Status: On-going Concern
2/2010: The CAFRA permit approved by DEP last year mandated that the townhouse developer preserve the three historic buildings involved. One will be preserved on-site, while the others will be relocated. The developer has listed one building (the “Port Huron Building”) for sale on the National Trust’s website, and has had out-of-state interest, but has agreed to continue the search for local interest as well. Local preservationists, working with the U.S. Lifesaving Service Heritage Association, have investigated several potential sites for the other building slated for relocation, the “Captain’s House,” including a local park and the site of the Church of the Presidents, another area historic landmark. Thus far, no plans have been finalized.
10/2011: The building that the CAFRA permit mandated be retained on site was significantly damaged by fire earlier this year. The buildings also have not been properly secured for some time, and the site experienced significant damage due to Hurricane Irene. Local advocates are working to press for more appropriate stewardship.
11/2012: The Port Huron Building and the Captain’s House were successfully relocated across the street from the original U.S. Lifesaving Station Site in late 2011. The two buildings have been rehabiiitated into a private owner’s pool caband and guest house. Sadly, the final building, the 1903 boathouse, which was mandated for on-site preservation, had not yet been secured as of Hurricane Sandy, and was completely destroyed by the storm.
What is now the Takanassee Beach Club was originally known as U.S. Life-Saving Station #5. It is a rare survivor from the era of frequent shipwrecks, when sand bars, shallow waters, and winter storms made the waters of New Jersey treacherous to the busy coastwise trade. In 1900 New Jersey contained 42 life-saving stations situated three and a half miles apart between Sandy Hook and Cape May. From September to May their crews patrolled the beaches nightly looking for ships at peril. From this root, the United States Coast Guard grew, but today only a few of the stations survive.
This property still has its three original buildings, and each, only moderately altered, is an architectural gem. The oldest, a handsome stick style building with prominent decorative trusses in each gable, was built in 1878-79 after a model designed for the 1876 Philadelphia centennial exhibition. The second building is shingle style, designed c. 1897 as living quarters for the life-saving crew. The third building from 1903 lies closest to the beach. It is a one-story, shingled boathouse with a tall square lookout tower facing the ocean. All three of the buildings are the only ones in New Jersey. No other location in the United States retains as many original Life-Saving Service buildings.
Deactivated by the Coast Guard in 1928, it subsequently became the Takanassee Beach Club. Today the former U.S. Life-Saving Station #5, is in need of rescue itself. What no northeaster or hurricane accomplished in 135 years, a developer’s bulldozer could soon achieve. The site is under threat of demolition for a proposed townhouse development, although the project is currently on hold pending environmental review. The prospective builder has only offered to move the buildings.
The buildings of Life-Saving Station #5 are irreplaceable survivors of an earlier era “down the shore.” PNJ thinks preserving them at their original sites through some form of adaptive use should be the highest priority, to avoid losing these unique reminders of our maritime heritage.
Assemblyman Sean Kean organized a forum to discuss the future of the Beach Club property. Those interested in the preservation of the property are working with the Assemblyman to try and secure funds from various resources, such as Green Acres, to be able to purchase the property. 10/07 The proposed developer of the property has been granted a second time extension for submitting revised plans to his original proposal of building 21 luxury condos on the site. A CAFRA permit is also currently pending before the DEP.
Mary Lou Strong, Preservation New Jersey
John Weber, Surfrider Foundation, NJ Chapter