“We have become an island of lost landmarks. Fire, storm, tide and general obsolescence have claimed nearly all of them. The big hotels, the boardwalk, the gunning clubs, the train, the old causeway and even Tucker’s Island itself have all vanished. All we have are photographs and the memories of those people who were here and who lived through these changing times....”

— from the Preface

Eighteen Miles of History
On Long Beach Island

By John Bailey Lloyd

The past is brought to life in this loving history ...”

— the first edition, as described by The Record of Hackensack

204 pages, 237 illustrations, photographs, and maps; index and bibliography
$38.00 hardcover
ISBN 0945582-17-X


by John Bailey Lloyd

Excerpted from Chapter 11 of Eighteen Miles of History on Long Beach Island by John Bailey Lloyd. Copyright © 1994. All Rights Reserved.

Of the eight major hotels built on Long Beach Island before the coming of the railroad in 1886, all but one, the Harvey Cedars Hotel, are gone. The others — the Sunset, the Oceanic, the Mansion of Health, the Parry House, the Hotel Baldwin, the Engleside and the Long Beach House — were all torn down or destroyed by fire. Historically, the most significant of these old hotels was the famous Long Beach House of Thomas Bond. Out of it and the influential men who stayed there over the years came the genesis of Beach Haven.

The Long Beach House, on the island’s south end at what is now Holgate, became for a few dozen years before and after the Civil War the best-known hostelry on the New Jersey coast. It attracted men of wealth and influence from Philadelphia and New York. Railroad magnates, lawyers, judges and doctors came to Bond’s in the summer to relax with their families and in the winter months to hunt birds with their genial host.

Thomas Bond had not planned to be an innkeeper. Born in Boston in 1799, he had been, in the first half-century of his life, a successful owner of a New York jewelry firm that made expensive watchcases. Owning and managing the Long Beach House became one of his two second careers. The other was his interest in lifesaving, which had obsessed him ever since he witnessed the wreck of the brig Ayrshire in January 1850 off Squan Beach. The Francis Life Car was first used to rescue lives in that wreck, and all the crew and passengers but one were rescued. Bond was a close personal friend of the life car’s inventor, fellow Bostonian Joseph Francis, born in 1801, and the two corresponded all their long lives.

In the years Bond had his business in New York, his avocation was gunning. He hunted in the marshes east of Brooklyn and Flushing, and in New Jersey around Paterson and Jersey City, but he was always in search of better and more remote areas. He started sailing down to Squan and Toms River, and on a trip aboard the schooner Wissahickon in February 1846, Bond saw his future Long Beach House for the first time. He recorded in his diary that on his first outing he killed twenty-one ducks, but that had been a bad day, one without wind. The next day he shot fifty ducks and twelve geese and decided that he liked this island called Long Beach.
He became a regular guest of Lloyd Jones, the proprietor of the Philadelphia Company House, as it was then still called. By 1851, Bond had purchased for three thousand dollars several buildings and one hundred acres of dune and marshland from Jones, who had been improving the property for the previous five years. It was never really Bond’s intention to be an innkeeper. He simply wanted to have the place properly managed and make the main building a private hunting lodge for himself and his friends but, unable to find a competent manager for it, he decided to retire and take it over himself. He applied for a hotel service license, sold his business in New York and moved to Long Beach Island, where he would spend the next forty years.

Bond renamed the place Long Beach House when he opened as innkeeper on July 4, 1852. At the end of the season he purchased more land, one thousand acres south to the edge of the Old Inlet where Tucker’s Beach began. Included in his purchase was a very valuable ice pond which for many years supplied not only his own place but also the big hotels in Beach Haven. Since the early 1820s, when the Philadelphia Company House began, this area of Long Beach had had a good reputation and it was now up to Bond, using the strength of his personality and generous spirit, to build it up, and at this he succeeded.

For the next twenty years, until the coming of the railroad to Tuckerton, the only way to get to this remote area other than by a two-day stagecoach trip across the state was to take the Camden and Atlantic Railroad to Absecon and sail up from there by one of the “Long Beach packets,” thirty-one-foot cat yachts. Many a lasting friendship began on those two- to six-hour trips aboard Captain Billy Gaskill’s Eliza and Captain Morford Horner’s Mary Jane. The length of the journey depended on wind direction and tide, but Bond supplied the whiskey to ward off any possible chill. In time, these old packet boats were replaced by steamers, including the paddle wheeler Mary, which also went to Sea Haven on Tucker’s Island.

In keeping with his interest in lifesaving, Bond had, from his very first days as proprietor, a “Government House” near his property to aid shipwreck survivors. The federal government had set up these houses of refuge all along the Atlantic coast sometime in the 1850s, at least twenty years before there was an official lifesaving service. The government paid for the house and the equipment, but all the dangerous rescue work was done by volunteers, of whom Bond was one of the most dedicated. He kept the key to the Government House in the barroom of his hotel and often recruited his guests if there was a wreck. As often as not, he would bring the survivors into his place, where he would feed, clothe and entertain them, all without compensation. This was Bond’s way; he was generous to a fault. He wrote many letters to the government asking to be reimbursed, but for naught.

Thomas Bond never married and generally avoided the company of women, although it was said he had impeccable manners in their presence. He preferred to be with men in the thick of the action, shooting on a cold rainy morning on the bay or directing a rescue in a howling blizzard. He was also an inveterate cardplayer and a skilled musician. To spend an autumn evening in Bond’s bar and billiard room by a crackling fire with some of his fun-loving cronies was one of life’s great pleasures. The whiskey and cigars were the very best, and the food was always excellent. Bond would allow no stinting on these matters.

Today, some tend to think of the old nineteenth-century “sportsmen’s hotels” on Long Beach Island as being exclusively for men when, in fact, they were not. Certainly all that incredibly abundant fish and game drew plenty of “gentlemen fishers and fowlers” to places like the Mansion of Health, Double Jimmie’s, the Ashley House and Bond’s, just as the old accounts say, but most of them were well-established, married men. Along with their sons, they brought their wives and daughters with them or chances are they couldn’t have come at all.
Many of the women were adept at fishing and enjoyed shooting at small birds quite as much as the men. Some of them were remarkably fine shots and have left records of their scores in old hotel ledgers. Bond’s was very informal in those years before and after the Civil War, and if the men dressed like farmers, the ladies wore calico and gingham. They were taken to the beach in mule-drawn hay wagons, and Bond did everything he could to make them comfortable. He was astute enough to realize that if they weren’t happy, the men would never get back.

There was a cost to all of Bond’s marvelous hospitality, which could not last forever. As meticulous as Bond was about his account books and keeping his daily journal, he constantly allowed money to slip through his fingers. By the late 1860s, the place was in such a state of disrepair that newcomers were shocked. Once they registered at the desk, they were asked to go and pick out a room, and by default it became their responsibility to assign tasks to the domestic staff — what there were of them. All of this greatly amused Bond’s regulars, who were quite used to it. Bond often seemed to be a guest in his own place, where social pretensions were banished. Casualness was the order of the day. It was like a big, happy fraternity house.

From Bond’s well-preserved records it is interesting to see what was or what should have been available to his guests. Each room contained one carpet, an iron bedstead and mattress, two sheets, two pillows and two cases, one counterpane, a washstand with bowl and pitcher, a chamber pot, one soap dish, two quilts and two chairs. There was a lot of “borrowing” and rearranging as items vanished from one room and appeared in another. There were so many practical jokes going on all the time that no one could be sure of anything, but eventually everyone got settled and joined in the fun.

The years after the Civil War were the beginning of what has been called the Gilded Age in America, when the display of wealth was equated with social prestige. Bond failed to realize women’s needs and especially their power. As much fun as it was to go to Bond’s, the place was going out of style. Roughing it at the seashore belonged to the old days. Women wanted to dress up on vacation, and they wanted silver, crystal and elegant cuisine. All of this and more were soon to come to Long Beach Island.

Among Bond’s oldest regulars, going as far back as 1856, was Archelaus Pharo of the Tuckerton Railroad. In 1872, just after his railroad on the mainland had opened, Pharo started regular steamboat service across the bay in the summer months to pick up the crowds from Philadelphia. He brought them straight to the Long Beach House, and this was Bond’s most profitable year. The place was packed all summer, but it would not last. Unfortunately for Bond, his old friends, Pharo and Charles T. Parry, were planning a new resort on a grand scale just two miles up the beach at a place they had already named Beach Haven.

With his hotel free of debt for the first time in years, Bond was filled with enthusiasm and he began, at the age of seventy-two, to invest heavily in improvements. He added another wing, bringing the total to 102 rooms, and put in new carpets and furnishings throughout the hotel. He bought more livestock and trees for his orchard. By the winter of 1873, he had borrowed and spent fifteen thousand dollars. It should have been obvious to him what was going to happen at Beach Haven, but he had a stubborn streak.

The spring of 1874 saw the opening of the Parry House in the new resort of Beach Haven. All of Bond’s former loyal guests, including Pharo, Parry and Ashhurst, had moved there and were building cottages. They also took the steamboat service along with them, and Bond would go into debt to Charles Freeman of the Camden and Atlantic Railroad paying for steamboat service from the rail terminus at Absecon. But the times were against Bond, and the new arrangement did not work. He had a very poor season until August, when he recorded 178 guests.

Even Lloyd Jones, Bond’s old friend, who had sold the Long Beach House to him back in 1851, was building a new place of his own at Beach Haven called the Bay View. The Long Beach House would never recover from all this competition. Bond accepted it philosophically and began a third career, devoting all of his energies to the new U.S. Life Saving station that had been erected on the oceanfront near his property in December 1873. He was made master of the station at a salary of eighty-five dollars a month and took the title of Captain Bond, with a paid crew of six men under him.

At Beach Haven, the first manager of the Parry House, Robert Engle, left after two years and built an even bigger and grander hotel just two blocks south called the Engleside. Bond sank deeper into debt with each passing year as fewer and fewer vacationers wanted to stay at a place that had become old-fashioned and out-of-date. By 1883, Bond’s principal creditor, Charles Freeman, bought the buildings at foreclosure proceedings. He closed the Long Beach House for good three years later when the railroad arrived in Beach Haven. There was a big farewell party at the old place, and many former guests, some of whom had cottages in Beach Haven, came to talk about old times and take home a souvenir or two.

In 1883, an aging Bond retired from the Life Saving Service. He was eighty-four and was still taking his boat Fashion out to the islands for gunning or fishing. There was no pension for him. He spent his last days in a little cottage near the ruin of his old hotel. Cared for by the Holgate and Horter families who had bought up most of his former land holdings in the area, Bond was never in need. He had outlived all of his contemporaries, but many young people came to see him to talk about the old days, and he remained alert until his death in 1892 at the age of ninety-three.

One profoundly sad incident occurred in his last days that recalled an event nearly sixty-five years earlier. Bond, the confirmed bachelor, once had a sweetheart and planned to marry her until they had a quarrel. Bond’s stubborn streak prevailed over his usual jovial manner. He refused to reconcile with her and left. She apparently was the same sort and eventually married someone else. When Bond was ninety-two and she was eighty-seven, he received a letter from her. Alone and widowed, she was dying in a hospital in New York, and Bond was too ill at the time to travel.

He died in Mays Landing, and his remains were brought to Beach Haven for a viewing at the Ocean House Hotel on Centre Street, where on a rainy October day both young and old came to talk and hear about the old times on Long Beach before there were trains and telephones. Bond was buried in Tuckerton’s Greenwood Cemetery in a grave unmarked until 1938. It was through the unflagging efforts of Jessie Coole of The Beach Haven Times, who had transcribed his diary for that paper in the late thirties, that a marker was finally placed. The flat, gray stone bears the simple inscription “Thomas Bond — Pioneer. 1799-1892.”

Bond had a favorite poem, one he was so fond of quoting that many who heard him recite it thought he had written it himself. The poem was actually written by Hannah Flagg Gould, and it seemed to embody much of Bond’s philosophy about life, a darker side that few people ever saw in this outgoing and generous man.

A Name in the Sand
Alone I walked the ocean strand
A pearly shell was in my hand
I stopped and wrote upon the sand
My name, the year, the date.
As onward from the spot I passed
One lingering look behind I cast
A wave came rolling high and fast
And washed my lines away.
So shall it be, with every trace on earth of me.
A wave from dark oblivion’s sea
Will roll across the place where I have trod
And leave no track or trace.

The old hotel remained a picturesque ruin for another twenty years in the sand hills about a hundred yards south of today’s last street in Holgate. In 1909 it was torn down, and all the lumber was rafted over to West Creek for resale. Much of it found its way into old houses around the island and the mainland. Not even a foundation stone remains of the old place. In February 1920 a violent northeast storm cut a new inlet through the former site, acting out in a haunting fashion the last lines of Bond’s favorite poem.

Copyright © 1994 Down The Shore Publishing Corp. and The SandPaper, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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