Beginning in 2007-08, I formed the Beachwood Historical Alliance, a small community group to collect, review and produce multimedia archives on the history of Beachwood Borough, a small community on the lower bank of the Toms River formed in 1914-15 as a newspaper subscription promotion community of the New York Tribune. The effort continues today as BeachwoodHistory.com.
Research was (and is) conducted through the New York Public Library, area archives, founding family descendants, online databases and the borough itself. The initial success was the production of Building Beachwood, an account seen below that included long-forgotten newspaper accounts from the Tribune as well as a court hearing graciously digitized by Project Gutenberg that provided a wholly unknown facet of the founding and founders.
Any discussion of Beachwood would be incomplete without first looking at the two men who made it possible: Bertram Chapman Mayo and Addison Doane Nickerson.
Bertram Chapman Mayo was born in the last month of the Civil War, March 23rd, 1865, near Boston’s Old North Church, itself famous for displaying the lanterns that alerted Paul Revere of the path the British took to the fateful first battle of the American Revolution, Lexington and Concord, less than a hundred years before. The oldest of Noah Mayo, a fish trader on the Boston wharves, and his wife Evaline, Bertram’s home life included the upper middle class culture comfort of employing a regular, live-in servant to help his mother keep house and tend Bertram and two sisters, Daisy and Blanche, who came later. It was here, in his youth, that a series of cherished experiences in the form of regular family holidays to seaside resorts via the trolley system later became the basis for his future pursuit of success.
Addison Doane Nickerson was born two years after his future business partner, on December 12, 1867, in Harwich, Massachusetts, located at the far end of Cape Cod. The son of Thomas Nickerson and his wife, Eglentine, Addison, like Mayo, had a home life centered around the shore. His father, having grown up as the latest in a long line of sailors, earned the title master mariner when Addison was less than a year old. It would be the profession he followed all through Addison’s upbringing and those of his three other children – Thomas, Ambrose and Eglantine – of which Addison was the oldest.
It isn’t clearly stated where Mayo and Nickerson first met, but we can assume with almost certainty that it was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was here that Mayo, according to Butler’s 1924 biography of him, “gave up a contemplated course” in order to pursue a career in the wholesale clothing business, while Nickerson went on to graduate in 1888 with a thesis titled, “A Study of the Question of a Tunnel in East Boston.”
A competitive streak that apparently ran strong in Mayo which caused him to leave M.I.T. apparently also made him restless. Quickly bored of the clothing world, he next gravitated west to become general manager for a San Francisco-area newspaper that first published and instituted an immediate emergency aid center following the devastating earthquake of 1906. At that paper, the Oakland Enquirer, he established a newspaper premium of a candy giveaway that would quickly snowball into his ultimate career path of land giveaways and community building starting in the redwoods of Northern California called Cazadero Woods, and further progressing to a canyon section of Los Angeles called Beverly Glen that would later be absorbed by that city’s rapid growth later in the century and become part of Beverly Hills. During these promotions he brought his young son, Geoffrey, on board to help run the whole operation. Moving northeast toward Chicago, he honed and improved his idea for a resort in Michigan called Lakewood Club, which would for the first time incorporate a small reminder of home: a lake for sailing, fishing and swimming.
Nickerson, meanwhile, had settled into the life of a civil engineer, and by 1910 was living in the Hudson River town of Ulster, New York, with his wife, Mary Lillian, and their two sons, Holland and Robert. Two or three years later, a meeting in California between Nickerson and Mayo would change all that.
Almost before he was finished in Michigan, Mayo was already moving on, this time searching for a spot along the Atlantic coast that better reminded him of his family holidays at his childhood seaside resorts. Lucky for us, he found it on the southern bank of the Toms River at the edge of a pristine pine forest crisscrossed by the Pennsylvania and Jersey Central railroads and cut through by a state highway between New York and Atlantic City. Contacting Nickerson and reminding him of their California meeting, it was decided that Nickerson would head up the planning and construction of the new resort, to be called Beachwood (and sometimes referred to as Beachwood Club or Beachwood-in-the-Pines), while Mayo and his son would run things out of his new position and office within the New York Tribune building in New York.
Besides facing similar challenges in this new project as the previous three, an added pressure came in the form of an investigation spearheaded by a reporter of a competing New York daily newspaper, William Randolph Hearst’s New York American. Even while Mayo and Nickerson were busy setting up what would become the most successful paper-backed community in Mayo’s career, the competition was equally busy building a federal case against the two that could halt construction of the new resort and imprison its two managers, destroying their lives and careers.
But first, let’s take a look back at the history of the land that would later become Beachwood.
In Pine Beach Yesterdays, a publication issued by the borough of Pine Beach to celebrate its 50th anniversary of incorporation as a borough in 1975, author Stanley Heatley recounts activity along the Beachwood tract in the mid-nineteenth century:
“A mule-powered railway was built to haul charcoal from the hinterlands to a loading pier on the south shore of the Toms River where coasting vessels took on cargo for Philadelphia and New York. The industry died at the end of the century and the rotted piles or spiles, all that remained of the once busy pier, gave rise to the name of “The Spiles”, present-day Beachwood.
“In colonial times, charcoal was the fuel used to fire many bog-iron blast furnaces. Its use continued for many years until the production of iron in our area succumbed to the competition of Pennsylvania. That charcoaling was a long ago in Pine Beach was brought to light in 1954 when ground was cleared for the Pine Beach School playground. Some mothers may still remember their children coming home from school, before the playground was completed, with clothing and shoes black from old charcoal pits.”
Sometime after that, we can find evidence of the Beachwood waterfront area being popular among local residents primarily from Toms River, who used the undeveloped shore for cool recreation on hot summer days. This led to a tragic account on one such afternoon, June 20th, 1911, when eleven-year old Toms River resident Ella Cranmer drowned while bathing with friends at Spiles Point.
Following the cessation of shipping activity and the turn of the century, according to Marshall hearing testimony, the land that would become Beachwood was involved in a real estate scandal where it had been sold by a company called the Pittsburgh Company to a number of Pennsylvania residents in pieces, and was to be called Hobart City, named after New Jersey native Garret Hobart, who died in late 1899 while in office as Vice President of the United States under President William McKinley. It has also been stated from different sources that part of the land was set aside for a cemetery, but that the land was then too remote for such a use. At some later date the Pennsylvanian owners contracted a man named Reece Carpenter, and the Pine Bay Hotel, Land and Improvement Company was formed to replace the Pittsburgh Company, with Carpenter as company owner and the Pennsylvania residents as shareholders. At this point everything gets even more incredibly convoluted, with Carpenter turning over to his wife a claim of $79,896 against the Pine Bay Company and a relative of his wife’s bringing suit against the Pine Bay Company for $79,000, then changed hands to an Ernest F. Griffith for $4,750 until a previous owner, Henry L. Hall, of Pittsburgh, holding an old mortgage for $8,000 turned up and everything was forced into a foreclosure and sheriff’s sale for the amount of $4,750 plus the $80,000 claims against it.
In mid-1912, at the center of these land disputes, Reece Carpenter’s son, O.T. Carpenter, said that his father got a letter from B.C. Mayo asking if he would sell the land directly to Mayo and at what cost. The elder Carpenter never responded nor took any action to sell the land to Mayo, and eventually Mayo sent a man named M. Edgar Smith to approach him about it. Through negotiations between Carpenter and the Mayo/Smith team, an amount of $75,000 was agreed upon for the sale, but not before the contract was altered with a number of exceptions and changed several times. Three days after the contract was finalized, Reece Carpenter died, his wife left the house the day after the funeral with various letters and papers related to the land, and Mayo and the Tribune couldn’t get a bank to issue a policy as the original ownership by the Pennsylvanian shareholders hadn’t been part of the agreement, and everything was up in the air until Henry Hall surfaced with the old mortgage and a sheriff’s sale was held. Finally, in 1914, Addison Nickerson gained ownership to the property for the amount of $90,000.
On February 13, 1914, the front page headline of the Toms River/Ocean County weekly, the New Jersey Courier, announced “Pine Bay Tract is Sold for $90,000/Said to Be a Record-Making Price”. Curiously, these new purchasers are never mentioned by name.
The article goes on to describe the land as it was before any work had been completed: “The tract has a mile and a quarter river frontage, including the bluff at Cold Spring, the point of the Spiles [both later part of Beachwood Beach], and the bluff on the west shore of Squally Cove [renamed Windy Cove], the river frontage, running from Cedar Point [at today’s South Toms River] to the head of Squally Cove, where it meets the Buhler property, now a part of the Pine Beach tract [Pine Beach not having been incorporated until 1925; the land then was mainly known to visitors for the railroad that extended across the Toms River to Island Heights]. It extends back across both railroads and west to the Dover road [later, South Toms River], while on the south it abuts the Barnegat Park tract [in Berkeley Township, later the site of yet another notorious land promotion named Pinewald, through which was built the Royal Pines Hotel that stands today as Crystal Lake Healthcare. It’s interesting to consider that Pinewald could have incorporated itself as a borough separate from Berkeley Township as Beachwood, Pine Beach and Ocean Gate had if it succeeded in its time].
The land then changed hands from Nickerson to Mayo to Stanley D. Brown, trustee of the New York Tribune. Mystery still surrounds these transactions as somehow no money ever changed hands between the sheriff’s sale to Nickerson, Nickerson to Mayo, and Mayo to the Tribune, yet Nickerson had already begun surveying the land well before a deal was set, setting aside a few choice plots, including the site where he would eventually build his family home across from the entrance to Cold Spring and Spiles Point, later Beachwood Beach; Mayo wound up owning virtually all of the waterfront area property and 5,000 lots in the tract’s southernmost “hinterland”, all of which would eventually be sold in perpetuity in December 1917 to the newly incorporated Borough of Beachwood for the original per-lot price of $19.60 for public and municipal use.
But that wouldn’t be for a while. Mayo, Nickerson and the Tribune would first face the threat of charges brought by the U.S. District Attorney’s office and U.S. Postal Service at the behest and urging of the Hearst company and its reporter, even while Nickerson was busy directing workmen to cut and blast his grid of streets out of the knotty, dense pine forest.
Over the next eight months, while Nickerson busied himself with the land survey and subsequent layout of the new streets and avenues, Mayo, in his office at the Tribune Building in New York, worked out the details of the promotion. An item in the October 23rd. 1914 New Jersey Courier stated:
“The Berkeley Township committee at its meeting last week abandoned a number of roads where they cross over the Beachwood (formerly known as Pine Bay) tract… the roads abandoned are: the old Double Trouble road; part of the old Cedar Creek highway; Buhler’s road; a branch of Buhler’s road; and the old road running into the old Double Trouble road, beginning where the county road crosses the [Pennsylvania Railroad].
“As part of the agreement for vacating these roads, Mr. Nickerson, who represents the new owners of the property, has announced that the tract will be laid out in streets, so that these roads will be unnecessary.”
One week later, October 30th, the Tribune announced to the Toms River area its plans in the pages of the Courier, likely when the land officially changed hands from Nickerson and Mayo to their ownership. Its headline proclaimed, “New York Tribune to Develop the Beachwood Tract at Spiles Point”. This announcement predated any such notice posted in their own newspaper, as well as any official promotional materials.
“One of the largest real estate deals that has been made in Toms River in many years was concluded this week, when the two thousand acre tract adjoining the town and known as Pine Bay tract was acquired by representatives of the New York Tribune. This will mean much to the future prosperity of Toms River, for the Tribune intends to improve the property and make of it a large summer resort. A club house will be erected on the shore of the river, also a yacht club building, bathing pavilion, bathing wharves, etc. The tract will be known as Beachwood, and it is expected that it will be the future summer home of many well known New York people, who will have their cottages there. The project is under the direct supervision of B.C. Mayo of the New York Tribune and the local work is in charge of A.D. Nickerson.”
Here we can pick up Butler’s 1924 Beachwood Directory, who compiled the largest section, “A Chronological History of Beachwood”, stated to be “Pictures, in Brief Paragraphs, of the Rise and Progress of the Beautiful Resort in the Pines on Barnegat Bay, and the Social, Economic and Political Life of its Summer Population of 1,500 or More People”.
According to Butler, “the first official map of the Beachwood tract, comprising 1,763 acres, 18 lots to the acre, was filed November 11th .”
November is also the month that the Tribune issued a special advertisement, dressed up to appear as an extra edition of its regular publication, “containing many illustrations and the… announcement, in large letters, on its first page: “Subscribe for the New York Tribune and secure a lot at Beautiful Beachwood. Greatest subscription premium ever offered by a newspaper – nothing equal to it was ever attempted in the United States. Act at once – secure your lot in this Summer Paradise now.” On another page came [the] assurance [that] “The Tribune does not do things halfway. A fortune has been put behind this offer. Already plans are being made to start a building company.” The price of lots was placed at $19.60 apiece, each lot carrying with it a six months’ subscription to the paper.”
On December 1st, the Mayo-Tribune promotions rolled out further, this time in a Tribune article titled “Roads to Beachwood” and depicting a large illustration of the auto routes between Manhattan and Beachwood, as well as the Central and Pennsylvania railroad lines.
Ten days later, the New Jersey Courier and New York Tribune ran articles on the burgeoning resort. The Courier’s, headlined “Marine Names for Beachwood Avenues”, recounted a Tribune article that “Nautical terms prevail in the selecting of street nomenclature adopted for Beachwood… the street signs will also bear out the meaning of the town’s name by a series denoting a variety of trees… Plans for the construction of the buildings which are to be erected on the waterfront, such as the yacht club, dining hall, club building, etc., are already under way. It is expected that the railroad station… will be completed in January.”
The Tribune’s article, titled “Fine Railroad Station for Beachwood”, verified the Courier account. “Residents of Beachwood… are to have a railroad station of their own. Plans for the building have been made and its site chosen. It will be ready for occupancy in January. The building will have the excellent accommodations of a typical suburban union railroad station… the structure itself is to be of attractive design and calculated to meet all the requirements of Beachwood residents.”
It is around this time that Victor A. Watson, a New York City native living on the Lower East Side who had made his living for the previous 17 years as a newspaper reporter with Hearst’s New York American, claimed to receive “complaints from a number of persons who wrote letters… to the effect that the New York Tribune… was backing a notorious real-estate swindle. In the course of office business the matter was turned over to me to investigate.”
Looking into the matter, Watson noted that the Tribune was claiming to be making absolutely no profit off the land deal, opting instead to run the promotion purely as an act of friendship in an effort to boost its circulation. Skeptical, Watson looked at the numbers and found this to not be the case. After consulting with his peers, he took the information to the office of United States District Attorney H. Snowden Marshall. The case was soon assigned to two United States Postal Inspectors, [Hugh] McQuillan and [Oliver] Schaeffer.
Together with the inspectors, Watson produced what he claimed to be direct evidence of mail fraud. This consisted of mailed materials produced by the newspaper that stated they were making no money off the land deal but wished instead for good friendship by increasing their readership. Watson insisted that the Tribune was committing mail fraud because a survey of the money paid for the land tract versus what they were charging showed a high degree of profitability set to flow into Tribune coffers should the promotion be successful.
In laying out these calculations, Watson said the land was drawn out to encompass thirty to thirty-five thousand 20×100 lots to be sold at $19.60 each. Adhering to the original plat map of 1,763 acres and 18 lots to an acre, that number was exactly 31,734 lots. $19.60 multiplied by 31,734 becomes $621,986.40. He estimated that between the purchase of the property at $90,000 and adding another approximately $35,000 to developing it for the lot owners, they would have invested only $125,000 total, meaning they stood to reap an estimated profit of $496,986.40. At the time, Inspector McQuillan estimated it lower, at $300,000.
Suspicions were raised further when Watson stated salesmen working the promotion for the Tribune would take “them down to the beach, and [then turn around] and sell [them] something back in the woods that is almost like Africa.” Watson later reflected that Beachwood was so remote that it would be still be an undeveloped and undesirable patch of land one hundred years in the future. He was so sure of this that he told the judiciary committee he would make a bet on it if he could.
As a result, Watson and the postal inspectors began a series of covert visits to the Beachwood tract while it was under development in early 1915. Secretly, Watson also conscripted a number of men to work within the Tribune offices as spies, quietly writing up daily reports for the New York American reporter. Meanwhile, Bertram Mayo and Addison Nickerson moved forward with their work, unaware how dangerously close they were to being arrested and brought up on charges of mail fraud.
On December 16th, 1914, an article in the New York Tribune headlined, “Beachwood Just Laughs at Storms” recounted a recent winter storm which “caused such havoc and property loss [in the surrounding area, yet] left no traces… along Beachwood’s mile of water frontage.” The paper attributed this to its position away from the Barnegat Bay, and went on to describe all the safety features and recreation amenities, stating that construction officially began the day before, placing this official first date of construction in Beachwood at December 15th, 1914.
Two weeks later, on December 30th, the Tribune ran another article under the headline “Rapid Progress in Beachwood Work”. It described that work “is progressing despite ice and snow, by leaps and bounds” and that a letter received by a group of men who distributed tires for the Packard automobile company along the eastern United States was received stating that they had purchased a site in Beachwood on which to build “an up-to-date garage for the accommodation of the residents,” of whom they would be part, having also purchased lots for their bungalows from the Tribune promotion.
The article ran on to describe more of Nickerson’s work, including that “about seventy men were now at work laying out streets, putting up street signs and block numbers, numbering lots, cutting through and improving roadways and building tennis courts. If necessary, to have things in readiness for next summer the force will be increased.”
A week later, January 8th, 1915, the New Jersey Courier ran with an article titled, “Start Several Buildings at Spiles Point, Beachwood”. In it was heavily detailed the first buildings constructed by the Tribune under supervision of Nickerson.
“The Beachwood tract is the busiest along shore just now. Besides laying out streets and avenue, cutting off timber on these avenues, blasting stumps and cleaning out underbrush, the New Year was marked by the starting of at least four new buildings. Three of these are at the Spiles Point, the other, a union railroad depot, at the crossing of the Central and Pennsylvania railroads.
“On the high bluff, just above the point of the Spiles, a dining room has been built, in the shape of a one-story bungalow, 30×60 feet, and a kitchen annex in the rear. This will have a view down the river. In front of it, to the north, has been started a hotel or rooming house, 73×100 feet in size, built in the old Spanish style, one story high, and, with a patio, or courtyard, in the centre. This will contain thirty-seven sleeping rooms, and will be run in connection with the dining room. From its point of vantage on the brow of the bluff the eye can sweep up the river to Toms River village, or down the stream to Island Heights. The location is superb.
“On the lower ground, at the foot of the bluff, in the filled in spot where the pond was, and where Toms River boys for generations have waded to pick water lilies and kill water snakes, the bathhouses are started. There will be three rows of them, covering a space 32×46 feet. The building of the bathhouses here is particularly satisfactory to Toms River people, who had been fearing that the development of Spiles Point meant that their ancient bathing privilege would be taken from them, and the point become hedged in as private property. It is understood that the beach front at the Beachwood tract is to be kept open to the public and that all lot owners will have an equal share in its use. With bathhouses there many Toms River people will avail themselves of the convenience.
“The depot will be 20×40 feet in size, and will be used by both railroads. It is located at the crossing of the two roads and also of the main north and south avenue of Beachwood. Plans are prepared for a large clubhouse, which is also to be started in the spring on the bluff overlooking the river. The station is expected to be built very soon. None of these buildings is to be pretentious or costly. They are being built to supply present day needs, and as the resort grows probably be displaced with more permanent structures. But they go to show that Beachwood means business and that something is coming of the new development. The work is also giving jobs to many local people who would otherwise be sitting around stoves and wondering how they could get through the winter.
“Scores of streets are being laid out on the tract. So far about all that is done to this line is to clear up the street of all traces of underbrush and remove the stumps with dynamite and stake off the lots. Some grading has been done, however, and more is contemplated. The Beachwood proposition, backed by a big daily paper, is making quite a furore in New York, and it is said by New Yorkers who come down this way that the lots are going fast.”
The progress in Beachwood did not go unnoted in other local papers and municipalities. On January 29th, the Ocean County Review printed beneath its Pine Beach section that, “It is pretty quiet here this winter, but we can hear the dynamite charges exploding at Beachwood without paying admission.”
Indeed, Nickerson and his crew weren’t the only ones busy that winter. February 1915 saw the release and distribution of a 38-page pamphlet very modestly titled, “The Greatest Subscription Premium Ever Offered and the Reason Why”. Interspersed between pages of ad copy determined to make the average reader jump at investing were a number of photographs depicting the natural waterfront, sailboats both on the Toms River and docked at Huddy Park, cleared roads, the Central Railroad of New Jersey Toms River Station, and the Atlantic City Boulevard completely devoid of any development. As we can see, it wasn’t the first of such pamphlets, borrowing heavily on Mayo’s earlier land promotion of Lakewood Club, Michigan.
Meanwhile, Watson and the postal inspectors were themselves hard at work questioning those who wrote letters of endorsement for the Tribune promotion which had appeared in subsequent materials. One of these letters came from E.P. Robinson, M.D., later profiled in Butler’s 1924 Beachwood Directory as being born of English parents on St. James Island in the Barbados who later followed his dream of coming to America as a teenager, working first a pharmacist in Philadelphia before continuing his career and education in New York City. By the time of the Tribune promotion, he was married and had a son in his late teens. In the letter he wrote, which was published by the Tribune as part of its promotion campaign, the accomplished doctor praised the newspaper in detail for the advantages of the Beachwood tract and stated that not only did he plan an extensive summer residence but that his wife and son purchased their own lots, as well.
Testifying about this letter and Robinson’s later statements regarding it, Watson admitted he could not find his original notes and instead recounted the conversation from memory:
“I visited Dr. Robinson myself, in company with one of my investigators, and interviewed him, and I swear that endorsement is not on the level. The doctor said – I have a report which I made within an hour after the interview, and I will stand on that report rather than on what I say now, but I will try to recall what he said. It was to the effect that he did not know where these lots were, and he had changed his mind, and he did not think he would ever build there, and he gave this endorsement to the Tribune, but he had not expected that people would come running in there and asking him about it, and that he had since requested the Tribune to take it out of the booklet, and that he might some time use his lots for a public garage down there; and he told me where they were, and I asked him if he realized that that was about a mile off the main road and that you could not drive an automobile in there unless it was equipped with an aeroplane on top of it to lift it over the roads. In other words, it was too ridiculous for consideration.
Oddly, on a later day of testimony following statements by the postal inspectors themselves, Watson recanted and requested that this statement and all matter of the letters be removed from the record as he could not find his records on the matter and it had been over a year from the conversation so his memory may be incorrect. Neither postal investigator had any testimony regarding these letters. Stranger still is the fact that the lots Dr. Robinson ultimately built upon is just one block from the waterfront and on Beachwood Boulevard, the original resort’s main road. It is unclear at this point of research whether this was the original plot of land purchased through the initial Tribune promotion, or if he purchased it at a later date from a second party, or some other event we are unaware of.
Adding to this odd matter is the fact that the New York Tribune made a point to specifically advertise Dr. Robinson’s building plans in early March 1915 with an article titled, “To Build at Beachwood – Plans Being Prepared for New Cottage at Resort”:
“Architects’ plans for the erection of one of the first bungalows to be built at Beachwood, N.J., are being prepared for Dr. E.P. Robinson, of 116 West Thirty-ninth Street, New York. Dr. Robinson, who was one of the first to obtain lots at the new beach resort which the Tribune is establishing, will build a cottage for occupancy throughout the entire year.
“The new cottage will stand back from the beach some little distance and will be artistic in its surroundings. Construction work on the house is contemplated with the coming of warm weather. It is planned to have the cottage ready for occupancy this summer.
“In addition to Dr. Robinson, lots are held at Beachwood by his wife and son.”
We may never know the true events surrounding Dr. Robinson’s lots or his involvement with the Tribune promotional campaign, but what cannot be denied is that the doctor had a very well built, attractive bungalow constructed at the corner of Barnegat Avenue and Beachwood Boulevard, which stands to this day.
On February 11th, the Tribune printed photos of the dining room and train depot under construction. During this time, Watson and the inspectors made several trips to Beachwood. Watson recounted this period and the investigator’s findings in his testimony:
“They were extremely cautious in their expression of conclusions they had reached, but I think I know what their conclusions were from some of the remarks they made. For instance, on one occasion, when we were out to Beachwood, after they had looked over the water front, which was the gold-brick part of Beachwood, and said it was very pretty and they could not see anything wrong about that, when we got into the wild interior of Beachwood, and one of them turned to me – I think it was McQuillan – and said, “We have stuck a man in jail for less than this.”
Inspector McQuillan himself recalled visiting Beachwood and coming upon further evidence of the Tribune salesmen defrauding investors by holding the most desired lots for higher amounts:
“They advertised they had a yacht club and a clubhouse and a small hotel, which they did have – it was a small boathouse; they called it a clubhouse. The part of the grounds they included was where the yacht club was, and the ground there was not for sale at the advertised price, but held out by the promoters at a price 20 or 30 times higher. The part sold to the public was at the rear of the property. In the early part of the investigation we found that very few lots had been sold [on the waterfront] – to not more than four or five people.”
“What we refer to as the water-front property, they cut down the trees and built streets through there by putting gravel over the top soil there. I do not think there was any curbing or guttering at all. The water-front property was developed in good shape for a summer resort… [and] there was an electric wire from Toms River, which runs through the main boulevard, and electric lights on the. water-front property—some incandescent lamps there, [but the area on the opposite side of the rail crossing] was improved merely by cutting down trees—the whole tract is covered with scrub oak—and they had cut this down and had some cheap signs put up, giving the name of the boulevards, etc., only one of which was passable.
“They advertised that the lots were being practically given away as a premium with the paper, to induce new subscriptions; that they were being sold at cost, and in another part of the booklet it said premiums are usually given away at a price away below cost, and that the Tribune was not making any money out of it, and the Tribune was spending thousands and thousands of dollars on this property for the purpose of giving their subscribers a high-class premium, and any person purchasing was entitled to and would receive the best available lot at that time, “First come, first served.” We found that practically all the property except within a half mile, at the most, of the beach, was wild scrub-oak land and sand of practically no value at all. The postmaster at Toms River said it was worth about $6 an acre. It was being sold for $19.60 per lot… [or] three hundred some dollars [an acre]. The tracts between Atlantic City Boulevard and the water they developed. They put a small hotel out there and restaurant, a clubhouse, some small bathing houses, and made a very attractive resort out of that part of it, but, as I before stated, those lots were not given to the ordinary person who subscribed to the paper. Some of the first subscribers received lots 2 ½ miles away from the water – most of them did… They had, I should say, nine-tenths of the waterfront and several thousand lots in the back… I found that the promoter had done precisely the same thing in another development which he handled for a Chicago paper. At this development he sold some twenty-six or twenty-seven thousand lots.”
During these excursions, Watson had a series of photographs made to support his claims that Beachwood was a scam. These photographs, showing buildings under construction, cleared roads, pine forest and the waterfront were accompanied by Watson’s own derisive comments that reflected more opinion than fact. One of these, however, appeared to possibly hit upon some truth in the way the Tribune campaign was being run:
“Next I show you a photograph of the Atlantic City Boulevard which cuts through the short length of this property. That was not built by the Tribune, but was built by the State of New Jersey, and I would like to see somebody that bought lots from the Tribune facing that boulevard, on either side of it. I found none on the record.”
Further, Watson used an official state publication to support his condemnation of the entire Tribune land promotion:
“This whole section is thoroughly notorious for its real estate scandals; so much so that in an official publication gotten out by the State of New Jersey, and reading, “New Jersey State Board of Agriculture; farmlands in New Jersey, their natural characteristics and adaptability to the various farm crops; Trenton, N.J., 1913,” the State of New Jersey went to the extent of saying:
“It may not be amiss to warn intending purchasers against land gamblers, who occasionally advertise “city lots for sale” in “the pines” at prices out of all proportion to the value of the land. For their own protection, prospective buyers had better consult established and reliable authorities for information, and visit the land before purchasing.”
“This is very decent warning on the part of the State of New Jersey, because there are so many of these developments where you see the stakes in the ground to describe what were to have been streets, and you see trees growing up in the “streets” of deserted cities, where people have lost their money.”
Progress at the resort continued. At the end of February, an article was printed in the New York Tribune titled, “Building Plans at Beachwood.”
“During the Washington’s Birthday holidays several hundred holders of Beachwood lots made the trip to the resort to look over their properties and to see the improvements which are being made. The formal opening of the new tract… is set for Memorial Day. Already the finishing touches are being put on the new hotel and other community buildings… Already forty miles [of the overall eighty] have been laid out. The buildings now rising or completed are a hotel, a yacht club and pier, a depot and three rows of bathhouses… With these [first buildings] as a nucleus, it is expected that the spring and summer will see marked activity in building construction.”
Less than three months to opening weekend, a March 2nd Tribune article revealed the origin of the resort’s name:
“The entire beach is reserved for the common use of all residents of Beachwood, and here excellent boating and bathing facilities are to be had. The trees which cover the land grow down to the very edge of the beach, affording that unusual combination of beach and wood which gives the new town its name.”
It was also around this time that the Tribune began to station a representative to greet potential investors and lot owners as they made their way down from New York to see Beachwood for themselves.
An April 9th edition of the New Jersey Courier captured the spirit of the period as well as an accurate look into the future of the area under the headline, “Growing Resort Section in Ocean County”. The issue overall was devoted to the upcoming summer resort season, but this opening article in particular seemed more interested in the growth of the county as a whole in the future years of the Twentieth Century.
““The Courier,” with this issue, makes another boost for Toms River and its vicinity. Whether we know it or not, we have one of the finest locations to be found anywhere. Our climate is equal to any. There is no pleasanter place in summer or in winter on the Atlantic seaboard. The seashore gives us cool breezes in summer and mitigates the cold in winter.
“Nature has done much for this location. It has given us ocean and bay and river; beach and pineland hills; fresh air and sunshine are ours for the taking; the sea and pines make over the air in nature’s great laboratory for our benefit; garden truck and fruit grow here anywhere for anybody; fish and shellfish teem in our bays and ocean – we have all the requisites for health, and for pleasure.
“And yearly other folks are finding it out. More and more they come! Every year, nearly, sees some new development in this region – some new attempt on the part of city dwellers to get out into air and sunshine and enjoy life in the open. These various developments will all grow – some faster and some slower, but each one brings people to this section. Eventually they will build it all up – all the beaches; all the bay shore – into one continuous community – just as Atlantic City and Pleasantville have covered the shore section on the back of Absecon Island.
“Each of these developments adds to the importance of Toms River village as a centre. You can call the roll and hear them respond. Begin with Toms River’s elder children:
Then you can come down to later years:
The last-named, the baby of the bunch, but apparently a lusty and vigorous child. But these will not be all. There will be others. These will all grow, because they have what city dwellers want and must have. If the cities grow, the number of city folks who must get out into the country o’ summers must grow, too. Thus the demand for summer homes on a modest scale, such as are found here, and as are growing in numbers almost daily, must grow also.
“This section is well-located. As the beaches nearer New York fill up, the people must come down this way. It is nearer Philadelphia either by rail or auto than any other waterfront section on the Jersey coast. These facts are worth remembering [as] time is not far distant when the whole water frontage of Ocean County will be taken up for summer homes.”
Later in the same issue, updates were given on the progress of Nickerson and his crew:
“Construction work has also been begun on the water system, which will take care of the needs of the various club buildings, and it is very evident that early spring will see this work, as well as all the community buildings, finished.
“Architecturally all the community buildings show the influence of the latest Southern California bungalow designs, an effect which has made that style of architecture admired and copied all over the country. All the buildings are built with extended eaves, following the old mission idea, and are most attractive in appearance.
“The Community Plan, under which it is said Beachwood will be operated, should insure it a great future, for, instead of allowing a few people to acquire the waterfront, the entire waterfront and beach can be used by any lot owner. The club house is also built for the free use of the owners of the property, and those who have acquired cottage sites not only get their lots but they get a club house, the membership in a yacht club, a bathing beach, and they also get the best of all health restorers, good Barnegat Bay air mixed with the balm of the pine trees.”
This article also inadvertently highlights the origin of the resort’s name:
“Beachwood possesses more than a mile of fine waterfrontage. There is no salt marsh in front of it. On the contrary the trees grow to the beach line.”
Returning, for a moment, to the origin of the bungalow that became so prevalent in the early homes of Beachwood, we can learn of the influences that helped shape what is today a regular design standard among the original homes dotting the streets and avenues of the original northern end of the borough.
The term Bungalow originated in the Bengal region of India, evolving from a native hut, called “bangala”, described as a comfortable abode with high thatched roofs and overhanging eaves, which shaded the single story house. Its name, later anglicized by occupying British troops, grew to become the design response and backlash of the grand, ornate, buttoned up Victorian movement of the late nineteenth century, celebrating a simple five room basic design centered around a main center room and fireplace, with everything constructed of natural materials and natural colors. Interest only grew in the first decades of the Twentieth Century, eventually declaring the bungalow as the ultimate vehicle for artistic self-expression, leading to innumerable variations of design features emphasizing the philosophical and harmonic association to one’s natural surroundings. Expansive porches, French windows and sleeping porches furthered the idea of one’s connection to the outdoors.
It wasn’t long before the California Craftsman Bungalow style became prominent, showcasing a rich mix of that western state’s Mexican and Spanish architectural heritage and that of its cross-Pacific neighbor, the Japanese. Furniture of this craftsman movement reflected a rustic, simple ethic of the style found in western Spanish missions.
The modest size of these dwellings also made them incredibly suited to the summer resort investor coming to the Jersey Shore, and local builders were only too happy to oblige. As a result, the California Bungalow dominated Beachwood from its early resort years all the way up to the end of World War II, encompassing almost all residential structures in the area between the Pennsylvania and Central railroad crossing and the waterfront.
“Beachwood Ready By Memorial Day – Work on Tribune’s Jersey Resort Being Rushed for Formal Opening” stated the April 23rd headline in the Tribune. Its opening line was, “The New York Tribune’s comprehensive promises of development at Beachwood as outlined in its literature are being rapidly fulfilled.”, possibly as a jab at the New York American and the various investigations focused on the land promotion.
Here was captured the final stages of much of the original resort’s construction, as well as many of the common design elements which would exemplify these early buildings:
“The clubhouse… is almost completed. The interior is divided into a number of rooms. The main reception room contains a huge fireplace built of cobbles and large enough to accommodate a cord of wood at a time. A massive oak beam mantelpiece is built into the fireplace, which adds to its general attractiveness. The small candy and soda store, the check room for bundles and clothing and the ladies’ lavatory occupy the remaining space in the interior.
“Wide verandas constructed with rustic posts and railing extend on three sides of the building. The red shingled roof can be seen for quite a distance out on the water and will doubtless guide many a boat to anchorage off the Beachwood Yacht Club.
“The Yacht Club building, which has been under construction for the last two months, is built on heavy piles with cement casings and extends quite a distance out on the water. A well constructed floor of selected material has been provided in the building to provide an excellent dancing floor, and the whole interior will be decorated in approved nautical style.
“The pier in front of the building has been arranged to provide for an excellent landing for the boats of the club, and the huge white painted posts that form the support for the pier can easily be sighted at night. A ship’s lantern will be placed at the far end of the pier.
“On the bathing beach… a plank walk will connect the bathhouse with the beach. The building is decorated in the uniform color scheme adopted for all Beachwood buildings, consisting of light and dark brown stain with cream trimming.
“The Lodge, or Beachwood Hotel, occupies a sightly position in he club grounds and follows he low, graceful lines of the old Spanish style of architecture. The Lodge is built around an inner court, or patio, on which all the rooms open. Trees, shrubs and a fountain will be placed in the centre of this courtyard.
“The thirty-seven rooms in the hotel will be simply and well furnished. Rooms will rent this season for the exceedingly nominal sum of 75 cents for a single person, or $1.25 for two persons occupying a single room for one day.
“The dining room, which is a separate building from the clubhouse, lies directly across the way from it. The building conforms in general lines and style with the other club buildings and provides seating space for 150 persons. The building is well ventilated, and a long row of windows which runs along three sides of the building gives a splendid view to diners and insures a cool breeze.
“The new railroad station at Beachwood… is entirely completed. The red shingled roof, with wide, extended eaves, gives a striking effect to the building. The interior is divided into two rooms, one of which will be used by the New York Tribune as an information bureau. For the accommodation of early visitors desiring to obtain information, the New York Tribune announces that a representative can be found on the grounds every day from this time on, whose sole duty is to look after the wants of Beachwood visitors.
“This representative will meet all incoming trains to Toms River and will wear a Beachwood badge. Between train times he can usually be found in the information office at the station.”
One week later, on April 30th, another advertisement was taken out in the Courier by Nickerson, seeking teams to haul gravel at Beachwood. Within weeks, all construction by the New York Tribune was complete, the majority of all lots were sold out, and Mayo and Nickerson had a complete and smashing success.
But what of Watson, the New York American, the postal inspectors and District Attorney Marshall?
According to testimony, sometime in the spring or summer of 1915, the New York Tribune was tipped off about the ongoing and intense investigation being spearheaded by a reporter from a Hearst newspaper. It immediately retained former United States attorney Henry Wise to defend them. Watson, upon consulting Marshall as to whether he should take the advice of the postal inspectors and make the investigation public in the New York American, was told to wait six months and that any premature publicity could allow the Tribune to “pave the streets and shout that [they] had hustled them too much, that [they] did not give them a chance to carry out their promises.” Nothing would ever be pursued and the issue dissipated until the 1916 hearing on Marshall’s alleged neglect in pursuing such matters. He was acquitted on all charges.
Regarding the Tribune promotion, however, one aspect that Watson and his team inadvertently uncovered was the apparent fact that the salesmen working for the Tribune were either purchasing many waterfront lots for themselves to resell at much higher rates to well-heeled clients or simply boosting the price in back door deals and keeping all but the Tribune’s per-lot payment as commission. Ironically, this greed likely paved the way to Beachwood’s success, as it forced the earliest waterfront residents to largely be well-off upper middle class professionals who could afford to immediately build summer bungalows on their land and jumpstart both the local economy and society by filling the resort’s coffers with contributions that led first to a property owners’ association and, two years later, a drive to break away from Berkeley Township and incorporate as an independent borough, capable of its own governance and improvements.
Had the lots been sold democratically to any investors at the regular rate of $19.60, it’s possible that Beachwood would have either failed or at least not have been able to drum up the perfect storm of financial independence and community spirit to drive it toward becoming both a successful resort and its own municipality. Although a very small amount of investors did wind up building homes south of the railroad crossing, the fact remains that Beachwood was almost totally composed of residences within four blocks of the waterfront until the postwar rise of automobiles and the Garden State Parkway wiped out the passenger railway system and made the more remote areas of the borough accessible by the growing car-owning middle class of Americans.
As predicted by the paper itself, the original buildings constructed for the Tribune under Nickerson’s design and direction have been completely wiped away by the march of time – destroyed either by fire, coastal storm or progress. Lucky for us, however, is that we have photographs of these structures as well as a growing ability to catalog and archive their design features for possible reuse in future borough buildings, either as a wink to the past through their reincorporation in contemporary materials or a complete historic reconstruction, as the Beachwood Historical Alliance seeks to accomplish with the original rail station through the upcoming Ocean County Rail Trail park.
Beachwood would live to be Bertram Mayo’s greatest accomplishment. Where Beachwood has flourished as its own borough, the three previous communities he established either didn’t take hold, were absorbed by a larger municipality or fell into disrepair and are today blighted and crime-ridden. Mayo would attempt one more promotion backed community in 1916: an artists’ colony far into the Pine Barrens at Browns Mills. Although not much is yet known on this project, research indicates that it was not to be: Nickerson, by now semi-retired as a civil engineer and new partner in a bungalow building firm, was living in a handsome family home he built on his own chosen plot of land across from the beach he helped develop in the borough he designed. When asked by Mayo to design his next community, Nickerson agreed but was soon stricken with severe illness in November, which almost certainly impeded his work on the project. Mayo, working out of Philadelphia but still visiting and staying at Beachwood during much of this period, ramped up promotional material that seemed similar to his prior publications. More research has to be done, however, to determine how far either man got on the project and whether it had any degree of success. What is known is that Browns Mills eventually became largely absorbed by the June 1917 creation of Camp Dix, a training and deployment nexus for troops headed off to World War I, later growing and becoming today’s Fort Dix.
Nickerson would continue to live in Beachwood, presumably until the end of his life, the date of which is currently not known. Mayo would not live long to see Beachwood flourish through the years, however. In December 1917, he sold his entire waterfront holdings along with 5,000 southernmost remaining lots to the new borough in December 1917 for their preservation as public land. Two and a half year later, in July 1920, while visiting Asheville, North Carolina, a place he reportedly often sailed down to, Bertram C. Mayo died of pulmonary tuberculosis, which is, according to the New York Times, “a contagious bacterial infection that mainly involves the lungs, but may spread to other organs.” A year later, Mayo’s son and often partner in his land promotions, Geoffrey, arrived to sell off the remaining desirable lots owned by the family between Atlantic City Boulevard and the waterfront.
Mayo’s friends and the benefactors of his work in Beachwood later established the open land along the waterfront above the bluffs as a park for him, permanently cementing his name and life accomplishments in a place for all future borough children and residents to go for relaxation and recreation, ideals reminiscent of the long ago seaside resorts that originally spurred young B.C. Mayo to embark on his lifelong adventure to build a better community. I feel he found it here, in Beachwood.
Although only briefly mentioned here, the bungalows and cottages that followed the construction of the original Tribune club buildings are in majority still present within the borough, with many current-day owners taking higher interest and care in their restoration and appreciation. As a means to benefit both these current owners and the future cultural architecture of the borough, the Beachwood Historical Alliance is beginning to form a photographic and architectural record of these structures for possible future inclusion in an official local registry that would aid homeowners in rediscovering the original design elements and wide ranging possibilities of these attractive homes as well as the financial and social benefits of their restoration and upkeep.