BARNEGAT LIGHT MUSEUM COLLECTION
One of the first additions, as part of the 1880s Barnegat City development plan, was a bayside hotel at the end of Broadway, pictured here in this undated postcard. Built ca. 1883, the hotel was sometimes called the San Souci but was more commonly known as the Sunset Hotel. Its current location would be in the bay, yet at the time the bayshore was about 100 yards northwest.
Big enough for 150 guests, the Sunset Hotel was a popular spot for seasonal fisherman. In this 1920s postcard, automobiles replaced boatloads of tourists from Toms River who used to disembark at a pier adjacent to the hotel. A horse-pulled cart was used to take new arrivals down Broadway and along Fourth Street to other new lodgings.
The anchor of Fourth Street, and the reason why all the cottages were built there, was the Oceanic Hotel. Comprising four floors with accommodations for 200, this ca. 1883 photograph reveals it was initially built upon the very edge of the dunes, leveling them in the process and tempting fate. An attempted oceanside pier, soon lost to heavy seas and never rebuilt, can be seen extending into the Atlantic from nearby Third Street behind the Oceanic. The Hotel was heavily promoted back in Philadelphia and Camden as the centerpiece of the new Barnegat City resort, which existed in marketing materials only. The town still bore no official name, but was commonly referred to as Barnegat Beach at that time to differentiate it from the mainland town of Barnegat. Whereas Atlantic City was promoting the idea of “day trips” via a direct rail link to Philadelphia, Barnegat City’s marketeers had overnight and weeklong stays in mind, appealing toward a different class of tourists.
The southward march of Barnegat Inlet also affected the oceanside shoreline. The ocean slowly advanced on East Fourth Street, beginning soon after the Oceanic Hotel was built dangerously close to it. Less than three years later, in about 1885, the Hotel had to be moved back to the eastern end of the block, as pictured here. Also seen is the Hotel’s former site, then touching the water’s edge.
In its new location at the corner of East Fourth Street and what was planned to be the north-to-south island road known as Central Avenue, or the boulevard, the Oceanic Hotel was upgraded with a wraparound two-story porch, while the newly arrived railroad built a platform for guests in front of the hotel.
Pictured ca. 1920, the Social Hotel on West Fifth Street was a popular stay for the seasonal crowds of duck hunters that came for the area’s famous bird migrations. Built in 1885, the hotel was frequented until the 1950s, after which it was run as a bed and breakfast known as the Inlet of the Breakers. It eventually closed in the late 1980s and was torn down in 1994.
This view of West Fifth Street ca. 1910 exemplifies the duality of turn of the century Barnegat City; the developed was side-by-side with the wild. Viewed near left to far left, a new modern school, Joe Peckworth’s two-story cottage with the town ice house in the rear, and the Social Hotel were still only accessible by meandering sandy paths amidst thick brush.