A Brief History of Brigantine Beach, New Jersey

History

  • The first recorded evaluation of Brigantine was in the logbook of the mate on Henry Hudson’s Ship in 1608. He wrote “This is a very good land to fall in with – a pleasant land to see.” But they never landed on Brigantine Island.
  • The Lenni-Lanape tribe, who summered and fished here, called it Wattamoonica which meant “playground.” In 1610 the first whalers and fishing boats appeared offshore. Some time later pirates including the likes of Captain Kidd were reported to have visited the Island and legend has it that the treasure is buried here. Brigantine Island attracted whalemen and privateers, pirates and patriots, and many shipwrecks.
  • It was during the latter part of the 1800’s that the resort really took a hold. During those years boarding houses sprang up and a train ran from the mainland directly into Brigantine. Part of that old line still exists as part of the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge.
  • A popular past-time for Atlantic City Tourists in the 1890’s was to ride a trolley car through Brigantine. By 1895 over 100,000 people had come over by boat to ride the trolley through Brigantine. Like any place with a long history, Brigantine has seen good times and bad. It boomed in the late 19th century and declined in the early 1900’s. Lack of transportation to the Island, storms, fire and floods were the enemies.
  • In 1917, Mayor Al Smith wrote, “Brigantine has a full fledged City Charter and a history running 150 years, but it is one of the quaintest municipalities on the Atlantic Coast. It is a City of 54 residents, 30 homes, no policemen, no schoolhouse, no street lights, no public water supply, no stores, and no means of communication with the outside world except a small boat which makes daily round trips from Atlantic City with supplies and mail.”
  • Then in 1922, a group of Atlantic City businessmen, realizing the tremendous possibilities, organized the Island Development Company and set out to build a “Complete Community.” In less than 5 years, they built the first bridge to Atlantic City and Route 30 and also started a bus service.
  • Artesian wells and pumping plants brought fresh water. The City Hall, school, and the Brigantine Hotel were built on 14th Street with one mile of boardwalk and a recreation pier out over the ocean. The golf course was established. Property was offered free to any religious group that would build a church and the Catholic Diocese built St. Thomas Church on 8th Street South.
  • In 1925, the Police, Fire, Public Works Departments and Beach Patrol were all established and equipped. The Brigantine Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Republican Club were started in 1926. By 1927, there were 60 children in school and the Brigantine PTA was established. These organizations still exist today.
  • Although, the streets were all laid out and named from approximately 42nd Street to the north end of Brigantine and many of the homes were already built – The Great Depression of 1929 stopped the progress.
  • Then, following World War II, the desire and necessity of housing for the returning servicemen caused another building boom in Brigantine. Since the 1950’s the Island has enjoyed a steady growth with a few minor setbacks.
  • There was some overdevelopment in the late 1980’s and over-decline in the 1990’s. Since the announcement of casinos in Atlantic City and Brigantine’s proximity; and with the addition of the new high rise Brigantine Bridge, Brigantine Beach has benefited from a new era of growth and has continued to change and prosper.
  • It is expected that Brigantine Beach will continue to flourish and grow for years to come and will always be

“An Island You’ll Love For Life!”

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