A Brief History of Brick Township – by Gene Donatiello, Town Historian
The early history of Brick Township dates back to the arrival of the saw mill industry, when between 1742 and 1757, settlers were attracted to the virgin woodlands of souther Monmouth County. The saw mill industry was the first of a number of economies that would depend upon the natural resources of this areas. Other economies included the pinewood (charcoal), turpentine and bog iron industries. There were two forges located in what was later to become Brick Township.
In 1808, John Lippencott built an iron forge on the upper Metedeconk River, which was later purchased by Banajah Butcher and Barzilla Burr, and called Butcher’s Forge, then Burr’s Forge. The area around the forge was called Metedeconk, then Burrsville and later Laurelton. The second forge, Bergen Iron Works, further up the south branch of the Metedeconk River in present day Lakewood was run by Joseph W. Brick.
In 1850, when the New Jersey State Legislature created Ocean County from parts of Monmouth and Burlington Counties, they also created Brick Township, naming it after the late Joseph W. Brick who had been its most prominent citizen.
Government grew and changed with the growth of the community. Starting with a committee type government in 1850 with five at-large committeemen, this system served until 1954. From 1954 to 1967, a Committee-Mayor government served the community. In November of 1965, a Charter Commission was formed to study the needs of the community and the type of government which would best serve Brick Township. The Charter Commission recommended that a Mayor-Council Plan B type government be adopted. The question was approved by the voters in November 1966 and took effect July 1967. The new government was made up of an elected mayor who would serve four years and seven elected at-large councilmen. A business administrator would run the day to day affairs of the township. Four autonomous boards were formed: a Planning Board, a Board of Adjustment, a Housing Authority and a Municipal Utilities Authority. From its inception, Brick Township government had been non-partisan but in 1989 a referendum was approved by the voters who elected to change to partisan politics. Public safety had been provided by local constables and the New Jersey State Police. In 1972, the Brick Township Police Department was organized.
For more than one hundred years the Township government never had a home; government meetings were held in homes, churches, places of business and in every section of town – Burrsville, Cedar Bridge, Lakewood, Point Pleasant, West Point Pleasant, Bay Head, Mantoloking, Laurelton, Osbornville and Herbertsville. Then in 1953, a town hall was built on the corners of Cedar Bridge and Moore Roads (Brick Boulevard). The building served as town hall and State Police Headquarters. By the 1970’s, the government had outgrown its space and a new town hall was built on Chambers Bridge Road.
In the 1800’s the people of Brick Township made their living off the land. They were subsistence farmers growing their own food and selling or trading off the surplus. There were a few dairy herds and milk routes. Sam Morris walked his cows every morning from the Maxon Farm on Mantoloking Road down to the meadows on Barnegat Bay. Howard Havens kept a herd of thirty-six cows and ran a milk delivery route in Point Pleasant. The local people fished and hunted the rivers, bay and ocean where there was an abundance of striped bass, perch, herring, crabs and clams along with geese and ducks. The woodlands provided deer, rabbits, pheasant and grouse. There were general stores: George Adams’ store on Mantoloking Road, the Havens Brothers in Burrsville and Sidney Herbert’s store in Herbertsville, a shoe factory and docks for sea-going vessels. In the mid 1800’s it was said that $12 cash could get a family through the winter. By the mid 1800’s a new business had arrived – the Cranberry Industry. There were cranberry bogs in most sections of town: the VanNote, Patterson and Downey families dominated the business. At the turn of the century, Brick Township lead Ocean County in the production of cranberries. The cranberry industry was devastated when the Point Pleasant Canal opened, introducing salt water into the upper Barnegat Bay and Metedeconk River.
The 1900’s brought new economies to the area – the poultry industry was started by the Park and Tilford Poultry Company and continued by Jewish farmers, peaking in the 1950’s. Land developers arrived promoting the area as a resort for swimming, boating, salt water bathing, crabbing, fishing and just getting away. In 1928, the Hudson Dispatch of Union City promoted Cedarwood Park by selling lots 20 feet by 100 feet to be paid off with a weekly subscription. Harris and Company of East Orange developed Mandalay on the Bay. Coast Finance developed Riviera Beach on The Manasquan in 1927. In 1934, the Van Ness Corporation of Newark developed Breton Woods selling a plot 40 feet by 100 feet with an 18 foot by 34 foot cabin starting at $685. Vanard Corporation’s Shore Acres was advertised as “The Venice of the Jersey Shore.” The resort communities were very selective as to who purchased and lived in their community. Cherry Quay’s sales brochure stated “there is no restriction as to how much money is spent on a cottage or cabin, but there is a restriction as to who spends it.” Out on the peninsula, Normandy Beach and Camp Osborn were developed. The area also became popular with gunning and fishing clubs who built lodges on the banks of the Barnegat Bay and the Metedeconk River. Camps for children began to spring up: Camp Eagle started as a religious camp, Camp Burton was for Boy Scouts, Princeton Summer Camp 1909, Camp Freedom, New Jersey Episcopal Choir Camp (NEJECHO) 1907, Camp Metedeconk 1902 and The Cedars run by Saint Edmunds Home for Crippled Children.
Brick Township continued to be a quiet rural-resort area into the 1950’s when the Garden State Parkway opened. Travelers exiting the GSP were soon to discover this was an area where property was inexpensive, taxes were low and they were about an hour drive from their jobs. Land development again dominated the economy. Over the next fifty years, major residential and commerical development took place along with the services needed for a growing population. In the 1950’s a three bedroom home in Birchwood Park sold for $7,190. There was Arrowhead Park, Lake Riviera and two other large communities. Earlier developments were beginning to grow again. Many of the summer homes were converted to year-round dwellings. On the peninsula, South Mantoloking, Mantoloking Shores and Curtis Point were being developed. Ground breaking for Brick Hospital took place on July 4, 1982. Adult communities were constructed with Greenbriar being the first and largest. Brick Plaza and the first supermarkets were built on an old cranberry bog that once belonged to Alanzo and Ella Van Note.
The days of farming are gone as well as the traveling peddler and the general store. There are no mills, dairy herds, one-room schools or sandy roads. No longer are library books kept in private homes such as before the Friends of the Brick Library opened a library building in 1965. A new Brick Township has been built upon the past one made up of single family homes, apartment and condominium developments, retirement villages and business and commercial complexes.