New Jersey shore towns are often named after beaches, bays, capes, and seas. Others, such as Lavalette, have a more interesting history behind them.
Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial summer opening of the Jersey Shore.
The trip from North Jersey down the Garden State Parkway is a rite of passage for toddlers on family vacation, teenagers on prom weekend, and seniors on group tours.
On “The Parkway,” exit numbers mean more than town names. Destination digits are often posted on SUV windows alongside visual descriptions of shore-bound families in proclamations of Jersey Pride.
Often, Jersey Shore towns were created specifically as bastions for bathing tourists. As a result, their founders preferred to play it safe in the name game.
There are obvious references to bays, capes, seas, beaches and fancy boats – yeah, you, Brigantine. Still, there are a few standout town names on the way to Exit 0 — Cape May if you don’t know — that could use an explanation.
Deal (Monmouth County, Exit 102)
New Jersey has an answer to the age-old question, “Deal or no deal?”
Deal is a Monmouth County town named for an English carpenter from Kent County, England, specifically the Deale section of Kent.
The carpenter, a man named Thomas Whyte, was among many English settlers from the 1660s. Whyte owned 500 acres near Shrewsbury that eventually grew to become the Borough of Deal. The name became official on March 7, 1898, when the state legislature approved the borough’s split from Ocean Township.
The zip ranked immediately behind 10036 in New York City, a six to eight-block wide strip that stretches from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum to 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan and encompasses Times Square.
Mantoloking (Ocean County, Exit 98)
Mantoloking started as a strip of beach bought by Frederick Downer of the American Fire Insurance Company of New York and his lawyer partner Frank Hall around 1875. Two companies, the Seashore Land and Seashore Improvement companies, subsequently formed to develop the resort town.
Downer selected the community’s enchanting moniker from Lenni Lenape terminology. Donald W. Becker in his book, “Indian Places in New Jersey,” said Mantoloking translates to “frog ground,” with a secondary meaning of “sand place.”
Home to only about 300 people, Mantoloking’s north end was developed after World War II – after the railroad through town had been abandoned and removed. The most recent census bureau estimates pin the median price tag of a Mantoloking home at upwards of $2 million, tying Alpine in Bergen County as the highest in New Jersey.
Brick (Ocean County, Exit 89)
Incorporated in 1850, Brick Township gets its name from Joseph Brick, the owner of the Bergen Iron Works. Originally known as Washington Furnace, the works on the Metedeconk River took advantage of a easily obtainable resource in bog iron.
“Opponents argued that the present name has an old tradition, that businessmen and official bodies would face expensive stationery changes if the referendum passed, and that the local high school made the present name known throughout the state,” the report continued.
Lavallette (Ocean County, Exit 82)
An exactingly planned waterfront resort town covering about one square mile on the Barnegat Peninsula, Lavallette was named for Elie Augustus Frederick La Vallette.
La Vallette was one of the first rear admirals appointed to the U.S. Navy after President Abraham Lincoln created the rank in July 1862. The naval officer was also the father of Albert T. Lavallette, head of the land development company that planned the proposed community “Lavallette City, By the Sea” in 1878.
The town holds two miniature golf courses, a non-commercial boardwalk along its oceanfront, and about 1,800 residents – among them actor Joe Pesci. Pesci’s cream-colored bay house on Pershing Boulevard stands out as strikingly modern among a cluster of more classically-styled beach homes.
Ship Bottom (Ocean County, Exit 63)
Known as the “Gateway to Long Beach Island,” the Borough of Ship Bottom gets its name from a shipwreck in March 1817. The accident left just one survivor, a young woman who was rescued from the hull of the overturned schooner by an ax-wielding boat captain.
The boundaries were unofficially established when Captain Wesley Truex built a home there to manage the lifesaving station that served as the town’s only business between 1872 and 1898.
Avalon (Cape May County, Exit 13)
Formerly known as part of Seven Mile Beach, Avalon Borough was incorporated in 1892, expanded in 1910 and contracted in 1941 when portions were annexed by Stone Harbor.
Avalon started as a cattle ranch. For about a century, it was owned and operated by the Leaming family, which purchased the island in 1722.
After Seven Mile Beach Company took over in 1887, Avalon’s transformation began. The remaining juniper forests were clear cut and the dunes were flatted to allow for the infiltration of the railroad and the explosion of lodging and leisure.