The history of Point Pleasant Beach as a resort town is fairly new. The first summer visitors did not come to the area until the 1870’s and the first boardwalk was not built until 1890, well after other nearby areas already had thriving seaside attractions. The first record of someone being impressed by Point Pleasant Beach however, goes back a bit further.
It was in 1689 that Henry Hudson and his crew were on the waters off the coast of Point Pleasant Beach seeking to explore the Hudson River. While on that journey, a crew member made note of how lovely the area was. Of course, they were not the first to spot the land. For hundreds of years, Native Americans of the Leni Lanape tribe had hunted and fished on what is now Point Pleasant Beach.
It was not until the 18th century that settlers began to arrive. At first, it was farmers and fisherman. They bought large tracts of land and lived quiet, rural lifestyles. Many were Quakers, so religion was quite important to many of the earliest settlers of Point Pleasant Beach.
In the earliest part of the 19th century, one farmer had an idea to take in boarders during the summer months. He rightly thought that city dwellers may enjoy the opportunity to be near the wonderful fishing, swimming and scenic views offered by Point Pleasant Beach. After seeing his success, other families also began taking in summer boarders.
For less than $10 per week, a room could be rented and meals provided. Today, some come to Point Pleasant Beach to party, but such nightlife would have been frowned upon by the early religious community. While this small, quiet summer tourism trade continued for many years, it was Captain John Arnold that changed the face of tourism on Point Pleasant Beach forever.
After Arnold retired from his duties at sea, he settled in Point Pleasant Beach. His first order of business is still visible today: Arnold Avenue. It was Arnold that saw the benefit of building a road to the beach to provide easy access for summer visitors.
His vision for what Point Pleasant Beach could be did not stop there. He pushed the idea of a bridge over the Manasquan River. The very first such bridge ran to Brielle. He also tirelessly pushed for the railroad to head to Point Pleasant Beach.
He so believed in the power of railroad to transform Point Pleasant Beach that he donated some of his own land and thousands of dollars to Central Jersey Railroad to seal the deal. The first train brought visitors to Point Pleasant Beach in the summer of 1880.
About ten years earlier, as the farmers began to leave the area, their large plots of land were divided and sold in much smaller plots that were the perfect size for building summer homes. In 1878 a 200 guest hotel called The Resort House was built. Soon to follow were several more hotels and the visitors just kept coming. In 1886, Point Pleasant Beach officially became a borough.
Those who visit Point Pleasant Beach today and see the downtown area and bustling boardwalk full of activities, rides and food may be surprised to learn that it was a mere 120 years ago that the first boardwalk was built here.
While some other areas had been enjoying their boardwalks for years, Point Pleasant Beach did not have one until 1890. Unfortunately, it was not built very well, so it only lasted a couple of summers. It was not until 1915 that the boardwalk was replaced.
At one time, the boardwalk spanned the full length of Point Pleasant Beach. The 1938 hurricane washed much of it away. Slowly, amusements were added, storefronts appeared and the crowds continued to grow.
Today there are less than 5500 year round residents of Point Pleasant Beach. During the summer, the vacationers come by the thousands to enjoy the sea, amusements, great food and special events. The largest such event is the Festival of the Sea Arts and Craft Show. Drawing 60,000 visitors annually, this event is a combination of amazing seafood, live entertainment and crafts.
People remain dedicated to ensuring that Point Pleasant Beach continues to be a popular summer spot. Throughout the history of Point Pleasant Beach, the area has found ways to grow and change. That is likely to continue as new Point Pleasant Beach history is made over the next hundred years.