Ocean County Government
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Our History

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders established the second oldest commission in New Jersey on October 16, 1968 and the commission organized on January 9, 1969. In more than forty years, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders has appointed 43 members to the nine member (five before 1972 – with two alternates after 2010) volunteer commission to five year rotating terms from representative Ocean County communities and backgrounds.

Part I: The First 30 Years (1969 – 1999)
Part II: The Fourth Decade (2000 – 2009)


The Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission will celebrate its 30th anniversary during the year 1999. The Commission was organized on January 9, 1969 after the Board of Chosen Freeholders established the Commission as an agency of county government on October 16, 1968. An act of the state legislature authorized the counties to form such commissions to promote the history and culture of each of the twenty-one counties. The Ocean County Commission is the second oldest in the state.

The Commission is mandated to develop and promote public interest in local and county history and to advocate excellence and diversity in the arts and humanities. It serves as a central agency to attain high quality of professional commitment through program development and cultural expression through grant support from state and federal agencies and the private sector.

This thirty-year chronological history of the Commission sets forth a record of the efforts accomplished to preserve and publish the history and heritage of Ocean County through published works, including books, slides, brochures, pamphlets and films. The Commission has assisted with the establishment of several local historical societies and museums.

The nurturing of local art groups through funding sources of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts Block Grant Program, administered by the Commission staff, nurtured the arts community. Many artists have produced works depicting local scenes and themes which preserve on canvas native landscapes and seascapes, as well as architect and lifestyle.


The organizational meeting of the Ocean County Heritage Commission was held January 9, 1969 in the Freeholder Board Room. Officers elected were: Pauline S. Miller Chairman, Richard E. Magnell, Vice-Chair, Antoinette Downey, Secretary, Freda Cranmer and John M. Birdsall.
The purpose of the Commission was to

  1. establish a historical museum
  2. present cultural programs
  3. provide exhibitions and displays of Ocean County historical and art objects
  4. promote performing arts
  5. publish historical information and cultural matters
  6. promote archaeological, genealogical and historic research
Its objective was to organize an annual art exhibit and assemble historic items.
The first object the Commission tried to recover was the Seal of the Port of Entry at Tuckerton, which was in the possession of Mrs. Martha Jones in Texas.

By June 1969 plans were initiated for a three-day Arts and Crafts Show. Three divisions of original items were formed:

  1. Fine arts – oil and watercolor
  2. Photographic arts – post cards
  3. Crafts – decoys, ship models, quilts, weaving, candles, Barnegat glass, Van Wickle pottery made in Brick, forges and furnaces of Ocean County.
A banner on an antique car in the Toms River Halloween Parade advertised the show, which was held on November 6, 7 and 8 in the Dover Township Town Hall.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at noon on November 6 with Ocean County Freeholder Director George Makin and Assemblyman Benjamin Mabie and John Brown doing the honors. There were 64 exhibitions with articles valued at $10,780.

The meetings in the first year were held at Chairman Miller’s home in Toms River, at The Olde Cedar Inn in Batsto, or at other restaurants – all Dutch-treat. The June meeting In 1970 was held at the Toms River Yacht Club, where recommendations to the Freeholders were formatted to begin preparation for the National Bicentennial celebration in 1976.

By the end of 1970, the Commission was supporting Ocean County Studio Theater performances given for school children and the Little Egg Harbor Ecology Workshop held in the old Bond Life Saving Station. Discussions to support a drama workshop, the ecology workshop, the Robert J. Miller Airpark and the nature trails also consumed Commission meetings.

The Freeholders provided a budget of $2,000 for opening expenses, but all of the work was done in-kind by the commissioners.

It was decided in 1971 that the Commission would contribute a major portion of its yearly funds to help the Ocean County Historical Society move the Sculthorp House to Hadley Avenue. Antoinette Downey introduced Dr. Lee H. Bristol of Bay Head, head of The Bristol-Myers-Colgate Co., in Elizabeth, who assisted in obtaining a grant from “The Lillia Babbitt Hyde Foundation”. Chairman Miller negotiated the grant request of $5,000, which was awarded for the steel work to support the Sculthorp House when it was moved to its new site on Hadley Avenue. The Commission contributed $1,000 to the Historical Society for purchase of a new furnace for the museum.

At the March 1972 meeting, plans were made to locate, photograph and publish a booklet on Ocean County art and artists. The project commenced with photographer Harlan Conover, who was paid $4 for each photograph. Slides and black and white prints were made of each painting.

The state legislature passed Assembly Bill #2084 to change the name and focus of county heritage commissions by adding the word cultural to the name. A five-member commission was expanded to nine-members to handle the added responsibility.

In 1973, the Cultural & Heritage Commission voted to spend $1,000 to purchase display cases for the Ocean County Museum’s first floor exhibition room and to spend $300 to install a sidewalk and driveway apron. Dividers used at the first art show were also loaned to the museum. The Commission also discussed the possibility of funding to help other historical societies in the county with their special needs.

The 1974 freeholder appropriation was increased to $3,000. Some funds were used to support Shore Ballet Company, Garden State Philharmonic Symphony, Red Oak music theater, Angela Whitehill’s Ballet School and the Ocean County Historical Museum. The Commission considered publishing a booklet on historic sites in Ocean County. to be published in 1976. Activities in 1975 included coordinating artifacts loaned from various museums in the county for an exhibit in the County Administration Building. A few members judged the Senior Citizens’ Art Show and others became consultants to engineering firms requiring historical or cultural resource information for Coastal Area Facility Review (CAFRA) Reports.

Charter member John M. Birdsall died on September 11, 1975. New members were appointed to the Commission caused by the loss of John M. Birdsall, the resignation of Richard E. Magnell who moved to Florida, and the mandated increase in the size of the Commission: Paul Haase, Brick; Wini Smart Diehl, Brick; Mrs. Stanley Dancer, New Egypt; and Raymond Ollwerther, Toms River Bureau Chief of the Asbury Park Press.

The 1976 budget was increased to $10,000, $5,000 of which the freeholders dedicated to the Garden State Philharmonic Symphony. The Commission purchased a facsimile of the 1765 John Lawrence Survey of the shore area, copies of which were presented to the Ocean County Historical Museum, Lacey Museum and the Special Collection at the Rutgers University Library.

The scrapbook started by Antoinette Downey in 1969 was transferred to Raymond Ollwerther who continued recording Commission activities.

In keeping with the philosophy of preserving local heritage through art, the Commission purchased a painting by Rudolph Bing of the “Old Stone Store” in Manahawkin for $100. It was presented to the Stafford Township Historical Society for the grand opening of its museum in the Old Baptist Church in Manahawkin. The Commission also purchased the Wini Smart painting of the “Pennsylvania Salt Works” For $650 and presented it to the freeholders to hang in the Freeholder Board Room. Paul Haase, Wini Smart and Ray Ollwerther were appointed to a committee to assemble a cultural and historical brochure of Ocean County. J.I. Farley Printing Service in Brick printed the first 10,000 copies of “Going Our Way” a guide of historical and cultural interests in Ocean County.

On June 14, 1976, Flag Day, the Commission marked the grave of Enoch Jones, a Revolutionary War soldier in the Gravelly Cemetery in Brick.

Angela Whitehill, who moved to New Hampshire, resigned from the Commission and was replaced by Peryl King of Island Heights. A request was made to the freeholders in June 1976 to furnish the Commission with an office and secretary to facilitate the coordination of activities sponsored by the Commission. In October, the Commission received word from Thomas Kennedy that there were no Comprehensive Employee Training Act (CETA) funds were available to hire personnel.

In November 1976, we had a second printing of 10,000 copies of “Going Our Way”. The Commission also sponsored two performance groups at the Ocean County College, “Ten Crucial Days” and “Ballads for America”.

With the Toms River Seaport Society and the Shore Ballet Company, the Commission co-sponsored the New Jersey Ballet Company in a performance of “Off to the Sea Once More”, a take-off on life at the Jersey Coast.

Chairman Miller was elected the second president of the Association of New Jersey Cultural & Heritage Agencies, comprising sixteen counties. During her tenure, the Association acted strongly to support two “Wiley” Bills, SCR-133 and S1318, which required teaching New Jersey history in public schools as well as the inclusion of methodology courses for certification in teaching history and social studies at the elementary and secondary school level.

Antoinette Downey Mayer resigned as secretary, a post which Ray Ollwerther assumed. Freeholder Hazel Gluck attended the February 14, 1977 meeting, who proposed that the freeholders hire a part-time secretary for the Commission. Chairman Miller presented her personal 100-slide program on Cattus Island to the County Parks Department for orientation on the history of the island during the Cattus years of ownership.

Sidney Rothman of Barnegat Light was appointed to the Commission to fill the vacancy of Richard Magnell.

Inez Killium, secretary to Freeholder Hazel Gluck, became acting secretary at the Commission meeting held in the Freeholder Board Room.

Supplemental grants of $500 each from the Commission were allocated to the Long Beach Island Historical Association, the Youth Orchestra of the Garden State Philharmonic Symphony, the Ocean County Historical Society, the Barnegat Heritage Center and the Ocean County Artists Guild.

In March 1978, Freeholder Hazel Gluck asked the chairman to prepare a job description for an executive director for the Commission with funding through the C.E.T.A. program. The Burlington County Cultural & Heritage Commission director’s job was used as a model to draft a description. Following a search, Kevin McGorty of Tuckerton was hired as the first Director. Barbara Wiley was engaged as Administrative Assistant under the C.E.T.A. Program. The county made an office available to the Commission in the museum at 26 Hadley Avenue, Toms River for $50 a month in rent. Kevin McGorty took command of the Commission operation in the July 1978 and prepared a budget. At long last, the Commission had a staff to carry out their work.

A photo contest of Double Trouble State Park, which had been discussed for a couple of years, bore fruit in September 1978 when the photographs and slides were exhibited at the Ocean County Mall. The first quarterly Municipal Liaison meeting was held in the Freeholder Board Room October 1978. It brought together representatives from 33 municipalities to exchange ideas about historic and cultural affairs. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the New Jersey Historical Commission also were represented and presented their agencies services.

The Commission raised serious objections to the Island Heights proposal to sell the Camp Meeting Grounds and was successful in helping to preserve this historic site.

Sister M. Christina Geis and Alexander Platt were appointed to the Commission. Sister Christina was asked to supervise the creation of a Commission logo to be used on all printed material and stationery. At this time, the Commission began bestowing annual college awards in history, music, art and theater to deserving graduating students at the Ocean County College and Georgian Court College.

In 1979, the Commission initiated its participation in the state/county partnership program with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The program included the administration of a block grant which, in part, was re-granted to local art agencies.

The County Parks & Recreation Department requested that the Commission conduct a historical/architectural survey of the Rockefeller Park/Lake Shenandoah area of Lakewood as part of its Green Acres Grant application.

The Commission nominated the Toms River Maritime Multiple Resource Historic District to the State and National Historic Sites Registers. Plans were begun in 1979 to organize a County Teen Arts Festival in 1980.

In the fall of 1979, the Commission moved to new quarters at 32 Hadley Avenue, Toms River on October 1 and Chairman Miller was appointed the Official Historian of Ocean County by the Board of Freeholders in November.

The freeholders adopted a resolution in January 1980 in support of $40,000 matching grant for a comprehensive county-wide historic sites survey through the State Office of Historic Preservation. Marilyn Kralik and Michael May were hired to compile the survey.

The New Jersey State Arts Council on the Arts approved the Commission’s first block Grant application of $11,500, for county arts organization.

Kathy King was awarded funding to produce a documentary film on the music of the Pinelands.

The name for Shore Heritage was selected for the Commission’s newsletter. The first issue printed in the summer of 1980.

Ruth Sarlo replaced Barbara Wiley as Clerk/Typist for the Commission.

Henry Trustin of Tuckerton was awarded the first Historic Preservation Award for the restoration of his 1698 salt-box house in Tuckerton.

The Princeton Ballet Company and the New Jersey Brass Quartet were engaged to perform at the Strand Theater. Judging fees for the annual Ocean County Artists Guild Art Show at Huddy Park and the Senior Citizens Art Exhibit were included in the Commission’s annual budget as was sponsorship of the Teen Arts Festival held at the Ocean County Mall in April 1980.

Photographs were provided of the shore in Ocean County for national recognition of “The Year of the Coast”, held in North Wildwood.

The Toms River Seaport Society received funding for its Fourth Annual Old Boat Regatta and for the restoration of the A-Cat Lotus. Grants were also awarded to the Long Beach Island Historical Society for a diorama of the Jersey sneakbox, to the Brick Historical Society for a historical marker and to the Barnegat Historical Society for a pictorial history book.

Doris Williamson of Brick was chosen to replace Wini Smart Diehl on the Commission.

Because of inflation and the ensuing 5% budget cap in 1981, all cultural and historical grants were cancelled.

The Commission held their first monthly meeting, in Room 304 in the county Administration Building, in March 1981.

With 700 students attending, the second annual Ocean County Teen Arts Annual Festival was held at Ocean County College.

The historic sites survey was completed in September 1981. The resulting inventory listed 2,188 buildings and five historic districts in a four-volume, 1700 page report, which was presented to the freeholders on November 23, 1981. A slide program of the inventory for school and community use was also assembled. Michael May and Marilyn Kralik were retained to write the program script. The architectural multimedia slide program of Ocean County’s historic sites was premiered at the museum on September 29, 1983.

Each borough and township in the county received a copy of the inventory in its municipality. A copy of the complete four-volume inventory was given to the County library. Susanne Hand, Director of the New Jersey Office of Historic Preservation, commended the Commission for its historic sites inventory.

In January of 1982, the Commission applied for a $12,000 matching grant to the New Jersey Office of Cultural and Environmental Services to conduct a historic boat survey. George Petty of Pine Beach was hired as a consultant to survey and write the history of boats indigenous to Ocean County waters before World War II. A year later, he discussed his methodology and estimated that 130 to 150 boats would be surveyed and registered in his final report. The report was received in the fall.

Kevin McGorty resigned as director on April 13, 1983 to accept a position with the Tallahassee (Florida) Historic Preservation Board. Freeholder/Liaison, John C. Bartlett, Jr., appointed Chairman Miller to fill the vacancy on a part-time basis. Prior to assuming the position on May 1l, 1983, Pauline S. Miller resigned from the Commission. Sister Christina Geis was elected chairman and Alexander Platt, Jr. was elected vice-chairman of the Commission.

Sidney Rothman reported that 1469 high school students participated in the County of Teen Arts Festival. There were 23 workshops and 296 performances. Rothman resigned from the Commission and Ann Taylor of Beach Haven was appointed in his place. Dr. Wilmot F. Oliver was also appointed to the Commission to replace Pauline Miller.

Commission sponsored activities in 1983 included “Planning and Publicizing Cultural Events” a workshop at Georgian Court College on strategies for developing audiences, pricing and selling ticket sales and effectively using the media and writing press releases. The Commission co-sponsored a special concert of the Garden State Philharmonic Symphony and a luncheon to honor former legislators.

When the term of Freda Cranmer, a charter member expired, Paul Cupo was appointed to fill her vacancy.

Peryl King attended a meeting of school superintendents on November 6, 1983 to inform them that the County Teen Arts Festival would have a new chairman in 1984. She made apologies to the superintendents for a letter sent to the schools by the previous Festival Chairman and asked each school to cooperate in choosing its coordinator for the 1984 festival. Paul Cupo was pleased that the festival would stress quality to achieving richer cultural experience for students. Ann Taylor agreed to chair the 1984 festival.

In January 1984, the Commission received a report from the Office of New Jersey Heritage that the Barnegat Historic District nomination to the Historic Register was denied by the State Review Board. Director Miller brought the report up to standard after taking a windshield tour of the district with Cecil Collins and Fred Watts.

Director Miller produced a slide program, Indians of Ocean County: 10,000 B.C. – 1865 A.D. through the Knoll’s Multi Media Studio. The slide program met with such success that the freeholders requested that more slide programs of historical subjects be prepared. The Ocean County Visual Aids Commission agreed to copy the slides for the schools to use as a teaching tool. Double Trouble: A Pine Barrens Preserve and The Disappearing Island: Tucker’s Beach were subsequently produced.

Doris Williamson resigned and was replaced by Marthellen Hoffman of Brick. An awareness project was developed to help art organization and artists market their art works. Ludlow Thorston of Island Heights agreed to present demonstrations and talk about art to local civic groups. A list of local art galleries was assembled for distribution. It was decided to assemble a county-wide inventory of local art works such as the Tiffany windows in the Cassville Methodist Church, the All Saints Episcopal Church in Lakewood and the mansion (Canterbury Tales) at Georgian Court College and the stained glass windows in the Cathedral of the Air at Lakehurst, as well as paintings of schooners and many other items. Audio Visual Productions was engaged to produce an 80-slide program. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA) denied the $5,000 grant to produce this slide program because they considered this a history, not arts project.

Director Miller showed the architectural slide program to the Pinelands Commission in September 1984 and to the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers.

Marilyn Kralik was paid $500 for her services as technical assistant coordinator for the County Teen Arts Festival. Dr. Wilmot F. Oliver served as Chairman and Ann Taylor as co-chairman of the festival.

Antoinette Downey Mayer resigned from the Commission in 1985 and was replaced by Alison Amelchenko of Point Pleasant Beach.

Maretta Baxter of Beachwood was hired to coordinate the County Teen Arts Festival. Joseph Wesley Zeigler, technical assistant consultant for the Arts Conference, was engaged to conduct an art survey of all county agencies. His analysis showed that the county was too large geographically to support a separate arts council and suggested instead that kiosks be placed around the county to distribute an arts calendar of events and other brochures.

Ann Taylor resigned from the Commission to move to Florida. Erma Spiotta of Beach Haven was appointed as her replacement..

The Commission was notified that the thematic nomination of the Barnegat Bay A-Cats boats, included in the old boat survey, had been entered in the New Jersey Historic Places Register on July 9, 1985. They were later placed on the National Historic Places Register, the first historic boats ever to receive such designation. The 1986 Teen Arts Festival was held at Southern Regional High School. Ocean County College announced that it would administer the County Teen Arts Festival in 1987 and place Roberta Krantz, director of the college’s fine arts center, in charge of program planning.

Duane Grembowicz was appointed to fill the vacancy of Dr. Ralph Turp. Al Platt was elected chairman in 1986. The Commission held its first Invitational Art Show at the Ocean County College during July and August 1986.

Roberta Krantz was appointed to the Commission in September 1986 and announced that the next County Teen Arts Festival would be held on April 23, 1987.

Using a technical assistance grant of $3,000, the Commission printed its first Cultural Directory, listing all historical and art related organizations.

Marilyn R. Kralik was hired in January 1987 as our technical assistant coordinator through a grant from the NJSCA. Her duties included compiling the Cultural Directory, organizing the Arts Invitational, writing and administering the FY’88 Block Grant and assisting with the County Teen Arts Festival. She was also responsible for conducting a survey of the cultural needs of minority and ethnic groups in the county. The subsequent survey recorded 66 social groups , but no cultural groups.

With assistance from Peryl King, the director prepared a slide program on The New Jersey Delegates and the Constitution, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the drafting of the United States Constitution.

The “Showcase of the Arts” exhibit at the gallery at the Ocean County College was considered to have been excellent quality.

The Commission conducted technical workshops: “Photographing Fine Art – How It’s Done” and “Why You Matte and Why You Frame”. The purpose was to give county art organizations input on improving their marketing skills . The Commission assisted in promoting the 50th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, by funding and arranging to have a bronze commemorative plaque designed and cast.

Michael Lynch was elected to the Commission in November 1987. In 1988, fourteen high schools participated in the County Teen Arts Festival held at the Ocean County College.

The Tucker’s Beach documentary slide program was completed as well as the “Courthouse Complex” brochure. The “Legal Aid to Artist” seminar was conducted in the Lecture Hall at Ocean County College on November 5.

The Commission celebrated its 20th anniversary on January 9. This was followed by the “Hazard in the Arts” conference, held at the Little Theater of the Arts & Science building at Georgian Court College. In the spring, a day long conference, “Reaping the Benefit”, was conducted aboard the River Lady paddle wheeler. Richard Roddiwig of Chicago, a nationally renowned speaker on historic preservation, presented a rousing lecture as we sailed down the river and bay to the Water’s Edge restaurant for lunch. The afternoon return trip was devoted to local tourism concerns presented by Chamber of Commerce Director Peter Schnell.

We sponsored the concept of bringing the Half Moon, replica of the original 1609 Henry Hudson vessel, to Ocean County. Several meetings were held with other shore historical societies to plan activities for its arrival in the county.

Commission secretary, Dorothy A. Little, requested a transfer to Weights & Measures in December 1989. Kathleen M. Roe replaced her.

The director met with Janet C. Wolf, Project Coordinator of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail, in January of 1990 to chart the route the trail would take from Sandy Hook to Atlantic City. The director announced that the county hired an historic architect to make a Historic Structures Report on the Old Sheriff’s House in preparation for an application to the State Historic Trust for a grant to restore the building.

After becoming a county department on May 1, 1990, the Commission moved from Hadley Avenue to the County Administration Building in December 1990. Prior to restructuring, the Commission had been an agency within the Parks & Recreation Department. The Ocean County Historical Museum was made an agency within the Commission. At this time, the Commission adopted a Constitution and By-Laws.

Rosemary Farley and Charles S. Janiver donated a tract of land to the county, through the efforts of the Commission, which proved to be a highly significant archaeological site containing quartz fragments and flaking debris used in making tools and weapons around 1500 B.C.. It is believed the site was used for mortuary purposes and antedated aboriginal occupation.

Dr. Lorraine Williams, director of the New Jersey State Museum, complimented the Commission for its concern in preserving “what is below ground”. She noted that the Ocean County Commission is the only one in the state that gathers and records data on its county’s pre-historic resources.

The State Division of Parks & Forestry made use of the Commission’s photo’s of Tucker’s Island and other photo’s for the restoration and signage at the Barnegat Lighthouse.

Marilyn Kralik, local arts coordinator, created Culture for Kids, a brochure as a guide parents to activities and sites of interest to children.

Bob Jahn of Mantaloking was hired to photograph local art work for inclusion in Century of Art: 1850-1950, an art book that the Commission was planning to publish.

New Jersey Network news spent several days in the Commission office photographing its collection of pound fishing books, rum-runners, and boatyards for an upcoming television program on the Seabright skiff.

In August 1991, Kathleen Roe resigned as clerk/typist. Dorothy Swenson was hired. Kathi Batsis was appointed to fill Robin McEachern’s position on the Commission in September 1981.

Formal plans for the publication of Century of Art: 1850-1950 was began in September when Alma Offset Co., Inc., of Lawrenceville, received the bid. Jerry Cadenhead, director of the County Printing & Graphics Arts Department and Nancy Creviston, typesetter, complied the layout of the photographs and set the text for Alma Offset to print. The forty-page book contained ninety photographs and biographies of forty-three artists. The bid for 2,000 copies was $18,000.

Director Miller met with Ester Kinsley in January 1992 to review her collection of glass plates of Loveland and its people around the turn of century. This precipitated an in-depth study of people and their lifestyle for a future publication about this little known area in Ocean County, known as Lovelandtown.

John C. Bartlett, Jr., Freeholder liaison, authorized the Commission staff to assemble historical documents from all of the county offices, some of which are consolidating and moving around in the County Complex, due to budget cuts.

In conjunction with a Smithsonian request to conduct a national census of public art works by American artists/sculptures, Freeholder Bartlett authorized the Commission staff to make a survey and inventory artists’ paintings located in Ocean county office buildings and sculptures on county property in May 1992. The project produced an inventory of photographs and data on twenty-four pieces of sculpture and historical markers.

Century of Art: 1850-1950 was received from the printer on June 2, 1992. The T-120 position held by Marilyn R. Kralik, local arts coordinator, was terminated on July 2 due to budget cuts.

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts required the Commission to draft a long range arts development plan involving interaction and input from local community. To comply with this request, a task force of minority representatives was formed to find ways to bring the ethnic cultures into the mainstream of American culture.

On October 14, 1992 representatives from African-American, Hispanic and Eastern Indian constituencies, as well as the Pinelands Cultural Society, met to plan a strategy. The task force recommended that the Commission promote an annual Multi-Ethnic Festival.

The Commission participated in the Ocean County Environmental Conferences at Ocean County College on October 3.

Secretary, Dorothy Swenson, asked for a transfer to another department. Maryann Heater replaced her on November 5.

David T. Miller Sr., of Jackson was appointed to the Commission in September and Bahiyyah Abdullah of Barnegat was appointed in November. For the first time in over a year, all positions on the Commission board were filled.

Freeholder John C. Bartlett, Jr. began talking to Director Pauline S. Miller in April 1993 about looking ahead to the 150th anniversary celebration of Ocean County in the year 2000. He wanted the Cultural & Heritage Commission to coordinate commemorative activities and called for her to write a comprehensive history of Ocean County including the history of each of the county’s thirty-three municipalities.

The Commission held its first Multi-Cultural Festival at the Ocean County College on May 22, 1993. Only county ethnic groups were permitted to participate. It was the Commission’s intention that this would encourage county ethnic groups to become more aware of each other’s native cultures.

Marilyn Kralik resigned her position as local arts coordinator on July 23, 1993 to accept a position as grants administrator at the Ocean County College.

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts awarded FY’94 Block Grant Funding in the amount of $34,633, the exact amount as the FY’93 grant.

Lovelandtown book was presented to the public at a reception at the Point Pleasant Library on August 28, 1993. “Standing-room-only” attendance resulted in flourishing book sales.

Director Pauline S. Miller, received the New Jersey Historical Commission’s annual Richard J. Hughes Award, the highest recognition from the Commission for “outstanding contribution to the study, presentation, popularization and/or preservation of the state’s history”. The award was presented at the State Museum, on December 4, 1993, at the Commission’s Ninth Annual Conference.

Double Trouble, a short book written by Pauline S. Miller about that little known place, was transmitted to the printers in November 1993 in preparation for presentation at a March 4, 1994 workshop at Rutgers University.

Betsy Roberts, who was hired to fill the staff vacancy created when Marilyn Kralik left, and was terminated in 1993. Cynthia H. Smith of Toms River was hired in January 1994 to fill the position.

The director, Pauline S. Miller, began working with the National Park Service and the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry and the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail to assist in the “Master Plan and Interpretive Plan” for Double Trouble State Park and Island Beach State Park. The brainstorming sessions led to the development of significant interpretive themes for development of visitor experience and resource management objectives of the two parks on the heritage trail.

The Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission reached its 25th anniversary in January 1994.

The new grants administrator, Cynthia H. Smith, began coordinating the Multi- Cultural Festival in January 1994 with Commission members overseeing the Performing Arts, the Market Place, Arts & Crafts and Story Telling. The festival was scheduled for May 21st at Ocean County College.

Director, Pauline S. Miller attended a retreat at Morven in Trenton held by the New Jersey Sate Association of County Cultural and Historic Agencies (NJACCHA), to discuss and define the association’s statewide goals and its concerns with the state/ county partnership.

Daily sales were brisk for Lovelandtown which was delivered December l, 1993. Bobbi Krantz reported that the State Teen Arts Festival would not be held in 1994, however, twelve Ocean County high schools would participate in the County Teen Arts Festival at Ocean County College on March 31.

At the February 15, 1994 meeting, Freeholder John C. Bartlett, Jr., made it official that Pauline S. Miller would chair the 150th anniversary celebration of Ocean County and that the Commissioners would act as the official liaison to county-wide organizations in commemorating the county’s history and culture.

Cynthia Smith began compiling information in February 1994 from local artists who wished to be included in the Ocean County Artists Directory.

Double Trouble was presented by Administrator Miller at her workshop at Rutgers University which stirred interest in the restoration of the defunct mill site. Over 150 books were given to attendees.

The Commission office was moved to Room 225 in the County Administration Building in March 1994. About seventy-five department heads, freeholders and county employees attended the Commission’s 25th anniversary punch and cake party on April 21, 1994.

On August 18, 1994, the editorial board, consisting of Sister M. Christina Geis, Marilyn R. Kralik, A. Paul King, John Bailey Lloyd and Cynthia H. Smith, met for the first time to discuss the focus of the new history of Ocean County to be published for the county’s sesquicentennial in the year 2000.

The office received its first computers in the spring of 1994.

The NJSCA awarded Ocean County $24,6000 in Block Grant funds for twenty-one County arts organizations for the 1995 fiscal year.

The Great Sedges book was published in November 1994. By January 24 1995, 500 books had been sold since its release – the Commission’s first “best seller”.

The director read the resolution, adopted by the board of freeholders on September 20, 1994, which delegated to the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission the authority and responsibility to plan, coordinate and carry out all official activities and events relating to Ocean County’s Sesquicentennial Celebration in the year 2000, including the publication of a comprehensive history of Ocean County’s first 150 years. On January 12, 1995, the author of the proposed work, Pauline S. Miller, presented to the editorial board an outline and format of the book’s contents.

In January 1995, the editorial board engaged Kurt Piehler, a Rutgers University history professor, as editorial advisor.

The Commission conducted it third annual Multi-Cultural Festival at Ocean County College in May, and presented historic preservation awards to the 1824 Horner house at 44 Water Street, in Toms River and the Law Center which restored the Glover building on Robbins Street, also in Toms River.

The NJSCA awarded in September, our Commission $25,500 for the FY96 Local Arts Block Grant Program..

Cynthia H. Smith revised the 1993 Ocean County Cultural Directory for an early 1996 publication date.

Summer intern, Catherine Fitzgerald, a junior at the University of Miami, analyzed the freeholder minutes from 1850-1937 and compiled summaries.

The editorial board met six times in 1995 to review the text of the forthcoming comprehensive book on the history of Ocean County being written by Pauline S. Miller. The first part was structured to chronicle 1614-1850. Part II was organized to cover 1850-1950. Part III was arranged to include the county’s growth, censuses and other statistics, as well as county departmental histories.

Staff PCS were upgraded with Word Perfect 6.l in November 1995.

In January 1996, Cynthia completed the first draft of The Story of Health Care in Ocean County.

The 1996 County teen Arts Festival, under the guidance of Bobbi Krantz, was a huge success.

Historic Preservation awards went to the 1702 Pharo house in West Creek and St. John’s Catholic Church, now the Lakehurst Historical Museum.

Cynthia reported that the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission received $25,000 for the FY97 Block Grant Program, the same amount as the previous year.

Tom Carroll, a folklorist, was retained to conduct a survey of folk arts indigenous to Ocean County under a $5,000 NJSCA grant, matched by $5,000 county funds. The report will be confined to the cultures intrinsic to Ocean County, such as the pineys and baymen.

The manuscript ,Ocean County Women in the Legislature: The Struggle for Equality in Representation, by Cynthis H. Smith, was edited by the editorial board in November 1996.

Cynthia and Bobbi Krantz attended an organizational meeting of the Ocean County Performing Arts Consortium on November 18. Its goal is networking and audience development.

The Ocean County Charter and Joel Haywood Founding Father of Ocean County were delivered in April 1997. All county libraries, schools, museum libraries, the State Library and the New Jersey Historical Museum Library in Newark were provided copies as were all county officials and department heads.

Denise Collins, copy editor from Lambertville, was engaged to edit Ocean County: Four Centuries in the Making, the comprehensive history of he county.

The first Sesquicentennial Celebration Committee Meeting was held in the Freeholder Board Room in March 1997 to review proposed events and projects sponsored by county organizations and county officials.

Gene Donatiello was hired in April 1997 as a research assistant, a T-120 position in the department, to continue and complete the summary of the freeholder board minutes and to coordinate community sesquicentennial celebration events. Gene reorganized a historical coloring book to be published in 1999. He also conducted newspaper research on the Ku-Klux-Klan, Prohibition, the nuclear power plant and Ciba-Geigy. This information was incorporated in the manuscript.

The Torrey-Larrabee Store in Lakehurst received a historic preservation award in May 1997.

The Ocean County Performing Arts Consortium printed its first 12-month calendar of events, Ocean County Performs, in June 1997.

Kathi Batsis resigned from the Commission on July 22, 1997. Kevin Pace of Toms River accepted a position on the Commission.

An 1845 portrait of Joel Haywood, founding father of Ocean County, was presented to The freeholders by the great-grandson of Haywood, Peter R. Sebring, on October 15, 1997. It was loaned for five years to Ocean County and will hang in Courthouse No. 1.

M. Peryl King, who resigned from the Commission after serving faithfully for twenty-one years, was honored by the freeholders with a resolution for her years of service. The Commission hosted a small reception for her in the office following the presentation of the resolution.

Two more of the Mini-Heritage Series were published. Polly’s history of Brief Encounter at Osborn Island: The Pulaski Affair, and Three Centuries on Island Beach, both written by Pauline S. Miller.

Alison Amelchenko organized an enthusiastic group of visual arts organizations to form the Ocean County Visual Arts Consortium similar to the Performing Arts Consortium.

Part I of Ocean County: Four Centuries in the Making was transmitted to Alma Offset Printing in Lawrenceville, November 19, 1997 to begin the process of publishing the book.

The Commission purchased an Ocean County artist’s work, a watercolor of the Island Heights Camp Meeting by Ludlow Thorston. It was presented to the new County Prosecutor, E. David Millard, for exhibition in the lobby of the new offices of the County Prosecutor on December 4, 1997.

The editorial board reached a decision on the title of the comprehensive history publication in January 1998. Known as Ocean County: Four Centuries in the Making, it is a 700-page volume covering the period from 1614 to the year 2000.

Gene Donatiello assembled the bibliography.

Linda Starzman, appointed a Commissioner in 1997 and Pauline S. Miller attended the Central Regional Advocacy Forum at the Monmouth Library on January 10 to discuss history task force recommendations to seek a state funding source for New Jersey history.

The Sesquicentennial Celebration Committee, consisting of chambers of commerce, civic and fraternal organizations and all municipal governments met on January 15 to discuss the communities involvement in the celebration of the county’s 150th anniversary.

Gene Donatiello and Polly assembled information for inclusion on the county’s web Site in February 1998. Donna Flynn of the County Public Affairs Department will administer the transmittal on discs.

Bobbi Krantz reported that the visual art works of the Ocean County Teen Arts Festival were hung in the Ocean County College Gallery in March. Sixteen pieces were selected to be included in the State Festival (May 21 at the College of New Jersey), and two pieces were included in the traveling exhibit. The County Festival was held on April 9.

Pauline S. Miller (Polly) was honored by the Old Barrack’s Association at the conference on Women and Historic Preservation, at the Masonic Temple, on March 14, 1998. She was presented with the annual Oliphant Award for “her distinguished service and dedication to Historic Preservation in New Jersey”.

The Havens House Museum in the Herbertsville section of Brick Township and the Giberson House at Main and Dover Streets in Toms River received Historic Preservation awards for restoration of vintage houses.

Cynthia and Polly attended an “authors” book signing at the Barnegat Bay Festival at the Berkeley Island County Park on May 16.

In May, Cynthia, Gene and Polly met with Sarah Moore, who presented new ideas for utilizing county government buildings in “First Night” activities and to kick off the millennium/sesquicentennial year on December 31, 1999.

Polly met with a county electrician to plan lighting for the three-tiered semi-circular brick “planter” at the corner of Hooper Avenue and Washington Street in Toms River for a 150-light display in celebration of the county’s 150th anniversary. With the addition of a county-produced sign, placed behind the planter, the entire area was designed to resemble a giant birthday cake.

From 1999 – 2009, a tremendous amount has been accomplished for the benefit and resource of the cultural and greater community of Ocean County through the efforts of Commission members and staff. A county-wide cultural planning initiative was spearheaded in 2001, resulting in the comprehensive Ocean County Cultural Plan 2002 – 2007. Arts and history re-grant support to Ocean County-based non-profit organizations has allowed our cultural community to grow and continue to offer wonderful and vital visual and performing arts and history programming to the public. A special research initiative titled “START” Building Cultural Participation in New Jersey” , carried out through a grant received from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts enabled the Commission to study and assess cultural participation in the senior adult communities in the northwestern region of the county. Out & About Ocean County, a quarterly publication of arts and heritage containing both articles and event listings taking place in Ocean County, resulted from the 18 month START study and remains in publication.

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The Fourth Decade

The year 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission. At its inception in 1969, the Commission consisted of five allvolunteer county residents charged with encouraging and developing public interest in local history and historic preservation. A few years later, the state legislature passed a bill to add local arts and humanities to the responsibilities of county heritage commissions if individual county freeholder boards chose to. Ocean County’s freeholders accepted this additional responsibility and increased the number of commission seats from five to nine to administer any new programs. Eventually, a parttime director and part-time clerk-typist were hired, which, in time, evolved into full-time jobs. Later, a second professional staff position was added. Besides these three positions, the Commission also provides and supervises personnel for three staff positions assigned to the Ocean County Historical Museum.

Now, in its fortieth year, the Commission looks back on its past ten years, 1999- 2009, as a decade during which services and programs expanded significantly. This growth was due primarily to increases in funding as well as the implementation of a comprehensive county-wide cultural plan developed and administered by the Commission. Changes in personnel, organizational structure, and location of the Commission office have also impacted the Commission in the past decade. While all these changes have had positive results, none came easily or without frustration.

Although personnel have left ─ retired, resigned, or passed away ─ each was replaced, so that the actual number of employees remained static. The size and location of the office has also changed several times ─ downsized twice and relocated twice. The members serving on the Commission has changed somewhat and the number of seats has been increased from nine to eleven. The most recent change, which perhaps is also the most noteworthy, has been the reorganization of the Commission as a division of the Ocean County Department of Parks & Recreation.

Through all these changes, the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission has not only endeavored to serve the public more effectively, but it has also flourished. As 2009 draws to a close, a year in which the federal, state, and local governments throughout the nation have been beset with financial and budgetary crises, the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission continues to provide services, funding, and programs that strive to enhance the cultural life of the people and communities in Ocean County.

Celebrating the County’s Sesquicentennial

The new millennium dawned in 2000 with special significance for Ocean County as it was also 150th anniversary of the county’s founding. The Freeholder Board charged the Cultural & Heritage Commission with the task of organizing a year-long celebration of the county’s sesquicentennial. Included among the activities and events that the Commission sponsored were Charter Day on February 15, celebrated in historic Courtroom No. 1 of the 150 year-old Ocean County Courthouse; publication and presentation of the long-awaited 1,000-page history, Ocean County: Four Centuries in the Making; purchase and display of the 150-year old original portrait of Joel Haywood, the county’s founding father; display of local artist Joyce Lawrence’s commissioned oil painting of the courthouse as it looked in 1909; a coloring book for third and fourth grade students that depicted and described unique historic events or places throughout the county; recognition of centenarian residents who had turned 100 years old by January 1, 2000; themed (“My Town, Then and Now”) poetry and essay contests for sixth- and eighth-grade students; an art show/contest, featuring sites in Ocean County that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the Sesquicentennial Appreciation Gala in November that included the parade of mayors and their municipal flags; and the burial of a time capsule, containing pertinent contemporary artifacts, documents, newspapers, and books, designated for retrieval and opening in 2050, Ocean County’s bicentennial.

A Countywide Prospectus for the Arts and Cultural Heritage

While the Cultural & Heritage Commission was overseeing the sesquicentennial celebration, it embarked on a major two-year project that then became a cultural blueprint in the succeeding years for enhancing the quality of community life, economic development, and revitalization in Ocean County. By garnering $25,000 in support from the county through its annual budget, New Jersey State Council on the Arts grants, and a donation from the Italian American Cultural Society of Ocean County, the Commission was able to engage the services of a professional cultural planning consultant and assemble a diverse task force of seventeen citizens who volunteered to lead and monitor the planning process.

Extensive input was solicited from residents, municipal leaders, arts and cultural heritage organizations, individual artists, the media, tourism representatives, arts educators, business leaders, and teen artists to measure and determine the extent of interest and participation in arts and heritage activities. Input methodology included over 3,300 individual surveys, a summit attended by more than 125 residents, and several focus groups. After gathering and compiling the broad-based input, the Task Force, skillfully chaired by Commission member Linda Starzman, reviewed the findings and selected six key issues on which to build the foundation for the five-year Ocean County Cultural Plan. The plan that emerged was defined by goals, objectives, and strategies that addressed the six key issues and was the principal guideline that the Commission utilized for the next five years (2002-2007).

What the Cultural Plan Spawned

The Cultural Plan generated a number of initiatives that greatly impacted the services and programs that the Commission provided during its fourth decade. These include formation of regional cultural councils to assist in implementing the plan; publication of Out & About Ocean County, a free quarterly news guide to arts and leisure events; studying the impact of the arts and cultural heritage on the economy in the county’s southern region; and sponsorship of a variety of workshops for the arts and heritage constituencies including Volunteer Management, Organizing & Managing Historic Photograph Collections, Accessibility Workshop – Parts I & II, The Dollars & Sense of Historic Preservation, How to Survive in Tough Economic Times, Glomering, The Life Cycle of the Non-Profit, Volunteer Training, Board Training, and How to Write a Grant Application, to name a few.

Collaborative projects, that is projects or events that the Commission jointly sponsored and planned with one or more other organizations, were also produced:

  • After School Arts Education – a collaboration with Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts & Sciences that provided hands-on art experiences for elementary school students in the southern region of Ocean County;
  • Hear Our Stories – a collaboration with Ocean County Library and Ocean County College that generated oral histories about four diverse constituencies in Ocean County (African Americans, Latinos, Russian Americans, and People of the Pines);
  • Senior Art Festival – an ongoing collaboration with the Strand Theater to celebrate the performing and visual arts talents of Ocean County’s seniors;
  • Student Film Festival – an ongoing collaboration with the Ocean County Library that showcases videos written, filmed, and edited by high school and college students from Ocean County;
  • Ocean County Government Employees’ Art Exhibit – another collaboration with the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts & Sciences that featured the original art works of county workers and their families; and
  • Reenactment of the Toms River Blockhouse Fight – a three-year collaboration with the Township of Dover and the Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce that commemorated the 225th anniversary of the American Revolution in Ocean County.
  • Pinelands Heritage Series ─ a series of talks and field trips exploring the culture and history in the pinelands co-sponsored with the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and Tuckerton Seaport.

The Cultural Plan also spawned the Commission’s web site, designed to advance its visibility and enhance accessibility of information and news about local arts and cultural heritage events. Most recently, the quarterly news guide, Out & About Ocean County has been added to the site for online access. Several other Commission publications, as well as grant applications and guidelines, can be downloaded also.

In response to another need cited during the cultural planning process, the Commission organized and assembled the Alliance of Ocean County Historical Societies & Museums. The primary purpose was to facilitate networking among the twenty-eight historical societies and museums based within the county. All societies and museums were invited to attend Alliance meetings, held in rotation at a different museum each time so that participants had the opportunity to tour and learn first-hand about their “sister” museums. The Commission arranged for speakers who discussed a variety of topics. Among these were assessioning and deassessioning, cataloging, archiving, and insurance issues. The Commission also coordinated a purchasing co-op so that societies and museums could opt to buy costly archival storage materials at a discount when ordered jointly in bulk with the other historical groups. This increased contact among the museums, encouraged communication, and promoted exchanging exhibits and loaning artifacts.

To further heighten the historical societies’ public prominence, the Commission developed a special web site exclusively for the local historical societies. Each society was featured on its own web page with descriptive information and photographs. Other general pages of local historical interest were included to attract children to learn about Ocean County history in a lively and challenging way. Site visitors were also provided with links to related sites.

During the last decade the Commission encouraged and assisted in the formation of five new museums: Lakewood Heritage Museum, Waretown Historical Society Little Red School House Museum, Island Heights Cottage Museum, and New Egypt Historical Society Museum. All of Ocean County’s local and themed historical museums play an important role in preserving the county’s rich cultural heritage and history.

The S.T.A.R.T. Initiative

Another major project that the Commission spearheaded in the fourth decade was S.T.A.R.T. Through a grant that the New Jersey State Council on the Arts awarded in 2004, the Commission addressed a barrier, identified in the County Cultural Plan, which inhibited attendance and participation in local arts and cultural events and activities. Research tools used during the planning process ─ surveys, the Summit, and focus groups ─ revealed that there was “a need for enhanced public access to information about the arts and cultural heritage.” The Commission’s S.T.A.R.T. project undertook to focus specifically on creating an impact in two primary areas of participation: broadening and diversifying audiences. Residents had stated emphatically that local cultural ‘information is difficult to access.” To address this issue, the Commission’s Western Cultural Council designed a project that eventually led to the Commission-published Out & About Ocean County, a quarterly news guide of arts and leisure events in the county. First published in January 2005, this popular guide, with an annual circulation of 40,000, replaced the Commission’s quarterly newsletter, Ocean Arts & Heritage (formerly Shore Heritage) and its semi-annual Performing Arts and Visual Arts listings of events. Besides printed copy (in regular and large print), Out & About is also online at the Commission’s web site.


Because a key element to participation in the arts and heritage is communication, the Commission has always sought to provide the public with publications that inform and enlighten. Besides the widely distributed and more recent Out & About news guide and calendar, the Commission has been publishing a wide variety of brochures, pamphlets, and brochures since its inception forty years ago. Many of these, some of which are still updated and reprinted periodically, are noted in the previous section that delineates the Commission’s first thirty years. Since 1999, the Commission has published the following new materials:

  • Ocean County: Four Centuries in the Making – a broad historical overview
  • Ocean Arts & Heritage – an updated version of the newsletter, Shore Heritage
  • Ocean County Galleries – a brochure listing known art galleries
  • The Forgotten Years: From Yorktown to Paris, 1781-1783 – a history monograph
  • Ocean County Government Complex – a brief history of the county seat
  • Ocean County Cultural Plan, 2002-2007 – abridged and unabridged format
  • Out & About Ocean County – a quarterly news guide to arts and leisure events
Many of these publications are also available online at the Commission’s web site where they can be downloaded.


Without grant funding many of the programs and services that the Commission provides, would not be possible. However, if there has been one constant for arts and heritage constituencies in the first thirty years, it was the struggle for funding, and the fourth decade proved to be no different from the first three. When the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA) made funding available in 1989, through its competitive local arts grant program, the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission took advantage of this support. Since 2000, the Commission has been awarded more than $994,686.00 in grant funds from the NJSCA. Ocean County Arts groups have requested over $1,226,602 and $771,750.00 has been granted.

Then, in 2000, when the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) extended its history grant program to include county heritage commissions, the Cultural & Heritage Commission opted to take advantage of this funding support also. Although not as lucrative a grant program as the NJSCA’s , the NJHC program has provided the Commission with a financial opportunity to assist local non-profit historical organizations in the same way that the NJSCA program assists local non-profit arts organizations. Ocean County has been granted $149,294.00 since 1999. Over the past nine years, the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission has regranted over $114,340.00 to organizations requesting over $208.455.00 through this local history funding program.

The Commission applied for and was awarded grants for three consecutive years (1999, 2000, 2001) from the Ocean County Transportation Services Department for an innovative program that transported people with disabilities and seniors to cultural events. Unfortunately the program had to be abandoned when the time and costs required to administer the grant became cumbersome and out-weighed its overall benefits.

There have been some years when the state legislature and governor have severely cut or threatened to eliminate all funding for the arts and history. Some state funding has always been awarded to the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission so that there has never been a year when the well was completely dry. Thankfully, the Commission has had the freeholders’ support to compensate for the years in which state funding has been reduced, thus enabling the award of regrants to local arts and history organizations.

Recognizing Excellence

Since its inception, the Commission has endeavored to recognize excellence in the arts and history locally. Several programs have been established for this important purpose:

  • Annually, awards are given to those who have significantly contributed toward preserving historic properties in Ocean County. The presentation of permanent plaques was initiated in the fourth decade to honor these historic property owners;
  • For academic achievement in the arts and history, two associate degree graduates of Ocean County College and two bachelor degree graduates of Georgian Court University ─ all residents of Ocean County ─ are each recognized each year at commencement with a $500 cash award and certificate.
  • Periodically, the Commission purchases original objet d’art by local county artists. These pieces are permanently displayed in various county-owned facilities, such as the freeholder board room, freeholder offices, the prosecutor’s office, the lobby of the County Administration Building, and the office of the Cultural & Heritage Commission. Several of these pieces were selected for purchase from among those that were included in the Sesquicentennial Historic Sites Art Show/Contest.
  • Annually, over the past thirty years, thousands of Ocean County high school students have participated in the Commission-sponsored Teen Arts Festival. Students are critiqued for excellence in performing, literary, and visual arts and hundreds have represented Ocean County in the New Jersey State Teen Arts Festival held each year in the spring. Since 1987, Bobbi Krantz, a long-standing member of the Commission, has willingly and generously given her time to organize and coordinate this special event. To show its appreciation, the Commission nominated Bobbi for the Governor’s Volunteerism Award for Teen Arts, which she was awarded in May 2004.

Celebrating Local History

The fourth decade was singular for the number of county-wide historical events commemorated. The Commission was involved in planning and organizing most of these: Ocean County Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2000, reopening of restored historic Courtroom No. 1 in 2004, and commemorating the 225th anniversary of the American Revolution, 2001-2007.

Besides the Toms River Blockhouse Fight reenactments and publication of The Forgotten Years, the Commission designed and coordinated the placement of interpretive historical roadside signage in Little Egg Harbor, Barnegat Light, Manahawkin, Cedar Bridge (Barnegat), and Toms River to identify sites where significant incidents had occurred during the Revolutionary War in Ocean County.

In 2007, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved the purchase of Cedar Bridge Tavern in Barnegat, a remarkable colonial structure at the site of the alleged “last battle” of the Revolutionary War. Still intact, the building survived not only this battle, but other man-made scourges, as well as those created by Mother Nature. County ownership was finalized on December 27, 2007, the 225th anniversary of this last battle. Although Ocean County now owns and maintains the building, its former owner still occupies it under a life estate agreement. Eventually, this hidden pinelands gem will be open to the public and serve as a remarkable historical enhancement to the county’s park system. In the meantime, it has been the subject of a number of field trips and lectures for historians and environmentalists interested in colonial and the Revolutionary War history as well as the pinelands.

Cultural Diversity

Along with the continued rapid growth of the county’s population, begun after the Garden State Parkway opened in the mid-1950s, the years between 1999-2009 brought changes in the county’s ethnic composition. During this last decade, the Commission sought programs to celebrate the culture of these underserved communities, as well as other diverse groups, such as African Americans, teenagers, and women.

The Commission sponsored Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre’s performances in September 2005 and again in September 2006 at Ocean County College and GB5, a Latino-influenced musical group in 2007 at Ocean County Library in Lakewood in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. A series of three programs were co-sponsored with the Garden State Philharmonic and the Ocean County Library in 2008, collectively called, “Exploring American Genius.” The first program featured African American composers, the second American women composers, and the third, a multiplicity of ethnic American composers. The Commission also funded a performance by the singing group, Dis Canto, from Italy in March 2006 at the Brick Cultural Center.

During this fourth decade, these programs, as well as the Student Film Festival, the African American Student Art Show, and talks about the contributions of New Jersey and Ocean County women to government, the arts, education, medicine, science, and sports, were all designed to reach out to underserved constituencies.

Changing Faces and Places

Since the Commission’s 30th anniversary in 1999, there have been many changes in the members who serve on the Commission and in the staff administering the Commissions programs and services. In 1999, Maryann Heater, the office secretary for nearly six and a half years, passed away after a short illness. Pat Parsons was hired to replace her but resigned six months later. Millie Scaglione then joined the staff in November 1999 and served as secretary until she retired in June 2005. Kim Fleischer, who had been assigned to the Ocean County Museum for several years until she resigned for family reasons, returned to work as the Commission’s office manager in June 2005.

Until 2003, the Commission was led by Pauline S. Miller, first as Commission chairman and later as director. Since she first took the reins, the county’s population more than doubled from 208,470 in 1970 to over 490,000 in 2000. Her accomplishments, while too numerous to list, impacted historic preservation and the arts in Ocean County for thirty-five years. After Polly retired in October 2002, the Freeholder Board appointed Cynthia Smith, assistant administrator, to become the Commission’s third administrator. She served in that capacity until her retirement in June 2008.

Lindsay Dandeo was hired in November 2003 as program development specialist to fill the vacancy created when Cynthia Smith became administrator. Lindsay was promoted to assistant administrator in 2007. When Cynthia retired, the Freeholder Board named Lindsay acting administrator. She served in that capacity until Timothy Hart was appointed director in January 2009, and the Commission was restructured and made a division of the Department of Parks & Recreation.

Two of the three employees assigned to the Ocean County Museum also left during the fourth decade. As previously noted, Kim Fleischer left county service briefly in 2004 for family reasons and returned a year later to the Commission as its office manager. Donna Malfitano was hired to replace her at the museum as secretary. Barbara Rivolta, museum curator since 1995, resigned in August 2005. Pat Burke was then hired in November to serve in the curator position. The longest continuously employed staff member is Kathy Parente, who is just completing her 25th year of service as museum assistant.

At times during the past decade, volunteers have worked at the Commission office to assist with research and clerical tasks. In the summer of 2002, Amy Buzby, a college history major, researched Cedar Bridge Tavern and helped organize and rebind four volumes of the Ocean County Historic Sites Survey published in 1981. During the summer of 2006, Ana Dill, on loan from the County Connection worked at the Commission office translating into Spanish two of the Commission’s brochures ─ The Shore & More! and Ocean County Galleries. That same summer brought Jenna Castrianni, a high school student, who culled through and organized the newspaper clippings file, labeled file drawers, and typed. In 2007, Katie Cutler, a local artist, volunteered to help update the Ocean County Artists’ Directory. For several weeks during the summer of 2009, Nick Russo, an intern with the Department of Parks & Recreation assisted in updating the Ocean County Cultural Directory.

Six members of the Commission, who were with it as the fourth decade began, are still actively serving as it ends: Bahiyyah Abdullah, Alison Almenchenko, Bobbi Krantz, Duane Grembowicz, Kevin Pace, and Linda Starzman. Others who did serve during this decade but have since left are Andrew Anderson, John Harrington, Patricia Kennedy, Tim Hart (now Commission director), Linda Reddington, and Betsy Rybczynski. Those appointed to fill vacancies during this period, who are still serving, are Joanne Coley, Lori Pepenella, and Sid Taylor.

Not only have the faces of the Commission changed over the years, but so too have been the places where the Commission office was based. In 1999, the Commission was located in four rooms on the second floor of the County Administration Building, In 2001, the office was moved to three smaller rooms on the third floor of that building. Two years later, the office space was downsized again to just two small rooms, forcing the relocation off-site of some research materials and furniture to storage at the Ocean County Historical Society Research Center and the county warehouse. Finally, in the fall of 2006, the Commission moved into a small late-nineteenth century two-story renovated former house at 14 Hooper Avenue in Toms River. Here, at last, the roving Commission was able to put down its roots.

What’s Next?

Now, as the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission approaches its fifth decade, it has begun the process of developing its second cultural plan. This will again require extensive input from the public and a broad-based assessment of current cultural services and programs as well as the identification of emerging needs.

Although the Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission can be proud of its accomplishments in its fourth decade, there have some initiatives that did not succeed, such as increasing staff, saving Good Luck Farm; digitizing local history books (especially those that are out-of-print); cataloging and encouraging outdoor public art; spearheading restoration of the 1851 Sheriff’s House; developing an innovative funding program to transport people with disabilities; seniors, and children to cultural events and activities; and transferring the Commission’s extensive slide and 16mm film collections to DVD format.

While funding persists in challenging the ingenuity of the arts and history organizations to bring innovative and quality programs and events to Ocean County, the Commission will endeavor to “be the primary leader and catalyst in promoting the arts and cultural heritage in Ocean County.”

Cynthia Smith - August 2009

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