At the turn of the twentieth century, Asbury Park competed only with Atlantic City for the title of New Jersey’s premier resort town.
The north side of the boardwalk belonged to the Convention Center. On the south side, bordering the religious community of Ocean Grove, arose several structures designed by New York Beaux-Arts architects Whitney Warren & Charles Wetmore (designers of Grand Central Station) that would define the town’s character: a huge casino and its accompanying arcade boasted an assortment of amusements in its entertainment complex, from rides to concessions to year-round accommodations. Carousel #87 from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company was installed in the ornate Carousel House in 1932 and would run for more than half a century.
But over time Asbury Park declined, and by the 1980s the entertainment district had more or less disintegrated. The buildings were abandoned and left to decay. The famed carousel was bought in 1990 and moved to Family Kingdom Park in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where it now operates with fiberglass replicas of the original wooden horses.
Though stripped of their original glory, the shore town’s structures are still standing as the town mounts a comeback. Along with the carousel house, much of the concrete-and-limestone casino building and the old steam heating plant, skeletal but grand reminders of the area’s former beauty, haunt the end of the boardwalk at 700 Ocean Avenue. Some the casino’s original polished terrazzo and plasterwork are still visible.
The Carousel House, which was recently renovated with new glass, iron gates, and a new roof and cupola, now occasionally serves as a host to local theater groups and bands. To continue Asbury Park’s rich skateboarding history, Red Bull and waterfront developer Madison Marquette have installed a 3½-foot mini bowl and skate park within the carousel, named Forth Union.