Ocean Beach has been a vacation destination for more than 66 years. Generations of families grew up coming here each summer for a week, maybe two, to play on the wide beaches and in the clean ocean. It is hard to imagine that at one time the area that now contains more than 2,000 cottages, was once covered with dunes and inhabited only by mosquitoes, shore birds and the occasional fisherman. All that changed when two enterprising young men decided to follow their dream…
It was 1946, and what was then a desolate, brush-filled tract of land just north of Lavallette was purchased by Fred Pearl and his partner, Edward Patnaude—two laundry deliverymen who, over the next 20 years, turned this tract and several others into a vacation paradise. Later, they named this paradise "Ocean Beach."
Their idea was to build beach houses for working-class families, those who could not afford to buy in affluent towns like Mantoloking and Bay Head. They began by building basic one- and two-bedroom cottages that cost $2,095 and were merely four walls and a roof with no paneling or insulation—even the hot water heater was optional.
The construction pace was fast and furious, with about one house going up every two days. Sales were transacted casually; Pearl worked out of what he called his “mobile” office — which was actually the trunk of his car. Each business day, he set up shop by pounding a wooden sign into the ground along the highway that read, “Houses for Sale.” At that time, all that was required to secure your own place in the sand was a $10 deposit and a handshake. The very first sale contract was signed on July 20, 1946, and still exists; it can be viewed at the Ocean Beach Sales / Ocean Beach Rental Agency web site.
It didn't take long for people to find and fall in love with Ocean Beach. The success of Unit I prompted the developers to buy another parcel of land in 1948, and a third, the largest at 75 acres, in 1951.
With the opening of the Garden State Parkway in 1955, sales and rentals went through the roof. To meet the demand, 1,000 houses were erected from the ocean front to the man-made lagoons along West Bayview Drive, and Unit III was born.
Despite being around for more than six decades, Ocean Beach has changed very little. You can still walk shoeless down the sand streets in Unit III, and watch the sunset from the Unit II clubhouse at the end of Harbor Drive.
Surprisingly, there still exists one cottage in its original state. It sits on Route 35 North between East Shore and East Surf, in the shadows of the many two-story homes that have popped up though out Unit I. The yellow siding, small windows and open porch are a quaint reminder of the old days.