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Palace Amusements Artifacts

Year Listed:



Asbury Park, Monmouth County


Asbury Park, NJ, USA

Palace Amusements Artifacts

Palace Amusements opened as a carousel house in 1888 and was one of only 400 amusement parks in the U.S. to survive the Great Depression. By 1955, Palace owners undertook a major expansion, adding the Fun House and Bumper Car buildings. The expanded Palace was decorated with original artwork painted on the Lake Avenue, Cookman Avenue, and Kingsley Street walls by designer Worth Thomas. The scenes included people riding bumper cars, the names of the attractions in offbeat scripts, and the neon-lit “Tillie” image. Amusements manager George Cornelius Tilyou, founder of Steeplechase Park at Coney Island, New York, introduced the first fun face logo in 1897, and so successfully integrated the “Steeplechase Face” throughout his park that most other amusement entrepreneurs followed with designs of their own. The Palace face, nicknamed “Tillie” in honor of Tilyou, bears a striking cartoon-like resemblance to the Coney Island promoter. Through the years, Tillie confused on-lookers with a look that was simultaneously amusing and haunting, and which intrigued the knowing and unwary who would explore the area for years to come. Neon also illuminated large wall paintings of the bumper car scenes facing Lake Avenue, as well as metal channel letters installed along the roofline on the Kingsley Street side of the arcade and attached to the walls of the Cookman and Lake Avenue sides. In 2000, Palace Amusements was listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. The Palace ultimately became a target of local property marketing and management firms which claimed that failure to demolish the arcade would undermine the redevelopment of Asbury Park’s waterfront. In a bid to appease city and state officials and preservation activists, the developers, Asbury Partners, agreed to mitigate the demolition of Palace Amusements by removing, storing, and eventually reusing the artifacts in a new building. On April 28, 2004, the City of Asbury Park, along with a representative of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, met to compile a list of historic artifacts designated for preservation. On the list were 26 metal channel letters, two signs, two decorative wooden cutouts, and three large wall murals. Collectively, the list represented some of Asbury Park’s most identifiable and beloved icons. Now, nearly 20 years later, artifacts from the Palace Amusements arcade have not been seen, reused, or returned to public view.  Preservation New Jersey supports Save Tillie Inc. in their efforts to call upon the municipality and current owner to think creatively and be proactive in returning these New Jersey icons to the public.

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