RED BANK: FORTUNE SETS ‘BASIE 2020’ SKED

william count basie postersImages of William ‘Count’ Basie on display at the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center last week. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

The T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, built to honor a pioneering African-American journalist with Red Bank ties, plans to spotlight the borough-born musical giant William ‘Count’ Basie through 2020.

The occasion is the 85th anniversary of the formation of the Count Basie Orchestra, which is still touring 36 years after its founder’s death.

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RED BANK: COUNCIL WRAP

Mayor Pasquale Menna, seen here at the Town Light-up in November, kicked off his pre-council meetups with little advance notice. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

It was another quick night as the Red Bank council held its second regular session of 2020 Wednesday night.

A light agenda saw the governing body wrap up public business in under 30 minutes before going behind closed doors to discuss litigation and a lease.

Here’s a recap.

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MIDDLETOWN: GEORGE BOWDEN DIES

red bank george bowdenGeorge Bowden, right, with Historic Preservation Commission members Charles Nickerson and Michaela Ferrigine in 2016. Below, Bowden spearheaded the borough’s centennial celebration and parade in 2009.(Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

red bank george bowdenGeorge Bowden, once dubbed “the Energizer bunny” of historic preservation in Red Bank, died at home in Middletown Sunday. He was 92 years old.

Galvanized into action in 2001, after the borough allowed the demolition of an old house on West Front Street, Bowden became a champion for old and neglected structures in town.

Not least of those was the T. Thomas Fortune House, which was resurrected from near-oblivion earlier this year, more than a decade after Bowden and others launched a campaign to save it.

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FAIR HAVEN: PARK OPENS ON OLD HOUSE SITE

fair haven williams albert robards park Local officials lined the shoreline of the Navesink River for the park opening. Below, the house that formerly stood on the site, as seen in 2009. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

fh-williams-backMore than a decade after it began, an effort to turn prime riverfront property in Fair Haven into a park ended with a ribbon-cutting Tuesday evening.

Dubbed “Williams, Albert and Robards Park” for the successive generations of the family that lived there, the site at the northern end of Denormandie Avenue will now serve as a place for “contemplation,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli told several dozen onlookers at a brief ceremony.

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FAIR HAVEN: CLUB LANDS HISTORIC LISTINGS

fair haven shrewsbury sailing yacht 080519The Shrewsbury River Yacht Club began in a one-story houseboat acquired by a group of vacationing actors in 1910. Below, an undated photo from the early days of the Players Boat Club. (Photo above by John T. Ward; below, courtesy of SRYC. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Shrewsbury River Yacht Club undated The bawdy entertainment culture that spawned it is long gone. So is the Red Bank houseboat that served as its first home. Even the name of the river on which it sits has changed.

But the Shrewsbury River Yacht Club, founded by a bunch of vaudevillians vacationing in Fair Haven more than a century ago, lives on. And now, the successor to the club’s original Navesink River gathering spot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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RED BANK: HPC AIMS TO SAVE DOOMED HOUSE

red bank 95 east front st.The Victorian structure, now said to have been built before 1868, is slated for demolition. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njFive months after Red Bank’s planning board approved the demolition of a Victorian house owned by Riverview Medical Center, the borough Historic Preservation  Commission is hoping to save it.

Relying on newly assembled information showing the house at 95 East Front Street was older than previously believed — and may have belonged to descendants of a prominent industrialist — the HPC plans to ask the hospital to turn it into a “medical bed & breakfast.”

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RED BANK: FORTUNE CULTURAL CENTER OPENS

red bank fortune house Dozens of supporters gathered on the front lawn for the opening of the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center. Below, a view of the ceremony from inside the restored house. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

red bank fortune houseMore than a century after the departure of its most famous resident, the T. Thomas Fortune House in Red Bank reopened Thursday as a cultural center dedicated to his mission of advancing civil and human rights.

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RED BANK: FORTUNE ‘MIRACLE’ COMPLETED

red bank nj t. thomas fortune cultural centerThe restored T. Thomas Fortune House on Drs. James Parker Boulevard plans to formally open as a cultural center in May. Below, restoration supervisor Spencer Foxworth and foundation member Robin Blair examine a chandelier to be installed. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

red bank nj t. thomas fortune cultural center

An against-the-odds, decade-long effort to save a Red Bank house that was once the home of a pioneering civil rights journalist has reached its improbable conclusion, people involved in the effort say.

This weekend, local history lovers will get their first-ever chance to tour the T. Thomas Fortune House, a National Historic Register structure that not long ago was about to be razed.

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RED BANK: VICTORIAN IN CROSSHAIRS

red bank 95 east front st.A prominent Victorian structure on East Front Street is on the agenda for the next Red Bank planning board meeting. 

What’s Going On Here? Click ‘read more’ for the answer. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

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MIDDLETOWN: FUNDRAISER FOR BOWDENS

Family and friends have raised more than $12,000 to help two former Red Bank volunteers injured by a fire in their Middletown home earlier this month.

George Bowden, 91, and his wife, Gladys Bowden, 88, were both injured when their condo in the Shadow Lake Village complex in the River Plaza section of the township was heavily damaged by an electrical fire on December 15.

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RED BANK: HISTORIC YACHT LIGHTS UP RIVER

red bank NJ admiral's barge joe ruffini 121518 4red bank admiral bargeRed Bank resident Joe Ruffini’s history-rich yacht, the Naval War College, brought some Christmas sparkle to the Navesink River Saturday night, one night before it was scheduled to participate in a parade of boats on the Shrewsbury River.

The boat parade is slated to run again on Sunday, December 23. Meantime, for the fascinating backstory about Ruffini’s vessel, which has hosted two American presidents, check out this redbankgreen article from 2016. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

RED BANK: FINAL FADEOUT FOR GUITAR PLANT

Now being developed for townhomes, the lot between Catherine and River streets was once home to the Danelectro guitar factory. Below, a Danelectro with the distinctive “coke bottle” headstock. (Photo above by John T. Ward, below courtesy of Lorie Mouklas. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Without fanfare, a half-dozen factory buildings on Red Bank’s West Side were leveled last month, making way for new homes.

Among the structures razed was one that deserves a final flick of the lighter from rock music fans. In the early days of rock ‘n roll, the building at 10 River Street churned out low-priced but distinctive-sounding electric guitars, some of which helped launch the careers of rock superstars such as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page.

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RED BANK: WORDS AND MUSIC IN THE PARK


Five thousand strong, music lovers found a few hours of respite from everyday noise when the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra played an open-air concert in Red Bank’s Marine Park last summer.

This Sunday, the NJSO returns to the park with another free show, where those in attendance will also get a chance to connect to the borough’s history via the written word.

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RED BANK: OLDEST FIRE COMPANY RETIRED

Relief Engine Company retains the second-floor meeting space in its longtime home on Drummond Place. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

[CORRECTIONS: The original version of this post mistakenly identified the Relief Engine Company as the oldest firefighting unit in Red Bank. That honor belongs to the Navesink Hook and Ladder, which was established in 1872, eight years before Relief, which was the town’s second fire company. Additionally, the Drummond Place firehouse is now owned by St. James Church, not the borough, as previously reported.redbankgreen apologizes for the errors.]

By JOHN T. WARD

Making Red Bank history, one of the borough’s six volunteer fire companies is being retired from active duty.

Under a consolidation plan in the works for three years, the Relief Engine Company, stranded for the past two years without a firetruck, will become a keeper of borough firefighting history, Chief Stu Jensen announced Wednesday.

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RED BANK: THREE HONORED FOR LONGEVITY

The Red Bank council and two state legislators honored three people for longevity Wednesday night. Among them: Edith Blake, above, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday.

Blake told redbankgreen she didn’t know what all the “fuss” was about.

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RED BANK: PRESERVATIONISTS CONCERNED

A website posting by the prospective buyer of two Red Bank buildings listed on an inventory of historic properties hints at big changes to come. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank preservationists expressed concern in recent days over the pending sale of two downtown buildings they believe have historic significance.

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RED BANK: NEW HISTORY IN FORTUNE HOUSE

Restoration work on the T. Thomas Fortune house is underway in conjunction with the construction of 31 apartments behind it, where an elevator tower is visible. Below, builder Roger Mumford shows off an original decorative corbel removed from just below the roof line of the house, and, in his left hand, a replica made from mahogany. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

After a decade-long effort to save it from the wrecking ball, Red Bank’s T. Thomas Fortune house is in the midst of a restoration that has served up some additional history.

Part of the Second Empire-style mansion on Drs. James Parker Boulevard may be much older than previously believed, says developer Roger Mumford, who is racing to conserve what he can of the structure even as it crumbles before his eyes.

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