God's Square Mile of Health and Happiness
Why I like to spend my time in both Manchester and Ocean Grove
Manchester is my home, but so is Ocean Grove...
Ocean Grove was founded in 1869 as a Methodist Camp Meeting Retreat by Dr. William B. Osborne. The site was chosen for its proximity to the ocean, its high beach, a thick grove of pine, cedar and hickory trees, and the absence of disease carrying mosquitos. In 1869 a charter was obtained from the State, and Elwood H. Stokes was chosen as the first president of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.
The tradition continues nowadays as the 137th Camp Meeting Week was celebrated in August 2006. During this week various religious events are celebrated daily, and usually renowned guest clergy conduct the services.
Ocean Grove maintains the largest assemblage of authentic victorian homes in the nation. In 1976 Ocean Grove was listed in the National Historic Register as a national historic site. Many of the homes are year-round residences and many are used strictly in the summer along with quaint little cottages as vacation retreats.
The most unique residences are the small white tents which surround the Great Auditorium. There are a total of 114 tents which were first occupied in 1870, and many have been passed down from generation to generation. Many of the families spend the entire summer in the tents and return year after year for their vacations. In addition to the above, many hotels and bed and breakfasts are available to accommodate summer visitors.
The most prominent building in Ocean Grove is the Great Auditorium. The Auditorium was built in 1894 and can seat up to 10,000 people. The main focus of the auditorium is the Hope Jones pipe organ, which is used every Sunday during the season for worship services. There are also organ recitals every Wednesday and Saturday by the renowned organist, Gordon Turk, who has been the resident organist at Ocean Grove for over 30 years.
Some of the famous personalities who have preached at the Sunday services over the years include Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, Gypsy Smith and Norman Vincent Peale. A highlight of the Auditorium presentations consists of the entertainment series which are performed every Saturday night during the season.
People come from all over to enjoy the programs, which have included such stars as Johnny Mathis, Tony Orlando, Neal Sedaka, Al Martino, Peter, Paul and Mary, and many others. A major event which has occurred for the past 52 years is the annual choir festival, in which church choirs from all over the Metropolitan area meet together to perform. This is truly an outstanding and unique event.
As a general vacation site, Ocean Grove offers a beautiful family beach which is protected by lifeguards from Memorial Day to the week following Labor Day. The fishing pier offers a unique view of the ocean for those who wish to relax and enjoy the ocean breezes.
On Wednesday evenings, during the summer season, the Ocean Grove Summer Band, under the direction of Harry Eichorn, performs at the pavillion on the boardwalk. One of the most popular activities in Ocean Grove which draws visitors from all over the metropolitan area consists of the two huge flea markets held on the grounds between the Auditorium and the ocean. The flea markets are held on the Saturdays following Memorial Day and Labor Day. Huge throngs of visitors spend the day viewing the hundreds of exhibits and vendors.
All in all, Ocean Grove is truly a unique community. Up until 1980 no wheeled transportation was allowed in the community between midnight Saturday and midnight Sunday. The gates were closed at all entrances to town and no cars or any type of wheeled transportation were visible in the town on Sunday. In 1980 a lawsuit ruled that the tradition created a conflict between church and state, and the gates have been opened on Sundays ever since.