Sewaren in Middlesex County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Boynton Beach Popular Seaside Resort
Sewaren House Hotel
Acker's Boat House
Dance Hall & Carousel
Boynton Beach Pavilion
Erected by Woodbridge Township Historic Preservation Commission.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Entertainment • Parks & Recreational Areas • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1877.
Location. 40° 32.726′ N, 74° 15.284′ W. Marker is in Sewaren, New Jersey, in Middlesex County. Marker is at the intersection of Ferry Street and Cliff Road, on the right when traveling east on Ferry Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Sewaren NJ 07077, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Arthur Kill / Staten Island Sound (within shouting distance of this marker); Cooper-Neuberg House (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Cedar Cliff (approx. 0.2 miles away); Gorham Boynton House (approx. half a mile away); 510 East Avenue (approx. half a mile away); The Second World War Memorial (approx. half a mile away); Lawrence Tennant Ballard (approx. half a mile away); Sewaren Free Public Library (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Sewaren.
Regarding Boynton Beach Popular Seaside Resort. First identified as Pierce’s Landing and occasionally Woodbridge Beach, the stretch of sand on the Arthur Kill in Sewaren was best known as Boynton Beach after one of its founders, Cassimer Whitman Boynton. A localmanufacturer and activist, Boynton purchased a large tract of waterfront land on the Arthur Kill with the intention of turning the property into a beach resort.
In 1877, the Boynton Beach resort opened, featuring a bathing beach with bath houses, picnic grove, pony rides, hot air balloons, shooting gallery, nickelodeon, bowling alley, skee ball, frequent fireworks displays and amusement rides including a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, small rollercoaster, and a bamboo slide. Boynton Beach had a fleet of one hundred row boats and many visitors used the boats to fish, relax, or take advantage of excursions the resort offered.
There was also a dance pavilion called Pierce’s Point which hosted a live orchestra band every Saturday evening. Mr. Boynton staffed the resort’s restaurant with New York City chefs. In addition to the restaurant, there were also snack shops, ice cream shops, hot dog and soda stands. One item missing at Boynton Beach was alcohol. Boynton himself was an ardent teetotaler and based his resort on temperance principles. Subsequently, Boynton Beach was thought as a wholesome, family oriented vacation spot. It was also popular for Sunday school excursions, society conventions, and private parties. Boynton boosted his resort’s popularity by arranging steamboat travel from Bayonne and Elizabethport. Trolleys also made Boynton Beach extremely accessible.
One of the most popular days to visit Boynton Beach was “Salt Water Day.” This day has its origins in local Native American customs. Once a year, Native Americans came to the coast to bathe in the Kill and eat oysters. Usually held in August, Salt Water Days highlighted the summer season and celebrated the original customs by inviting visitors to swim and eat various local shellfish.
The Boynton Beach resort was not the only aspect of the area that drew crowds into Sewaren. Around the same time, Henry Acker opened Acker’s Grove, Boat House and Dock near Boynton Beach. Acker’s Grove and Dock was a popular boating, fishing, and picnic spot for both locals and visitors alike; many Sunday schools held their summer picnics there. Mr. Acker also owned a canning factory in the area which hired local women to process and can locally-grown tomatoes.
Incorporated in 1892, The Sewaren Land and Water Club provided social events for permanent residents. Some of the events included regattas, golf games, card games, banquets, casual parties, and formal balls. In addition, the Land and Water Club held yachting competitions at the Sewaren Motor Boat Club on Smiths Creek.
Boynton Beach became less frequented as a result of easier access to beach areas further south. By 1914, the resort completely shut down. Three years later, a fire destroyed the restaurant and dance pavilion. In 1927, the resort was sold to Shell Oil Company. Acker’s Grove, Boathouse, and Dock continued to operate after Boynton Beach closed but eventually closed and was sold to Royal Petroleum Company in 1924. Even after the refineries were established, people continued to visit parts of the beach that were still public property.
By the 1940s, pollution from the industries made the beach hazardous for swimming. Over the years, medical debris added to the waste in the Arthur Kill. Despite the pollution, many Sewaren residents living on the waterfront renovated their homes to maintain their original splendor. In addition, residents fought the industries to keep pollution in check. In the early 1990s, New York compensated Woodbridge Township as a penalty for the garbage and pollution in the Arthur Kill. With this money, docks and boat landings were renovated. Today, there is a walking path, marina and the Alvin P. Williams Park overlooking the Kill.
The Boynton Beach District includes two non-contiguous areas. The first and principal area is Cliff Road between Woodbridge Avenue and Holton Street, overlooking the Arthur Kill. This area contains a church and 18 houses. A secondary area is West Avenue between Arbor and Brewster Streets, which includes 36 houses and a former church now used as a public library. The separation of the two areas is caused by later or marginal development which occurs between them. With two exceptions, the houses are frame, many of them shingled. Those on Cliff Road and the northern end of West Avenue are substantial, suburban dwellings of the type often associated with shore resorts. The houses at the southern end of West Avenue are smaller, middle-class dwellings. Aside from the fact that the shorefront area is now industrial, there are no intrusions.
At the turn-of-the-century, Boynton Beach was one of the most popular resorts along the Middlesex County coast. An issue of the Central Monthly, c.1900, a promotional publication of the Jersey Central Railroad, is titled, “Boynton Beach, N.J., An Ideal Day Summer Resort,” and depicts vacationers arriving by train, trolley, bicycle, and ferry. According to Ludewig, “The Jersey Central Railroad accommodated excursion parties from New York City and before the time of the railroad large ferry boats docked at the landing unloading crowds of folks who had come to spend the day bathing, fishing or just relaxing under the trees on an all day’s picnic spree.” The same book reproduces a drawing, again c.1900, which depicts all of the houses along Cliff Road. Another illustration pictures the Sewaren House Hotel, built in 1887, now the site of the Shell Oil Refineries. Picnic groves, bath houses, a jetty, dance pavilion, a gently sloping beach and more than 100 rowboats for hire made Boynton Beach popular for decades. All of these facilities have vanished.
The houses along Cliff Road occupied the most fashionable location, and most are built in some variation or modification of the Shingle Style, with eclectic Queen Anne and Colonial Revival elements evident as well. The houses at the northern end of West Avenue are similar but less grandiose, while the houses at the opposite end of that street are modest, working-class dwellings with few high style features.
Although actual intrusions are few, the resort feeling of Boynton Beach has been destroyed by industrialization and pollution. Many of the houses along Cliff Road are poorly maintained and some have lost architectural integrity, largely because of superficial changes. Nevertheless, the district is the only remaining evidence of the once-thriving resort industry along Middlesex coast, and has the largest collection of Shingle Style architecture in the county.
A proposal made some time ago by the Municipal Planning and Development Commission would rehabilitate the area by creation of a marina, beach, and other recreational facilities.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 17, 2022. It was originally submitted on January 14, 2022, by John A. Lande of Woodbridge, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 379 times since then and 33 times this year. Photo 1. submitted on January 14, 2022, by John A. Lande of Woodbridge, New Jersey. • Michael Herrick was the editor who published this page.