An avid postcard collector recently acquired this classic postcard on eBay. In it, a number of people find shelter from the summer sun under the boardwalk. A young man in knickers, the woman in a long checkered skirt and summer millinery, the fashionable man wearing white slacks and shoes, dark jacket, bowtie, and fedora, and a number of bathers are each captured as they posed over ninety years ago.
Postmarked APR 4, 1929 at Stone Harbor, NJ, and placed in the mailstream to a recipient at the Y.M.C.A. in Binghamton, N.Y., the penned message states, “My nose is all red and it isn’t from drinking either.” The postcard depicts the popular Stone Harbor Boardwalk before the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 destroyed it. These chronologically arranged vintage views circa 1918-1944 document that long-gone Stone Harbor attraction.
The Boardwalk at Stone Harbor, New Jersey
by Harlan B. Radford, Jr.
The boardwalk at the seashore resort community known as Stone Harbor, NJ is a distant memory that few can now recall. The following picture postcards and photographs serve as proof of the one and a half-mile long boardwalk from 83rd Street to 106th Street that once existed there for 28 years.
The term boardwalk describes a walkway or promenade, often elevated, typically constructed of wooden planking, and is located along a beach. Atlantic City became the first seashore resort to construct a boardwalk back in 1870 to curb the amount of sand beachcombers tracked into the train and hotel lobbies. According to National Geographic, the State of New Jersey has 28 boardwalks and promenades – more than any other state.
Those of us who have personally experienced the charm of boardwalks at other locations, either today or yesteryear, are reminded of their immense popularity and the many attractions they offer. “Walking the boards” or leisurely strolling the boardwalk, often at the end of a day, provided countless opportunities for fun and relaxation including souvenir shopping, entertainment, arcades, miniature golf, saltwater taffy, and delicious fudge.
If the number one attraction of the Jersey Shore is the sandy beaches, then boardwalks may be the second most popular reason why people flock to seashore communities during the summer months. Stone Harbor built its boardwalk in 1916. But we all know that mother nature and the mighty forces of the ocean have on numerous occasions not been kind to boardwalks and oceanfront properties.
Stone Harbor boardwalk’s reckoning came on September 14, 1944, when a particularly devastating storm, which became known as the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, struck the New Jersey coast. Stone Harbor lost its entire boardwalk to this monster storm. The boardwalks of Sea Isle City, Atlantic City, Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, and Long Branch all suffered similar fates.
Residents assessed the extent of damage and the replacement costs associated with rebuilding not only the Stone Harbor boardwalk but also a 500-foot fishing pier out into the ocean and a covered pavilion at 96th Street. They agreed that there was a greater value of having unobstructed ocean views and consequently decided not to have the boardwalk rebuilt. A few resorts like Atlantic City and Asbury Park would rebuild.
In all my years of collecting postcards, one thing I have never seen is any view that shows the damaged Stone Harbor boardwalk immediately after that storm. If you have one, please share it.
The following 38 vintage picture postcards featuring the Stone Harbor boardwalk are arranged in chronological order starting with views taken around 1918 and progressing to the time of the boardwalk’s sudden demise in 1944.
In the absence of the boardwalk, years later, beach umbrellas entered the picture and proved useful and popular as a means of escaping the direct sunlight on those hot afternoons. While we can only anticipate the reopening of shore businesses, beaches, and boardwalks in New Jersey and are excited for ‘Stage 2’ of Gov. Phil Murphy’s reopening plan, check out these views, and at least enjoy this virtual trip back in time!