A couple of years ago I met a guy online who was working on a book (he is still working on as far as I know) about the rise and fall of the New Jersey shore communities throughout the twentieth century. Through our conversation I mentioned how I grew up in one of the small shore towns, Cliffwood Beach, and we got into talking about the resort destination it apparently once was.
The thought of Cliffwood Beach as a resort community was always beyond me. Through my childhood years there it always seemed to me like just your typical middle-class blue-collar family town. Sure, we had beaches but not many would go swimming in the bay being that it was so polluted. And there really was not much to do down at the beach other than look across at New York or set off illegal fireworks.
But the fact is that throughout the 1950’s Cliffwood Beach was a popular resort community on the NJ shore. It featured a board walk, a saltwater swimming pool, a restaurant, and some amusements. Every summer people throughout the area would gather to enjoy their beautiful summer days at this Raritan Bay community.
This came to an abrupt end in September 1960 when Hurricane Donna came ripping through and pretty much erased the resort area off the map.
I remember hearing stories from family members about the pool and the boardwalk, and the restaurant etc but there was pretty much no trace it ever existed other the stories that were passed down. I had been all over the town as a kid and up and down the length of the beach. Yet still nothing.
Last summer (2008) I decided to go back to my childhood stomping grounds to see if I could find anything that would give me clues to the town’s history as a resort. I really did not see anything other than some old wood from piers (pictured on left) which may or may not have been part of the boardwalk. Still working on determining that.
Despite my best efforts though, I could not determine where the pool was. People I had spoke to told me the general location of where to find it but no dice. A few teens I talked to down at the beach were not much help either.
On a whim I decided to look at some aerial views via Google Earth and almost immediately something jumped out at me – a wooded rectangular area right near the beach. (Highlighted in image to the left – click to enlarge.)
What made this location fitting was it’s proximity to the Green Acres park which apparently was built in the aftermath of the hurricane.
Unfortunately due to being too busy, it has been almost a year, but I FINALLY managed to make a return trip to Cliffwood. I set out right for the rectangular area in the Google Earth aerial and the image to the left is what greeted me. For being so close to the beach it was actually quite grown in with mature growth – trees, plants, etc.
Once I walked up the sandy path a little more to get closer to the overgrown area I immediately saw this aqua-colored outline of what was probably the top edge of the concrete outer wall of the pool. The paint was peeling, but surprisingly intact considering it has been almost 50 years since this pool last saw any use.
Here is a closer view of the top of the wall. As you can see, the color is quite bright and hard not to notice. Once I looked in the right area, the remains of this swimming pool were actually quite easy to find, though I think if you walked by this area regularly you probably would not have any idea unless you were specifically looking for it. The pool itself seems to be completely filled in with soil or sand, and is completely overgrown with vegetation. I am not sure if this was just a natural occurrence or if done by the town to avoid having to deal with it. Either way, it is quite hidden and it was pretty cool to find it.