Barnegat Lighthouse and the Great Auditorium | Fun Jersey Shore facts

Barnegat Lighthouse Jersey Shore

What Civil War veteran was responsible for building the Barnegat Lighthouse? (photo: Frank Galipo/Asbury Park Press)

DealChicken spends a lot of time flitting round the Jersey Shore in search of the area’s best daily deals. Along the way, he’s managed to unearth some surprising stories. From the Great Auditorium’s big performances to the Barnegat Lighthouse’s ambitious beginnings, the area is full of stories that need to be told! Here is a round up of items even DealChicken didn’t know about until recently.

Asbury Park's developer, James Bradley, was a devout Methodist. He named the town after Bishop Francis Asbury, who helped Methodism flourish in America as he rode on horseback spreading the faith. Bradley bought the land that would become Asbury Park during a visit to the nearby community of Ocean Grove in 1871.

What do Long Beach Island and the Civil War have in common? Brigadier General George G. Meade, who defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the Battle of Gettysburg, was first a government engineer assigned to build a lighthouse at the island's north end. Barnegat Lighthouse no longer functions as a lighthouse, but the tourist attraction is still the United States' second-tallest lighthouse.

Town founder James Bradley applied his religious beliefs to all aspects of his life. That's why early Asbury Park residents were teetotalers. Bradley, who wanted nothing but splendor for Asbury Park, had visions of a bustling seaside resort, with one catch: He didn't want any alcohol. Each deed was sold with the agreement that the sale of liquor would be prohibited. His stance would reportedly make him an enemy of organized crime in the 1920s as mobsters fought against his efforts to keep illegal liquor out of Asbury Park during Prohibition.

Music legend Bruce Springsteen got his start at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park, according to historical accounts about the former club. He met bandmate Clarence Clemons at the Student Prince on Kingley Street. Other locations that the band rocked include the Paramount Theatre and the Fast Lane.

You can't talk about the Jersey Shore without mentioning MTV's "Jersey Shore." The reality show's location, Seaside Heights, opened as a resort in the early 1900s, is on the Barnegat Peninsula north of Seaside Park. A toll bridge linked Seaside Heights with the mainland in 1915. An amusement park in the area would lead the way to other similar parks as Seaside Heights' boardwalk became a popular Jersey Shore beachfront destination. Today it's known as the location of the reality series that made Snooki and The Situation household names.

The town of Red Bank's railroad station has seen many a famous passenger chug through. The station was established in 1875, thanks to businessmen who wanted to run a line from South Amboy to Long Beach. Its maiden run, which went through Red Bank, included President Ulysses Grant among its passengers. Both Theodore Roosevelt, who visited while campaigning for the presidency, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt made stops at the station. So did England's King George and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. Today the renovated building belongs to New Jersey Transit.

Ocean Grove, which started out as a Methodist community along the Jersey Shore, has been known for more than a century for one of its landmarks. The location of the Great Auditorium started out as a site for ministers in 1894. Other auditoriums came along until they were outgrown, and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association built the Great Auditorium in 1894. Its Hope-Jones Co. organ, installed in 1908 when Mark Twain was a member of the board of directors, is still in use today. Performers including John Phillip Sousa, U.S. presidents such as Richard Nixon and speakers including Booker T. Washington have made stops at this Jersey Shore piece of history.

Fort Hancock, located at Sandy Hook, helped keep New York harbor safe for more than 70 years. The fort's namesake is Civil War hero Maj. General Winfield Scott Hancock. The U.S. Army built two gun batteries in 1895 and created Fort Hancock to house soldiers who would man the batteries. The fort's time of service included World Wars I and II. Its last days would be spent housing Nike air defense missiles (not to be confused with Nike air shoes). Today Fort Hancock has a new life under the National Park Service, which oversees its buildings' use.

Red Bank can be seen on various films thanks to one of its sons. Kevin Smith, director of movies “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy” and “Mallrats,” is a native of Red Bank. The city has appeared in movies produced by View Askew, Smith's production company. Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, a store featuring memorabilia related to View Askew movies, is located in Red Bank, where View Askew also has offices.

Another famous resident of Red Bank was William James Basie, known more affectionately by fans as jazz composer Count Basie. It was in Red Bank that Count Basie started learning how to play piano, thanks to his mom paying for lessons. He later quit school and headed to Asbury Park to be part of its music scene.