Do you ever sit back and think about what Long Beach Island was like hundred years ago? In 1880, before LBI was a bustling tourist spot, there were only 33 people registered as permanent residents on the entire island. Even in 1930, the population hadn’t even reached 2,000 yet. Hard to believe there was a time that summer traffic wasn’t what kept you off the island, but the lack of transportation or a bridge. A lot has changed for the island that has so many people’s hearts – residents and tourists alike. Here are five facts that shaped LBI into the shore town you know today.
1. The Philadelphia Company House
In 1815, Captain Joseph Horner built the Philadelphia Company House in what is now know as Holgate. One of the first structures built to offer seasonal accommodation, The Philadelphia House gave men who liked to hunt and fish a reason to visit the island. You could say this is where tourism in LBI got its start. There was now a draw to the island outside of mariners. This structure later became known as The Long Beach House when Thomas Bond purchased it in 1851.
2. The Barnegat Lighthouse(s)
In 1834, the first Barnegat Lighthouse was built at the north end of Long Beach Island. The need for a lighthouse came from the rough waters – the same waters that made building a lighthouse tricky in the first place. Paid for by congress, the structure cost $6,000 to be built. The light house was quickly deemed inadequate by mariners due to its non-flashing, fifth-class light. A second lighthouse was commissioned and built in 1859. Its now the second tallest in the United States and a major tourist attraction for LBI.
3. First Automotive Bridge Built For LBI
In 1914, the first automobile bridge was completed. Before the bridge, boating and ferries were the only way to make it to the island. The bridge made having a business or home on the island year-round possible at all. The first bridge was a drawbridge located between Beach Haven West and Clear Bonnet Island. It was eventually replaced in 1958. Today, hundreds of thousands of people travel by bridge to LBI in its peak season.
4. Shark Attacks Shake The Shore
If you’ve been to Long Beach Island, you’ve probably heard the old tale of the 1916 Shark Attacks and how they may or may not have been the inspiration for the movie Jaws. on July 1, 1916 the first of five major shark attacks along the east coast occurred in Beach Haven. The victim – a 25-year-old Philadelphia man named Charles Epting Vansant. Its been said the shark followed rescuers as they pulled Vansant’s body out of the water. He later died from his injuries. Attacks continued in Spring Lake and Keyport within a two-week span. These attacks caused a panic among tourists and residents of shore towns along the coast. While the author of Jaws denies the notion that his book is based off the attacks in New Jersey, it doesn’t stop the rumors from flying every summer season.
5. Garden State Parkway Reaches Manahawkin
In 1954 the massive Garden State Parkway project made its way to Manahawkin. This was a huge deal for Long Beach Island. It gave commuters and tourists easier access to the island. In return, this made it that much easier for year-round living conditions and lent a helping hand to tourism in LBI. Now, it wasn’t such a hassle to get to Long Beach Island, which opened the door to tons of business opportunities along the beach.