History of Stone Harbor, NJ

stone-harbor-vacationStone Harbor is a popular family resort community, located on the northern side of the barrier island, Seven Mile Island.  It shares this island with Avalon to the north.  Seven Mile Island, as the name suggests, is approximately Seven Miles long, but is only 3-4 city blocks wide at most points.

As with many other points on the Jersey Shore, it is likely that the Lenni-Lenape Indians were the first visitors to Seven Mile Island and its abundant juniper forests.  This Algonquian speaking tribe most likely came to Seven Mile Island in the summer to fish and trap.

Aaron Leaming purchased Seven Mile Island, and the land upon which Stone Harbor currently stands in December 1772.  He reportedly paid 79 Pounds, or, just over $300, for the island, which consisted of nearly 3000 acres.For the next 100 years, The Leaming family would own what was then known as Seven Mile Beach.  The family harvested some of the ample supply of Juniper trees to use as timber, and also used the island as a range for their livestock.

The Tatham family purchased Seven Mile Island in the early 1800s, and the first buildings were erected on the island shortly after.  The family built a number of beach houses for use by the excursionists who would visit the island.  It is reported that picnickers would take boats out to Seven Mile Island and make use of the Tatham’s beach houses during their stay.

The Seven Mile Beach Company bought the island in 1887, after the island had been bought and sold a few more times throughout the 19th century.  Upon purchasing the island, the Seven Mile Beach Company founded the settlements of Avalon on the northern half of the island at Seven Mile Beach, and Stone Harbor in the south.

Captain Stone, and English Sea Captain who once sought refuge behind Seven Mile Island during a severe storm is credited with given Stone Harbor its name.

Avalon was the priority for the initial developments, but Stone Harbor would follow some years later.

Stone Harbor’s first buildings were constructed in 1891.  These buildings included an inn, which was built near 80th St. and seven cottages.  These eight structures formed the original Stone Harbor resort.

1907 saw Stone Harbor acquired from the Seven Mile Beach Company.

That year, the sand dunes that surrounded Stone Harbor were levelled off, and the marshes filled in.  The streets were paved, and curbing was laid out.  In addition, one of the natural basins was deepened, and two new basins were dredged from the land that was adjacent to the Inland Waterway.Â

Seawalls and bulkheads were built to project the land next to the waterways, basins and the ocean to prevent water damage.  Eight jetties were built to try to protect the beaches of Stone Harbor from the effects of Beach Erosion.

1909 saw the development of a sewage system in Stone Harbor.  In addition, the town water works infrastructure was improved with the construction of the first artesian well.  It was dug to be 856 feet deep so that it could reach the “Kirkwood Sands”, which was an abundant supply of pure water.  A pumping station for the water supply was built in 1924 at 96th Street and 2nd Ave.

Stone Harbor’s fourth well would not be drilled until 1981.  Today the water system provides over 200,000,000 gallons of water each year to Stone Harbor.

Stone Harbor’s first school was established in 1910, and initially consisted of only five pupils and a single teacher.  Lessons were held out of a private home until the construction of a schoolhouse in 1912.  Built on 93rd St, this first schoolhouse served the community for three year.  It was replaced in 1915 by a larger school house build on 94th St.

In addition to having four classrooms, this second schoolhouse also had a separate room for manual training.  Four more teachers were hired, and 115 students were enrolled, with grades ranging from the first to the eighth.  High school students were bussed to the Middle Township High School in the Cape May Court House.

A third schoolhouse was later built that could house high school students, as well as pre-school children.

Up until 1911, the only way to get into Stone Harbor was via the railroad.  A highway was opened to the public in 1911 at 96th St., consisting of two bridges that stretched over the inland waterways.  A second railroad spur entered from Cape May Court House a year later, parallel to the highway.

With the construction of these highways, the railways were no longer necessary, and fell out of favor as a means of travelling to Stone Harbor.

1912 saw a number of firsts for Stone Harbor that demonstrate how much the community has grown in its first hundred years.  That year, one lifeguard was hired to watch the beach at 94th St.  Today, there are nearly 50 guards patrolling the beaches of Stone Harbor, stationed at 21 different locations.

Stone Harbor’s first policeman was hired in 1912, and held the title of Watchman.  For comparison, today the Stone Harbor police force consists of 18 full-time officers and 4 dispatchers.  During the summer months when tourist activity is high, the department is supplemented with additional forces.

Finally, the Stone Harbor Volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1912.  It initially consisted of twenty members.  Today, the force has forty-five firemen, and also has five pieces of fire fighting equipment.  The Fire Department is also now housed in a new seven bay firehouse that was built in 1974.

Stone Harbor grew very quickly in its first years, and, in 1914 it was large enough to official become a borough.

Stone Harbor is well known for its environmental institutes and sanctuaries.  One of these, The Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary was established in 1947, and is registered as a National Landmark by the National Park Service.  The sanctuary is sometimes foten said to be the heron capital of America.  Thousands of herons of all varieties nest in the sanctuary, and many rare varieties of herons, including the green heron and the glossy ibis, can sometimes be seen from the observatory.

Like much of the Atlantic Coast, Stone Harbor was hit by the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962.  The storm pelted the East Coast of the United States with hurricane force winds and caused huge ocean swells.Â

The Ash Wednesday storm lasted for five successive high tide cycles, and pummelled the east coast consistently during that time.  By the time the storm was over, much of the east coast had been forever altered by the intense wind and high waves.  The storm was given its name because the worst day of the storm occurred on Ash Wednesday, March 7.

Thankfully, Stone Harbor escaped the storm with considerably less damage than Avalon, its neighbor to the north, which lost many of its streets and businesses to the severe flooding and punishing winds.

1969 saw the establishment of The Wetlands Institute: one of Stone Harbor’s most important and famous landmarks.  The Institute includes more than 6,000 acres of natural wetlands, with a trail through the marsh.  It also offers educational displays and exhibits, and aquarium where visitors can observe many local marsh dwellers, and an observations deck.Â

In addition, the Wetlands Institute is home to the Tidepool Museum Store, which is considered to be one of the best naturalist bookstores on the East Coast of the United States.  The bookstore also offers a large collection of gifts, field guides, natural history books, and more.

Today Stone Harbor continues to grow, and the community now consists of over 3,000 properties. The United States 2000 Census, states that the borough’s year round population is 1,128 people, but during the summer Stone Harbor’s population swells to over 20,000 people. The borough is well known as a wealthy an exclusive retreat, and offers a fashionable and upscale business district in addition to its safe and clean beaches.

Stone Harbor has also been very successful in implementing state of the art technology to combat beach erosion.  In Avalon to the north erosion is a constant concern, but in Stone Harbor the beach size has actually increased in size.

Stone Harbor has grown a lot in its first hundred years, and always endeavours to live up to its slogan: “The Seashore At Its Best”

May 27, 2019, 3:14 am