Let’s take the wayback machine to the era following the Civil War. Leisure was on the rise. So was travel to seaside locations such as Asbury Park. Once at the beach, visitors looked for boardwalk entertainment. Enter the Tilyou brothers.
Born 10 years apart, the pair was taking their father’s ground-breaking Coney Island restaurant and bathing pavilion and parlaying that location into a world-famous amusements brand throughout the Northeast.
The exuberant promoter and devilish ride inventor was the heavily mustachioed George. There was no ride too thrilling he wouldn’t consider. Mechanical horses? Check! The Human Roulette Wheel? Check! The Barrel of Love? Check!
The Tilyou brothers enclosed their boardwalk rides and charged an entrance fee. They called their ballyhoo Steeplechase Park. To make it easier for patrons to find them, George looked no further than his square-jawed, clean-shaven business partner. The smiling brother, Edward, was the growing empire’s manager and treasurer. Now he was “the funny face”. With a toothsome grin, red lips, blue tie nestled in a crisp white collar and neatly parted hair with waved tips, the look became iconic. It appeared on entrance signs, posters, billboards, even punch cards bought by the most frequent of amusements riders.
Tilyou went on to ink deals to launch the Steeplechase brand of amusements at other travel destinations in the greater New York City area. Just a year before he died, George signed a contract to bring the famed brand to Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park.
Following WWII, new business owners moved the enterprise to a new address and with a new name, Palace Amusements. The boxy, green seafoam building on Cookman Avenue and Kingsley Street embraced the original merry-go-round overlooking Wesley Lake. On its exterior walls, a painted Tillie Asbury Park [product link] became the grinning funny face of a new fun place. It remained until 2004 when a new life of leisure emerged in the new century. Now the iconic face has become synonymous with Asbury Park Souvenirs, and lives on.
To read more from award-winning author and regional historian Helen-Chantal Pike, please visit www.HelenPike.com.
Tillie Asbury Park, 2004. Lewis Bloom, Photographer
Palace Amusements Tillie Faces Asbury Park, NJ. Joe Bittabip, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons