IN THE LATE morning of February 13, 2012 a devastating fire swept through the eastern-most section of West End, New Jersey. Businesses, homes and several pets fell prey to the flames.
The buildings on the north/east side of Brighton Avenue were destroyed in what could be the city’s largest fire since the pier burnt down in 1987. No one was harmed, but many have been left homeless. American Red Cross South Jersey Region Director of Community Relations, Laura Steinmetz said eleven families were displaced.The Red Cross provided emergency assistance, food, clothing and replacement of necessary prescription medications on the scene. A statement from the Red Cross said that “donations for disaster relief services can be made by contacting the Jersey Coast Chapter, www.jerseycoast-redcross.org.”
The Long Branch Chamber of Commerce has implemented a plan to help the families that were affected. A release issued by the Chamber on February 14 stated, “People who wish to donate gift cards, checks or cash can drop them off at Central Jersey Bank on Second Avenue in Long Branch, marked to the attention of Carol Feldman.”
Household items can be dropped off at the West End Fire House on Second Avenue between 2 pm and 5 pm. Local businesses are also providing assistance.
One of the families left homeless is a grandmother and her two year-old grandchild.Disposable diapers and baby clothes would be welcome donations.
In addition to the homes and business lost in this disastrous fire, a bit of history went up on flames as well.
One of the buildings destroyed was an original A&P Grocery Store built during the company’s expansion from 1910 to 1920, in the Art-Deco Style. The store’s white stucco exterior and roofline with a keyhole pediment were West End landmarks for the last century. An A&P had not been in business in that location for many years, but many residents still remember it as a the place to buy Eight O’ Clock brand coffee and Jane Parker baked goods.
West End itself is a place of many memories and an abundance of history. Located at the eastern-most section of town, it was named for its counterpart in England called Brighton. The resort of Brighton, in the west end of England, has a similar topography. It is built on a bluff overlooking the sea. Because of this similarity, the streets in the West End section of Long Branch all have names of places in England such as Brighton, Chelsea and Bath Avenues.
In the Golden Age of the late nineteenth century, West End was a social mecca for business tycoons, entertainers and politicians.Phil Daly’s Pennsylvania Club was the most lavish and counted among its clientele George Pullman, Jay Gould and President Ulysses S. Grant. The gambling casino was located on the south side of Brighton Avenue and extended from Second Avenue to Ocean Avenue.
On Grant’s first summer visit to Long Branch in 1867, he stayed in the Stetson Hotel on Brighton Avenue.
During the 1970s, West End became known as the Haight/Ashbury of the east coast. Coffee houses, head shops and music stores dotted the area with names like the Turntable, the Inkwell, Kosmic Kitchen and Mother’s Antiques. Of course, there was a surf shop. The West End Park was a gathering place for hippies and aspiring Bob Dylans.
Through the years West End has seen many changes, but one thing that was never altered is its glorious location, sitting on a bluff overlooking the ocean. And like the ocean it sits upon, West End will restore itself and once again glisten in the sun.
- TRT Almanac