Local Author Uncovers Lakehurst’s Unusual Past
LAKEHURST – Former Lakehurst resident and Manchester Township High School alumni Eric San Juan’s new book, Lakehurst: Barrens, Blimps & Barons, uncovers the quirky, offbeat history of this small Pine Barrens town.
On the surface Lakehurst and Manchester seem like sleepy Pine Barrens towns, but they have a fascinating past filled with iron forges, railroad barons, luxurious resorts, military innovations, and more.
San Juan went to Lakehurst Elementary School and graduated from Manchester Township High School. Spending his formative years in town, he knew the famous story of the Hindenburg disaster. That sparked his interest in local history. What he didn’t know at the time was that the Hindenburg was only the tip of the iceberg.
“In doing research and interviews for this book, I found great stories to tell about chemical warfare testing on the base, about luxurious resorts like the Pine Tree Inn, and about how Lakehurst was almost a center for political power at the Jersey Shore. It got me excited to keep digging and keep writing,” San Juan said.
Formerly known as the Village of Manchester, Lakehurst’s story begins in the days prior to the American Revolution, when tiny bog iron villages sprang up throughout the Pine Barrens. One of them was in present day Lakehurst.
Those furnaces and forges, according to Barrens, Blimps & Barons, planted the seeds that would grow into a town that would one day be considered for the county seat. Lakehurst was also the focal point for a once thriving railroad network in central New Jersey.
According to the author, a large portion of the book was fueled by interviews with longtime Lakehurst residents. The two local historical societies – the Lakehurst Historical Society and the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society – also proved invaluable, since both organizations had already spent years researching and collecting data, artifacts, and more.
The book doesn’t ignore the Hindenburg disaster – an entire chapter is spent on it – but the author said just as much time is spent on airship history, the story of the railroads in Lakehurst, anecdotes and day-in-the-life stories from longtime residents, and even some ghost stories.
According to San Juan, the idea behind the book is to inform and entertain, but also to inspire people to explore the history of the place they live.
“If the book inspires people to visit and support the Lakehurst Historical Society and the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, putting it together will have been worthwhile,” San Juan said. “And if people just read it and enjoy it for what it is? Well, that’s great, too.”
San Juan is also the author of Stuff Every Husband Should Know (Quirk Books 2011) and coauthor of A Year of Hitchcock: 52 Weeks with the Master of Suspense (Scarecrow Press 2009) and Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture (Quick Books 2011).
Lakehurst: Barrens, Blimps & Barons is available at www.amazon.com. For more information, visit www.ericsanjuan.com or write to email@example.com.