Category Archives: Exploring Historic Atlantic County

Day Two Hundred and Forty-One Exploring the Somers Point, NJ-A Local Journey: Visiting the historical sites of this unique Jersey shore town June 25th, 2022

I took time out of my walking project in Manhattan after finishing the Chelsea neighborhoods, walking the 13-mile Broadway walk for the sixth time and preparing to do “The Great Saunter” on my own next week to go ‘down the shore’ as we say in New Jersey (it’s never ‘Down to the Shore”, that takes too long).

I had never been to Somers Point, NJ before. It is a small waterfront community across the bay from Ocean City, NJ, which is a popular resort and recreation town. Somers Point is low key with wonderful restaurants and bars, a popular waterfront and beaches on The Great Egg Harbor Bay and beautiful little turn of the century beach homes and a town steeped in history. I read about three historical spots on Shore Drive in the heart of the Historic District and had wanted to visit them.

Somers Point, NJ by The Great Egg Harbor Bay on Shore Avenue by the Somers Mansion

There was also a traditional ‘Jersey Shore” seafood restaurant named “Smitty’s Clam Bar (The Clam Bar at Smith’s Cove as it is known officially) that I had read about in the magazine “Edible New Jersey” back in 2019 and had wanted to try it. It had been on my “to do/to eat” list for three years but COVID closed the place and it just opened back up a few weeks ago. So there was some things that I wanted to do and see at this quaint Jersey shore town.

Smitty’s Clam Bar at 910 Bay Avenue

https://www.facebook.com/smittysclambar/

I had to plan this visit like I was going abroad as the historical societies were only open a certain hours and were not going to stay open past those times. This on top of the fact that schools were just letting out for the summer and the chance of getting to the shore with no traffic on the Garden State Parkway would be next to impossible after this weekend. So off we went at 8:00am to get to Somers Point by 10:00am. It really was two hours with traffic (of course) especially when you go past the Newark exits. The airport exits still do create traffic jams all over the highway even if you are in the fast lane.

We managed to get to Somers Point by 10:30am and the traffic out to the town was minimal. Most of the traffic was going over the bridge to Ocean City, NJ with its popular boardwalk. It was nice turning off to the quaint bay side town of Somers Point, NJ. The nice part was all the destinations that we would be going to were within three blocks from one another and the main road back to the Parkway.

The three historical sites that I wanted to visit were the Somers Point Historical Society, which specializes in the history of the town, the Atlantic County Historical Society, which specializes in the history of the entire County of Atlantic, NJ and the Somers Family Mansion. For a late lunch, we would be eating at Smitty’s Clam Bar on the bay which I had read about in an article in “Edible New Jersey” so I was looking forward to dinner there.

The three historical sites did not take much time to see even with a guided tour. Each took about an hour and we were able to see all three with plenty of time to tour the historical district of the town and the shore line. The area around the bay was pretty compact.

Our first stop was Somers Point Historical Society at 745 Shore Road (See TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This small historical society was founded in 1987 as a result of the “Save Old City Hall” campaign and helped establish the historic district with the State of New Jersey. The building was originally a Baptist Church that was built in 1886 and was the town library before it became the historical society.

The Somers Point Historical Society at 745 Shore Road

http://www.somerspointhistory.org/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/239626702903267/

The Somers Point Historical Society is a pleasant little museum that features the history of the town. The Society is concentrated in the main room of the old church with displays on all sides.

The Somers Point Historical Society displays are in one large room

There is a display on its nautical past with shipbuilding and fishing industries, the region’s retail past with a trolley system that used to run around the shoreline to Atlantic City, and town historical display of the Somers family, the founding family of the town and relics from the USS Somers, named after Commandant Richard Somers.

Commandant Richard Somers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Somers

http://www.richardsomers.org/

The memorial to Commandant Richard Somers and the USS Somers

Items the museum features on Shipbuilding and Fishing

Each display gives a glimpse of the town and how it has changed from primarily a community of nautical businesses to a year-round community of tourism and recreation. Once the Garden State Parkway was constructed, it opened all these small towns by the shore to the entire state and changing the population growth.

The museum even showed the changes in transportation to the community with an old trolley system that used to travel up and down the shore for things like shopping and entertainment. It is amazing that almost fifty years since they got rid of the trolley system, they saw how useful it was and energy efficient.

The ‘Christmas shopping at the shore’ display

When talking with the volunteers at the museum what is nice is that they co-sponsor all sorts of special events like lectures and movie nights with the Ocean City Historical Museum. Their next event is showing the film “High Society” with Grace Kelly, a frequent visitor of Ocean City with her family.

The Somers Point Historical Society is filled with all sorts of artifacts of the town and really brings Somers Point to light. The only problem with the museum is that it is open very limited hours so plan your trip accordingly.

The next site that we drove to be the Atlantic Count Historical Museum at 907 Shore Drive, whose mission is to present the story of the entire county’s history. They have an extensive collection of objects from before the founding of the County (even before the State was founded) until today.

The library at the Society is used by people checking out their family’s genealogy and background with the help of the librarian and the history of the town. They have an extensive collection of records of Somers Point in the library.

The Atlantic County Historical Society at 907 Shore Drive

https://www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org/

https://www.facebook.com/AtlanticCountyHistoricalSociety/

Most of the exhibitions are in the lower level of the museum where our tour guide, Sid, took us around and showed us the different displays. I have to say that each display is somewhat overloaded with historical objects that needed a clearer definition. Each one represented a room in a home over a period of time, but the artifacts were from different eras with some from the 1880’s to others being from the 1920’s and 30’s. They were very interesting but just needed less on display.

The Living Room had multiple items as way of entertainment with musical instruments and things like radios and phonographs. The furniture came from both the 1890’s with classic Victorian looks and 1920’s furniture that was in fashion of the day.

The Dining Room was set from the 1920’s but would have been at home in the 1930’s or 50’s as well as formal entertainment was the highest form of flattery and it was the job of the host to show off their best crystal, china and silver to their guests.

For recreation, there were all sorts of board games, puzzles and other amusements that adults and teens would have played over the years. They also had an extensive toy section with dolls, dollhouses, clothing and objects to prepare children for their roles in life.

Children’s playthings changed during the Victorian age to about the 1930’s

The bedroom and manner of dress changed as well, and the Atlantic County Historical Society has an extensive collection of clothing both men’s and women’s that includes coats, hats, gloves and shoes. Even in the bedroom display, you can see how the roles started to change during the Industrial Revolution.

The Bedroom display had all sorts of items needed to make living more comfortable including quilts, chamber pots and basins. There was even a bedwarmer, but these items were no longer part of the household as fireplaces and then steam heat came into the home.

Even the local industries of Shipbuilding and Fishing came into play in the displays both in the lower level and the upper level with the advent of tourism and modern swimming, sunning and dining at the shore.

Shipbuilding and Fishing were big industries in Somers Point

An early rolling chair from the Boardwalk in Atlantic City with amusement advertisements to show the modern-day leisure with the five-day work week.

The upstairs even had a complete office to former Senator Frank “Hap” Farley who helped open up the State of New Jersey to tourism with the opening of the Garden State Parkway.

Senator Frank “Hap” Farley

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_S._Farley

The recreation of Senator Farley’s office on the third floor of the museum

After our tour, Sid gave us the history of the museum and how they were making changes with the museum displays and the programing they were planning in the future. There is a lot to see and do at the museum but take your time to wonder around the museum on your own.

Our last stop on the tour of historical sites was the Somers Mansion, the home of the Somers family from the 1700’s to the 1930’s.

The Somers Mansion at 1000 Shore Avenue

https://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/historic/somersmansion.html

The family mansion was lived in by five generations of the Somers family and the house had been added onto over the years. The home was built between 1720 and 1726 and was lived until the last family members moved out in 1937. The home was deeded to the Atlantic County Historical Society in 1937 by the last two family members living in the house (Somers Mansion NJ Park.com).

It became a NJ State Park site in 1941 and the home was stripped back down to its original look from the 1700’s (it had a more Victorian look with all the additions over the years). Inside the home, the mansion has been brought back to the late 1700’s to early 1800’s.

Inside I hate to admit there was not much to look at nor could you take pictures inside the home. There was some period furniture both upstairs and downstairs and there was a china cabinet that held some of the family china that was donated to the house as well. In fact, all that was left from the family that the tour guide told us was the china, a bedwarmer, and a few pieces of furniture.

The “Keeping” or “Everything” room was on the first floor with a giant hearth for cooking and heat and where all the housework would have been done and the back part of the main room was for dining. You have to climb with a rope banister (not the safest thing) to the upstairs where there was a bedroom with a fireplace and a smaller room in the back with a spinning wheel and crib for a baby. There was not much to see in the house. The tour guide did not seem too interested in telling us the history or any stories of the house, so we made our way outside to see the replanted gardens.

The local Garden Club of Somers Point planted a recreation of the old kitchen garden with fruits and vegetable that would have been used in the colonial kitchen.

The recreated ‘Kitchen Garden’ of the Somers Mansion

The Kitchen Garden was planted for the summer season and all the things that the family would have served on their table for the main meal were planted in the backyard. The garden club did a nice job keeping the grounds and the gardens looking nice. The inside of the house needed a lot of work along with a curator to design all the objects inside to look like a period home.

After the tour of the three sites, we took a driving tour of the historical part of the town, driving all the side streets between Bay and Shore Roads. There were a lot of homes big and small that dotted the streets all in different conditions. You could see that a lot of the homes were built at the turn of the last century.

https://www.livingplaces.com/NJ/Atlantic_County/Somers_Point_City/Bay_Front_Historic_District.html

Having some time before our late lunch at Smitty’s, I got nostalgic, and we stopped at the local Dairy Queen at 501 Shore Road for a snack. I had not been at a Dairy Queen in years, and I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a Banana Split which is my favorite thing at Dairy Queen. Yes, the price had gone up over the years and the little yellow plastic container that they used to serve it in is no longer part of it, it still tasted the same as it had in 1972 and that is what I loved about it. My aunt had the Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream and we just sat outside at the tables and talked about the visits.

The Dairy Queen at 501 Shore Drive

https://www.dairyqueen.com/en-us/locations/nj/somers-point/501-shore-rd/5581/

https://www.facebook.com/DQ17135/

The irony was that when we got back in the car and still had what I thought was an hour and a half before dinner, I found out that Smitty’s was open the whole time. The Internet was wrong about the times, and they opened at 11:30am during the summer months. I thought they opened at 4:30pm. So, I had no appetite for dinner.

At first, we could not find the place because there is no sign that says “Smitty’s Clam Bar”. It is actually named “The Clam Bar at Smith Marina” at 910 Bay Avenue. “Smitty’s” is a nickname the locals have given it over the years. I had just read and the people at all the historical sites confirmed that they just lost their lease, and the marina has been sold so this will be their last season operating. So, I was glad we visited when we did.

‘Smitty’s Clam Bar” The Clam Bar at Smith Marina at 910 Bay Avenue

https://www.facebook.com/smittysclambar/

“Smitty’s” is one of those classic Jersey shore restaurants that has never changed since its opening except for the prices. You go there for deep-fried everything and I got a kick out of the waitress when my aunt asked her what she recommended and she said, “Oh, the Salmon with the Miso sauce and fresh vegetables is really good.” I looked at her like she was nuts. When I said that we came down for the fried fish she gave us more time with the menu.

The lunch specials at “Smitty’s”. There was no Salmon with Miso Sauce here.

I ended up ordering the New England Clam Chowder ($3.95) which was thick and rich and loaded with clams and touched off with cream. The reviewers were right about it, and it lived up to its reputation. What didn’t live up to the restaurant was its prices. The entrees were all $3.00-$5.00 more than the menu posted online and that really surprised me. Thank God I brought enough cash because they are still a ‘cash only’ restaurant.

This was the reason why I saw so many people on the outside counter sharing meals. Most of them probably did not have enough cash. In the era of COVID and people not even accepting cash as payment, I could not believe that the restaurant still had this archaic form of payment.

The counter on the outside of the The Clam Bar

Since I had just downed a banana split a half hour before lunch, I just shared some of the fried shrimp and French fries that my aunt was having ($14.99 at the restaurant/$9.99 online) and then we shared a piece of the Key Lime Pie ($4.99). I have to say that their Key Lime Pie also lived up to its reputation. It was rich and sweet, and you could taste the tartness in each bite. It really was the best way to end the meal.

The Fried Shrimp with French Fries and Cole Slaw at Smitty’s

After lunch was finished, we walked around the Marina for a bit. It really looked like a place on Martha’s Vineyard or even some of the places I knew on Long Beach Island that I had seen in previous late summer days. I can imagine that it will be going upscale as soon as its sold and the classic look will be gone.

Smith Marina where The Clam Bar is located. How much will this change in the future?

(*Note to all readers: Smitty’s just signed a contract with the marina and will be open in the summer of 2023)

We drove down Bay Avenue after lunch and stopped by the small beach where the last of the swimmers were finishing up for the day. I have to say one thing. Somers Point, New Jersey is a really charming town.

As we headed out of town on Shore Avenue passing all the sites we had visited in the morning, I wondered how many people in town appreciate all the little ‘gems’ located right at their doorsteps. For those of you who have not visited, it is a nice day out.

This is why I love the Jersey shore!

Places to Eat:

Dairy Queen

501 Shore Drive

Somers Point, NJ 08244

(609) 927-4835

https://www.dairyqueen.com/en-us/locations/nj/somers-point/501-shore-rd/5581/

https://www.facebook.com/DQ17135/

Open Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Friday-Saturday 12:00pm-10:30pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46825-d4719572-Reviews-Dairy_Queen_Treat-Somers_Point_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

The Clam Bar at Smith Marina (Smitty’s Clam Bar)

910 Bay Avenue

Somers Point, NJ 08244

(609) 927-8783

https://www.facebook.com/smittysclambar/

Open: Sunday 11:30am-9:00pm/Monday-Friday 4:30am-9:00pm/Saturday 11:30am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46825-d438842-Reviews-Smitty_s_Clam_Bar-Somers_Point_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

Places to Visit:

Somers Point Historical Society

745 Shore Road

Somers Point, NJ 08244

(609) 927-2900

http://www.somerspointhistory.org/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/239626702903267/

Open: Sunday-Wednesday Closed/Thursday 7:00pm-9:00pm/Friday Closed/Saturday 10:00am-1:00pm

Admission: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46825-d24142966-Reviews-Somers_Point_Historical_Society-Somers_Point_New_Jersey.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/7815

Atlantic County Historical Society

907 Shore Road

Somers Point, NJ 08294

(609) 927-5218

https://www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org/

https://www.facebook.com/AtlanticCountyHistoricalSociety/

Open: Sunday-Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 10:00am-3:30pm

Admission: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46825-d24142996-Reviews-Atlantic_County_Historical_Society-Somers_Point_New_Jersey.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/7820

Somers Mansion

1000 Shore Road

Somers Point, NJ 08244

(609) 927-2212

https://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/historic/somersmansion.html

Somers Mansion

Open: Sunday 9:30am-3:30pm/Monday-Friday Closed/Saturday 9:30am-3:30pm

Admission: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g46825-d5970174-r844645596-Somers_Mansion-Somers_Point_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/7811

Atlantic County Historical Society 907 Shore Road Somers Point, NJ 08294

Don’t miss the interesting exhibitions at the Atlantic County Historical Society.

The Atlantic County Historical Society at 907 Shore Road

Visiting a Museum: The Unique, Unusual, Obscure and Historical

Atlantic County Historical Society

907 Shore Road

Somers Point, NJ 08294

(609) 927-5218

https://www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org/

https://www.facebook.com/AtlanticCountyHistoricalSociety/

Open: Sunday-Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 10:00am-3:30pm

Admission: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46825-d24142996-Reviews-Atlantic_County_Historical_Society-Somers_Point_New_Jersey.html

The Atlantic County Historical Society at 907 Shore Avenue

The Atlantic County Historical Society

I recently visited the historical sites of Somers Point and took my time to tour the Atlantic County Historical Society, which tells the story of life in Atlantic County from the beginnings to today with a major concentration the early history of the County with the Native American Lenape Indians and into the late 1700’s and 1800’s with the founding of the town, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, shipbuilding, fishing and the start of the Victorian Age. Each floor has interesting displays that sometimes have been over-decorated with too many objects.

When you walk in the door, you enter the library where people study the history of the town and…

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Somers Point Historical Society 745 Shore Road Somers Point, NJ 08244

The Somers Point Historical Society is an interesting look into this shore community’s past.

The Somers Point Historical Society at 745 Shore Road

There’s lots to do and see at this small historical society dedicated to the Town of Somers Point, NJ.

Displays to ship building and fishing industries

Visiting a Museum: The Unique, Unusual, Obscure and Historical

Somers Point Historical Society

745 Shore Road

Somers Point, NJ 08244

(609) 927-2900

http://www.somerspointhistory.org/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/239626702903267/

Open: Sunday-Wednesday Closed/Thursday 7:00pm-9:00pm/Friday Closed/Saturday 10:00am-1:00pm

Admission: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

The Somers Point Historical Society at 745 Shore Road

I visited Somers Point, NJ recently to see the historical shore town and explore their small museums. The Somers Point Historical Society differs from its neighbor down the road, the Atlantic County Historical Society in that its concentration is on the Town of Somers Point and not the entire county.

The Somers Point Historical Society started in 1987 as part of the “Save City Hall” campaign to save the historic City Hall building. The plan was to highlight the history of Somers Point and its place in the community and to save some of the older buildings in the town.

The City Hall was saved and it was renovated for the new library. The…

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Somers Mansion 1000 Shore Road Somers Point, NJ 08244

The Somers Mansion is the oldest home in Atlantic County NJ and was home to five generations of the Somers family. The old mansion looks over The Great Egg Harbor.

The Somers Mansion at 1000 Shore Road in Somers Point, NJ.

Visiting a Museum: The Unique, Unusual, Obscure and Historical

Somers Mansion

1000 Shore Road

Somers Point, NJ 08244

(609) 927-2212

https://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/historic/somersmansion.html

https://visitsomerspoint.com/businesses/richard-somers-mansion/

Open: Sunday 9:30am-3:30pm/Monday-Friday Closed/Saturday 9:30am-3:30pm

Admission: Free

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g46825-d5970174-r844645596-Somers_Mansion-Somers_Point_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

The Somers Mansion at 1000 Shore Road

(There is no indoor picture taking allowed)

I visited the Somers Mansion, the three story former home to five generations of the Somers Family. The mansion sits on a buff overlooking the bay and the bridge to the barrier island where Ocean City is located. The original part of the house was built in 1725 and in 1920 the last family members moved from the home and deeded it to the town. The modern additions of the home have been stripped off so you see the original house.

The historic marker of the home when it was donated by the family

I have to say that I was very disappointed with the condition of both the house and…

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