinson Iron Corporation of Alexander City, Alabama, and its return to Ocean Grove last spring. Waitt thanked the Camp Meeting Association for its assistance and support with this restoration effort. He displayed photographs of the fountain lit at night.
The meeting attendees learned of an 1890 wooden boat that was uncovered in Wesley Lake. Such vehicles were uses to ferry hundreds of tourists and locals across the lake to and from Asbury Park to Ocean Grove, back in the day. The 16-foot-long boat was repaired, thanks to donations from the OGCMA, and is now displayed inside the HSOG museum, where it draws many visitors, Waitt said.
With its ever-expanding array of exhibits and collections, the HSOG museum is maxed out for space. Waitt told the audience that they have the option of purchasing the back section of the adjacent Beach House, which would double their space.
The HSOG’s future goals include offering more lectures on Ocean Grove. The various architectural tours offered last summer were sell-outs, with large, enthusiastic groups of tourists and locals. The society would also like to get more school-aged children involved with Ocean Grove’s history and their collections. Waitt mentioned the HSOG’s exhibit on suffrage, which was very well received.
As is the case for many organizations, the HSOG welcomes new members. Waitt said their organization has the largest collection of archived items in the state, next to the Monmouth County Historical Association, located on 70 Court Street in Freehold.
A resident asked if the HSOG’s collections and focus were exclusively Victorian, to which Waitt said their goal is to also encourage the interest in modern artifacts. For example, homeowners can research the history of their properties using digital technology. Waitt spoke of the “touch project” – patrons can touch and/or scan a house to display its relevant data.
The HSOG is planning a research center, to be located in the back, that will list all homes and owners per address up to the 1990’s. Monmouth University is giving them several interns to assist with the research work, he said.
An upcoming exhibit will feature the Ocean Grove police and fire companies. Further details on the Historical Society of Ocean Grove can be obtained by visiting its website: https://oceangrovehistory.org/