Bradley Beach is a beach resort town with a year round population of about 5,000 people and over 25,000 summer visitors and residents. It is located south of Ocean Grove and north of Avon, and is separated from both towns by lakes.
After the American Civil War ended in 1865, the religious retreat was founded in Ocean Grove. Methodists from New York and northern New Jersey were drawn to Ocean Grove and spent summers enjoying the cool ocean breezes, far from the hot cities of home. Two of the visitors were James A. Bradley, a wealthy Manhattan brush manufacturer, and William B. Bradner, a rich business man from Newark. Both men saw the potential in ocean front property that lay south of Ocean Grove across Fletcher Lake. The land was mostly pine forests and sand dunes, but both Bradley and Bradner bought many acres of land in what would become Bradley Beach. James Bradley explored north of Ocean Grove and started buying property in what would become Asbury Park. In the 1870s, only Ocean Grove was starting to develop. The two business men laid out building lots and designed future streets because they both knew that this property would become popular with summer visitors, but they thought it would be a religious retreat like Ocean Grove.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the railroads were bringing summer visitors to Bradley Beach because business people were building hotels to receive guests. There were several large hotels that would send carriages to the train station to pick up their guests. Businesses were starting to flourish and trolleys were running up and down Main Street, from Long Branch south to Belmar. Some visitors were buying houses in which to spend the summer months. Single family houses were being built at a rapid rate. James Bradley donated some of his property for the Methodist, Catholic and Episcopal churches as well as for the school and library.
In the summer of 1929, Bradley Beach was the first town in New Jersey and in the entire United States to issue beach badges. They were metal and had the year engraved on each one. The badges were issued free to residents and guests of the hotels. Others, wanting to use the public beaches, were charged a fee for a bath house. That was the only way outsiders were allowed on the beach. Today, everyone pays to get on the beach. Season badges are $70.00 and daily badges are $7.00.
To learn more about Bradley beach tourism, events and accommodations visit the Bradley Beach Chamber of Commerce.
To discover all that’s happening on the Jersey Shore, visit the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors website.
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