Asbury Park

All about the City by the Sea

About Asbury Park

The small seaside city about an hour south of New York City is undergoing a transformation into a popular, even trendy destination. Asbury Park’s hard fall almost exactly 100 years after its founding was precipitous and its recovery not inevitable.

Founded in 1871 by brush manufacturer James A. Bradley, named after Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury, Asbury Park was popular from the onset. In the 1920s construction of the Paramount Theatre, Convention Hall, the Casino Arena and Carousel House in the Beaux Arts style by the builder of Grand Central Terminal Whitney Warren cemented Asbury Park as a destination.

John Philip Sousa of marching band fame and musician Arthur Pryor played the Asbury Park boardwalk. Jazz and blues greats like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, and Ella Fitzgerald played clubs on the Westside.

July 4, 1970 riots broke out along Springwood Avenue, west of the Central Business District, which lead to residential and tourist flight.

In 1973 local musician Bruce Springsteen released his debut album “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ” and the city’s love affair with the Boss was sealed. Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny, the E Street Band, and Patti Smith (1978 hit “Because the Night” co-written w/ Bruce Spring) all have long ties to Asbury Park.

In spite of several failed attempts to revive development in Asbury Park coupled with local government graft and mismanagement, the gay community was drawn to this rough, beautiful patch on the Shore. The LGBTQ+ community bought and restored many of the neglected Victorian homes sparking a rebirth that continues to this day.

In 1998 record producer, remixer, and songwriter Shep Pettibone, bought the Empress Hotel and opened the gay nightclub Paradise still a magnet for the LGBTQ+ community.

In 2004 Palace Amusements, site of many amusement park summer memories, was demolished having sat vacant since 1988. An attempt to save the building failed but succeeded in salvaging the beloved Tillie mural. Tillie, also known as the Asbury Park Clown, was crated for safekeeping and has since become the iconic symbol of Asbury Park. Read about the history of Tillie in our article

The Asbury Park you see today is a patchwork of stories, of locals whose families settled here before the riots and those who came afterwards in waves. We are a conglomerate of artists, musicians, and small business owners, of people looking for funky, for fun, for freedom. Asbury Park is an urban, often gritty creative Mayberry RFD with the fortune of being on the beach just a little over an hour south of New York City.

Empress Hotel

The Empress Hotel is a popular landmark that opened as a luxury resort for vacationing families in the 1960s. It now houses Paradise Nightclub.

Asbury Park Carousel

The Carousel Building, though sadly missing its merry-go-round and carved horses, remains a popular Asbury Park icon. It remains an architectural gem.

Howard Johnson's

Even though Howard Johnson's closed years ago the building was salvaged and now houses the Tim McCloone's and Ronbinson's Ale House.

Take it all in on the

AP Boardwalk

From unique shops, tasty bites, thriving music scenes, art and nightlife, to family fun, there is something for everyone in Asbury Park! See you on the boards.

Asbury Park Notables

Stephen Crane writer of The Red Badge of Courage (1895) was raised in Asbury Park.

In 1916 Asbury Park was the summer headquarters for Woodrow Wilson’s re-election campaign.

Myrna Loy of The Thin Man (1934) movie fame, lived in a penthouse at the Santander.

September 8, 1934, the SS Morro Castle caught fire and burned just yards offshore from Convention Hall. The breached ship was briefly a tourist attraction.

1943 the New York Yankees held spring training in Asbury Park as part of a conservation effort during WWII. Also during this time many soldiers were housed in the Berkley Carteret Hotel as part of the war effort.

Walter Reade, the prestigious nation-wide movie theater developer, opened six movie theaters in Asbury Park, holding the premiere of David Lean’s 1957 “The Bridge over the River Kwai” in Asbury Park.

Playing the Garden State Arts Center in 1968, a year before her death, Judy Garland and husband Sid Luft skipped out on their bill at the Berkeley Carteret Hotel.

Stardust Memories was filmed in Asbury Park, Belmar, Deal, Hoboken, Neptune City, and Ocean Grove in 1979.

Blondie’s album Eat to the Beat was taped in Convention Hall, 1979.

Johnny Cash (and investors) bought the Berkley Carteret Hotel in 1983, keeping a suite of rooms there until 1992

Debbie Gibson’s 1987 hit “Only In My Dreams” video was filmed in Asbury Park with notable footage of the original Carousel complete with horses.

The Sopranos Season 2, Episode 13 “Funhouse” (Tony Soprano’s food poison-induced talking fish dream) filmed on the Asbury Park boardwalk, 2000.

City by the Sea starring Robert De Niro and James Franco was filmed in Asbury Park, 2002.

Danny DeVito was raised in Asbury Park.

Jack Nicholson raised in Neptune City (almost Asbury Park).

Wendy Williams was born in Ocean Township, a suburb of Asbury Park.

Nicole Atkins from Neptune City is (almost) a townie.