|Asbury Park Convention Hall|
In 1916, Asbury Park Mayor Clarence E.F. Hetrick hired famed architectural firm McKim, Mead and White to design a convention center for the block just north of the city's Atlantic Square, between 6th and Sunset Avenues. The firm submitted a plan that called for a 5000-seat venue costing $75,000 to construct. However, city founder James A. Bradley owned the block in question, then home to the aging Asbury Park Auditorium, and refused to sell the plot to the city. After Bradley's death in 1921, departnment store scion Arthur Steinbach purchased the Auditorium property from Bradley's estate, demolished the auditorium, and constructed the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel on the plot.
In 1927, after a mysterious fire destroyed the 5th Avenue Arcade just east of Atlantic Square on the Boardwalk, voters passed a bond referendum to construct a new convention center on the plot. Hetrick commissioned architects Warren and Wetmore, who also designed New York City's Grand Central Terminal. The firm's eventual design called for a 1600-seat theatre to occupy the old 5th Avenue Arcade plot. The theatre was connected to an enclosed arcade that covered the boardwalk. This arcade was connected on the east to a 3200-seat convention center, offering 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) of exhibition space. This portion, which would be christened "Convention Hall", extended 215 feet (66 m) over the beach and the waterline, and was supported by steel encased concrete pilings. From the time of its construction until a seawall construction project in the 1970s, visitors to the hall could look directly over the Atlantic Ocean from the hall's easternmost outer walkway. Heat was provided in colder months by a system of underground pipes connected to a city-owned steam plant, located at the southernmost end of the Boardwalk.
|Angels over the vestibule in Convention Hall.|
|Detail of vestibule stairway.|
|In 1934, 251 of the liner Morro Castle's 558 passengers and crew were dead or unaccounted. Note Convention Hall on left.|
Its 16 suites were posh and the 142 cabins were just slightly off that mark. The liner's formal rooms were - to the middle class people that made up the vast percentage of its passengers - designed and furnished with jaw-dropping elegance.
A Renaissance theme dominated one room, Louis XVI another. Rich wood paneling was used throughout, and ceilings overhead were painted with elaborate murals.
Sparkling gold fixtures cast light in a dining room furnished with plush upholstered chairs and linen-draped tables. Food and beverages - abundant and of the highest quality - were served by waiters in starched white coats.
Young, attractive entertainment directors supervised shipboard activities, and an orchestra provided music for dancing.
Because of the competition among cruise ships sailing from New York City, the ticket price for all this luxury in 1934 was as little as $65 per person. But Ward Line's owners could afford to offer low rates. The Morro Castle made most of its profit by carrying cargo and from a federal contract that paid $750,000 for transporting mail to and from Havana, Cuba.
The mail contract brought with it the need for speed, and the ship's architect made sure the Morro Castle could fly, equipping it with two electric engines that could move its bulk through the choppy waters of the Atlantic at 21 knots per hour - almost 24 miles per hour.
In the wake of the Titanic sinking in 1912 and other maritime disasters, the Morro Castle had many safety features, among them a fire detecting system - which unfortunately did not safeguard the ship's public rooms. The ship carried 12 lifeboats and 12 balsa floats with a combined capacity of 816 people. In fact, the Morro Castle was so well-equipped that Marine Engineering magazine considered it the "safest (ship) afloat."
Officially, it was deemed an accident, but many at the time believed it was arson. FBI documents made public in the 1980s now leave little doubt that the fire was deliberately set.
Some historians theorize the Ward Line orchestrated the tragedy to collect insurance money and hired George Rogers, the ship's chief radio operator, to start the blaze. Rogers was capable of such a deed. A psychopath with a criminal record, he was later sent to prison for trying to blow up a Bayonne, N.J. police officer. After his release, he murdered two of his neighbors and was sentenced to life in prison.
|Convention Hall 1940 (who are these people?)|
On June 30, 1956, a concert by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers at the Hall ended, prematurely, when a fistfight in the audience erupted into a full scale riot. Three people were stabbed and then-Mayor Roland J. Hines threatened a city-wide ban on rock and roll performances. The ban never came to pass. In the mid-1960s, promoter Moe Septee started booking rock acts at Convention Hall, including some bands who would go on to achieve legendary status.
Between 1965 and 1975, Septee booked Black Sabbath, The Beach Boys, James Brown, The Byrds, Ray Charles, The Dave Clark Five, The Doors, The J. Geils Band, Herman’s Hermits, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, KISS, The Rolling Stones, The Temptations, Pink Floyd and The Who, among many others.
Led Zeppelin played Convention Hall the evening of August 16, 1969, after their manager, Peter Grant, rejected an invitation to Woodstock. Joe Cocker opened for Led Zeppelin that night, before riding up to Bethel, New York for his opening slot on the festival's third and final (scheduled) day.
The hall was also the setting for one of the last few concerts played by the original Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup on July 13, 1977, before their tour plane's fatal crash on October 20, 1977.
Concerts at Convention Hall continued even after Septee's retirement. In the 1980s and 1990s, acts such as The Allman Brothers Band, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Blue Öyster Cult, Tool, Ted Nugent, King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, The Clash, No Doubt and The Goo Goo Dolls played the hall.
Beginning in the late 1990s Convention Hall gained a strong association with Bruce Springsteen.
The place just emits a unique charm from another time, a time when the bustling Jersey Shore scene drew in families from all over the nation. Walking through the hollowed out structure, you can still feel all that energy. One of the most distinctive and majestic landmarks along the New Jersey shore, located on the boardwalk and on the beach in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Jerry performed here on
7/9/77 Early and late shows Jerry Garcia Band
7/26/80 Early and late shows Jerry Garcia Band
2.)^Kiniry, Laura (2009). Moon New Jersey (2nd ed.). PublicAffairs. p. 137.
3.)^ "S. Harris Ltd. Crack Gague Monitoring", http://www.sharrisltd.com/About/Prof.Act.%20Pages/Crack%20Gauge.html
9.)^Pike, Helen-Chantal (2005). Asbury Park's Glory Days: The Story of an American Resort. Rutgers University Press, pp 54,75.
12.)^ Golden, Peter "Shore Lore: Music Man" New Jersey Monthly February 2008.
14.)^ Wien, Gary; Rothenberg, Debra L. (2003). Beyond The Palace. Trafford Publishing, pg. 15.